People are always saying “with hard work and determination you can do anything.”
Daniel Roman just proved it.
Behind a steady work rate and precise punching Roman (23-2-1, 9 KOs) knocked out WBA super bantamweight world champion Shun Kubo (12-1, 9 KOs) in front of that fighter’s fans in Kyoto, Japan. The 27-year-old is now the world champion.
“I said before the fight that I didn’t intend for this to go to the judges,” Roman said. “The plan was to knock him out and take the WBA title in dominating fashion.”
The road to Japan was not an easy one.
Now living in Garden Grove, Calif. the rather soft-spoken Roman trains in the small town community gym of Maywood. It is there where he works daily on his craft among others just like himself. It’s a daily grind and that gym is famous for its fierce sparring in the lower weight divisions.
Roman’s pro debut took place seven years at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif. It’s a small venue where Thompson Boxing Promotions has built a fan clientele in the area known as the “Inland Empire.”
Ever since Thompson Boxing started in that area it’s uncovered numerous world champions. Despite working in the same region that serves as base for Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions, the much smaller boxing promoter has a history of finding gems overlooked by others.
Roman is one of them.
In his debut he knocked out his opponent in 43 seconds. It was hardly enough time to get comfortable in a seat to watch. But his next fight ended in a draw.
During his fourth pro bout Roman’s team accepted a match against Japan’s Takashi Okada at the Doubletree Hotel at 116 pounds. It was a good match on paper and evenly matched in the boxing ring. But Okada was slightly more advanced in his fighting and won by split decision on July 2011.
Journey back from defeat
That first defeat could have spelled the end for Roman. Many fighters after taking their first pro loss seem to lose that certain edge.
Eddie Gonzalez has trained and managed Roman from the beginning. It was around the time Roman suffered his first loss that I accidentally came across Gonzalez in a promoter’s small office in uptown Whittier.
That afternoon Gonzalez was asking the promoter to put Roman on a fight card and asked what I thought of his fighter. I remember vividly thinking about what to say that day.
Most of the time it’s rather easy to spot a future star. Thompson Boxing had discovered and signed a number of future world champions and contenders like Yonnhy Perez, Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley, Josesito Lopez, Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera, Darleys Perez and Jhonatan “Momo” Romero.
But Roman was more difficult to assess.
Unlike the others Roman didn’t possess the blazing speed, impressive power or defensive wizardry that stands out like a neon sign. But he has a quiet determination and confidence that you could see as he fought numerous times at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario or the Omega Products International in Corona.
One thing that slowly became obvious over time was his accuracy. When Roman punched he hit his target time after time. Where others flailed and unleashed furious combinations in hopes of hitting the target, Roman has the pinpoint accuracy of a laser-guided missile.
He seldom misses.
In 2014, after losing to Riverside’s Juan Reyes, a volume puncher with an incredible work rate, something clicked in Roman. It was a subtle change that showed in dominating wins that left no doubt.
Wins over Jonathan Arrellano, Christopher Martin, Erik Ruiz and Enrique Quevedo were most impressive because these guys are capable of defeating anyone.
Aside from being the movie and music capitol of the world, Southern California has become famous for developing many of the best super bantamweights in the world. They’re as plenty as the grains of sand on the beaches and have replaced the orange groves and grapevines that used to dominate the landscape.
Super bantamweights are everywhere in So Cal.
Rival promoters have gathered up super bantamweight prospects by the dozen and all are poised to snatch the various world titles. Fighters like Jojo Diaz, Jessie Magdaleno, Randy Caballero, Nonito Donaire, Rico Ramos, Cesar Juarez and Diego De La Hoya.
Quietly, the smallest of the promotion companies confidently guided Roman to carefully plotted landmarks. After defeating back to back undefeated opponents, Thompson Boxing realized he was primed and ready to torpedo the world champion.
You never know how a fighter is going to react fighting overseas in another country or another state for that matter. Roman had never even visited Las Vegas which is a mere 300 miles from his home, let alone Kyoto, Japan which is 5600 miles from Los Angeles.
Thompson Boxing had previously taken Juan Carlos Burgos to Japan only to be derailed in the island nation by Hozumi Hasegawa in October 2010.
But somehow it was clear that Roman was a different type of fighter. Maybe it’s his trainer or maybe it’s his methodology or perhaps a combination of both. Roman figures out a way to put the pieces together to solve the puzzle.
The champion Kubo had a four-inch height advantage and possessed knockout power. Perhaps the most glaring aspect is his southpaw stance and mobility that he uses to offset attacks.
It looked to be an overwhelming task.
Roman allowed the taller and mobile world champion Kubo to dictate the pace and tempo in the first round. As Kubo fired jabs Roman parried and seemed to measure the distance needed.
In the second round Roman moved in with more conviction including thudding shots to the body that did not miss. Despite the incoming fire Roman was able to move in between the punches and connect to the body with vicious authority.
That became the formula for the remainder of the fight.
Kubo tried desperately to find an antidote for Roman’s body shots. After sustaining several withering blows by Roman, the champion decided to return fire with his own body shots. But well placed counters to the head and body stopped that.
Roman dissected Kubo with more body shots mixed with blasts to the head. After numerous blows to the head the champion was sent to the floor early in the seventh round. He got up bravely and survived the round for more than two minutes. If you want to see a warrior respond, Kubo showed all that by surviving the knockdown and mustering up a counter-attack that kept Roman from finishing the fight. But the end was near.
In the eighth round both traded punches evenly when Roman delivered a strong right to the midsection that paralyzed Kubo for a second as Roman sent another right to the head to send the Japanese champion to the floor again. He beat the count.
The ninth round was just protocol as Roman finished the depleted fighter with more body and heat combinations that snapped back the head of Kubo. Referee Silvestre Abainza wisely ended the fight at 1:21 as the ropes kept Kubo from falling. Roman’s corner jumped into the ring to hoist their champion.
“We’re incredibly proud of Danny Roman,” said Ken Thompson, president of Thompson Boxing Promotions. “In our eyes, Danny is the ultimate champion. He never backs down from a challenge and tonight he showed that he belongs among the best in the 122-pound division.”
It’s a long way back from Japan but this time the return journey will be a happy one for Roman and his promoters.
“We never had any doubt that Danny would win the WBA title,” said Alex Camponovo, matchmaker and general manager at Thompson Boxing Promotions. “He looked unbelievable against Kubo. We believe his best years are still ahead of him. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the champions in this division.”
In an area rife with super bantamweights a new king has been crowned and Danny Roman is his name.
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