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Lamont Roach Jr talks boxing fandom, commentary, and the path back to world title contention

Roach likes Andre Ward and Mauro Ranallo, and shares insights on father-son boxing relationships

Lamont Roach Jr. v Jonathan Oquendo
Lamont Roach Jr after a victory against Jonathan Oquendo
Photo by Tom Hogan/Golden Boy/Golden Boy/Getty Images

Lamont Roach Jr is an unabashed fan of boxing.

When the 26 year old super featherweight isn’t in the ring himself, odds are he’s watching the show. Spotlight pay-per-view fights? All-time action classics? Shocking upsets? Controversial situations? Even when the action involves less-than-thrilling, occasionally underwhelming performances? Lamont is tuned in, just like any other boxing fan.

This Saturday, Roach will be the one of the stars of the show on DAZN, as he takes on former WBA champ Rene Alvaredo as part of the Zurdo Ramirez vs. Yunieski Gonzalez undercard.

Bad Left Hook caught up with him in advance of that fight to talk about his path back to fighting for world titles, his insights on father-son boxing teams, and his favorite TV commentators.

Our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.

Lamont Roach vs Alberto Mercado in 2018
Lamont Roach vs Alberto Mercado in 2018
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

BAD LEFT HOOK: I’m going to go backwards from how I usually approach interviews. Usually, near the end, I’ll ask fighters who else they enjoy watching. But, we do a regular feature called “Pros React,” where we cover what people in the boxing world said online during and after major fights. And, you watch everybody, man! You love boxing!

LAMONT ROACH JR: Ha ha! I do, man! I’m a boxing fan, bro.

It’s obvious! Seems like even if you didn’t have the talent to be at the level you are as a fighter, you’d still be watching fights all the time anyway. What do you love about this sport so much?

You know what? That’s a good question. Because, me? I like to punch people in the face. I’m just fortunate enough to get paid for it.

I just like it! I like the competition, I like the display of skill. Sometimes, I like the controversy. I like seeing people’s reactions. I like listening to the commentators, so I can talk about them too. I’m just a boxing man.

Well, since you mentioned commentary teams - I don’t want to put you in an awkward spot by asking negative questions, especially since you’ll have a commentary team talking about you in a fight this weekend. So, who do you like? Who do you like hearing call fights when you watch them?

I like Andre [Ward]. He calls it fair and square. He’s one that’s been in the ring and knows things that certain announcers might get overzealous about. I really loved Paulie [Malignaggi] when he was calling fights. He was great.

I like Mauro Ranallo from Showtime. He’s very animated, he’s very energetic. He keeps things going, and he’s always himself. He never changes for anybody. And I used to like Roy [Jones Jr] and Max Kellerman when they were on HBO.

Your dad is a big part of your career, and I’m wondering if you have any insights to share with us on how that dynamic works for a boxer. We’ve seen some notable fights recently where a father-son dynamic wound up being a big part of the story. Shawn and Kenny Porter, Teofimo Lopez Senior and Junior, for example.

You’re in a situation that seems much smoother, where working closely with your father isn’t creating any problems or conflict. What can you tell boxing fans that they might not understand about that dynamic, where it isn’t necessarily so easy for a fighter to make any changes?

I think people don’t understand that when a father is involved, most likely they’ve been involved since they started boxing. The rules are sort of reversed. They were the ones putting all the money into it. If they have other kids, they’re sacrificing time with them. Some fathers take it on differently, and it impacts things. Unfortunately, sometimes it veers things the wrong way.

Even when we see a bad situation, I’m sure those father-son duos weren’t toxic all the time. I just think that when it gets into the business aspect? This is what we do for our careers. And for some fathers, it just clicks differently.

Fortunately, my dad knows how to separate being a father and a coach, or a father and a manager. That’s something I praise about him, and I’m very thankful for that.

Let’s talk about your fight against Jamel Herring. That was your first shot at a top belt, and you took it when you were just 24 years old. A lot of young guys don’t take a chance like that when they’re still so young. What made you seize the opportunity at that age?

Well, most importantly, I had worked for it. I knew that I was on that level. I knew I was that caliber of fighter to take on Jamel Herring and to win that title. And I was just a few moments from actually changing my life drastically.

Once you’re a world champion, the recognition is better. The pay is better. And I’m not struggling, or complaining about pay at all. But, it’s a fact. And, I was there. I was there mentally, and I was there physically. I just came up a little short.

What does an experience like that teach you? Do you think it will help you make more of your career as a whole than if you’d waited a few more years to take on that level of challenge?

Being on that level, win, lose, or draw, gives you that confidence. Establishing that “yeah, I do belong here.” I’m not someone that has to search for that, because I’m self-motivated, and I know the work that I put in. I know where I belong. But, it assures you.

That fight was definitely a building block for my career going forward. We’ve been looking to capitalize, and I think we have in our last two fights, to show that’s the level we belong on. We belong on that world champion, world challenger level of competition.

You had that Herring fight at the end of 2019, and the boxing world changed dramatically after that because of the COVID situation. What has matchmaking been like for you? It seems like pay-per-view stars have been able to get a fight or two in each year, and prospect level guys will always have developmental spots on the cards that are getting put together.

But, you’re not a PPV headliner, and you are well past the point where we have to figure out “Can he handle a southpaw? Is he ready for an 8 round fight?” For a guy where you are in your career, was it hard for you to get the sort of opportunities that you had before COVID?

COVID is definitely a factor. We were looking to get the ball rolling after the Jamel fight regardless. I was pushing for a fight like this [against Rene Alvarado], but COVID interfered and it was tough to get a fight like this at the time. And there were a lot of fighters in the same position as me. I’m not the only fighter that Golden Boy has on their roster. They have a lot of fighters to worry about, and they have to do what’s best for them on the business side.

But, matchmaking, not just in the pandemic, but throughout my career, has been amazing. Shout out to Roberto Diaz - he’s the guy. My career has been leveling up ever since I made my professional debut. We have a good team, and we’re on the right path.

You’re not a high knockout percentage guy, but your last two wins have been KOs. And, no disrespect to Jamel Herring, but if you’d landed that punch a minute earlier in the 11th round, you very well might have three knockouts in a row. Are you making a strategic change? Are you maturing into a new physical strength?

Strategic changes? Definitely, yes. Growing into strength? We work on strength in every camp. We try to get stronger and faster in every camp.

If you look at my fights, even though I didn’t stop all of them, those guys were tough. And those were the fights that I needed to level up as a professional. I did hurt just about everyone I’ve been in the ring with. Our thing was settling in on, once I get a guy hurt, to actually get him out of there. And that’s something we’ve definitely been working on.

You fight Rene Alvarado this Saturday. You’re in the rankings for both the WBA and the WBO. Assuming you take care of business this weekend as expected, what do you see as your path forward for the next year or two?

Hopefully after we beat Rene, we get a world title shot. Chris Colbert is going to fight Roger Gutierrez. The way I see that fight playing out, I think Chris Colbert will win. But, if Roger holds on to that championship, I’m pretty sure we’ll be next.

If all things go my way, if my Christmas list were to come true, that’s what would happen. Me in 2022, fighting Roger Gutierrez for the WBA world championship. After this fight, I’m going to be vocal about fighting champions. That’s what I want to do, that’s where I want to be. I think this fight puts me there, because Rene Alvarado is only two fights removed from his world title.