Danny Roman smiles uncomfortably. Granted, I have just asked the former world champion if he is “too nice” to be a fighter, but it’s not the first time that the 31-year-old has received this type of feedback in the boxing trade. And he is able to counter the question with predictable humility.
“At the end of day, I’m just doing a job, ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ or not,” he explains from California, where he is deep in preparation for his June 4 junior featherweight world title fight with the unbeaten Stephen Fulton Jr.
“I work hard at this job and still consider myself a regular guy,” he continued. “I’m often told how well I come across in interviews and to my fans, but that doesn’t stop me going to war inside the ring.”
Roman is a man on a mission. Losing his 122 lb titles to Murodjon Akhmadaliev via split decision back in 2020 proved a bitter pill to swallow, but the “Baby Faced Assassin” is comfortable in coping with setbacks. June 4 acts as an opportunity for Roman to once again claim two world titles and underline his ability to cope with adversity.
“It was a close fight with Akhmadaliev, but I believe I won it,” Roman explained. “In my opinion, you should have to do a lot more to beat the champion, but I respect the decision of the judges. The best thing to come out of that fight was the realisation that there are certain things I need to improve on.”
“When you lose, you pay attention to the mistakes you make,” he continued. “A few adjustments are needed in my game, especially at the start of the fight. I can’t be as patient as I was and take my time in the first few rounds.
“Anything can happen throughout 12 rounds, so I need to make sure I dominate from the opening bell. I can’t let the first rounds go by. You never know what the judges are thinking, so I need to take the power out of their hands and into mine.”
Roman (29-3-1, 10 KO) has been in this position before. In 2018 he was preparing for a world title defence against Doncaster’s Gavin McDonnell, and relied heavily on previous lessons learned in defeat, enabling him to make improvements facilitating a climb towards the summit of his division.
Roman would go onto unify in the 122 lb division against TJ Doheny in early 2019, before running into Akhmadaliev in Miami, and the wrong side of a contested defeat to the Uzbek.
But Roman is now in the business of looking forward. He has been cast in the role of underdog against Fulton (20-0, 8 KO) for the first time in a long time, but it’s something he is relishing.
“Of course it’s going to be a tough fight, but we all know that anything can happen in boxing,” he added. “I’m cool with being the B-side in this fight; If people don’t believe in me then I am always ready to prove them wrong.
“He’s the unified champion now. And I was not so long ago too, so I know what is required to fight a guy like that. The pressure is off me now and he knows I am coming for everything. Fulton is the one with a target on his back and let’s see how he copes with that.”
Fulton is unbeaten in 20 outings and is widely regarded as one of the brightest future stars in the sport. He unified the WBC and WBO titles in Nov. 2021 against Brandon Figueroa with majority decision scores, but that performance gave Roman confidence in pinpointing weaknesses in the Philadelphia fighter’s game.
“In Fulton’s last fight, I saw that he didn’t handle pressure very well at all. He will need to improve on that because I am going to bring everything that Figueroa brought, and more,” he added. “For him, it will be important to adjust to my style. Can he do that under pressure? This fight will be like a chess match but I’m more than confident that I have the tools for the upset.
“But obviously he’s a great fighter. He’s smart, slick and he proved that by becoming unified in the division.”
With God on his side, Roman is confident he can climb to the top of the super-bantamweight division once again. He’s a man of Christ and firmly believes that his faith has helped him achieve all that he has in the sport to date.
“I do boxing, family, and church. That’s it! That’s my life,” he explained. “Everyone goes through tough times and everyone is searching for that meaning of life. Boxing will push you more than most things, and when I have reached a point where I’ve thought there is no way out, God is always there extending his arm to give me a hand.”
His outlook on the sport is simple and refreshing: “I just want to fight the best and have fun while doing it. Sure, I have achieved lots in the game but there is always room for more. I don’t like to waste time.
“I’ve still got plenty of years left ahead of me and I believe I can become undisputed at the weight. And if I could do that by getting revenge over MJ, then that would be perfect.
“But I am not looking past Fulton. He is the guy standing in my way. And believe me, I am ready to bring the heat.”