April 14, 2024

Although much of the promotion heading into Saturday’s Showtime pay-per-view bout between unbeaten lightweights Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Rolando “Rolly” Romero has centered upon the bad blood between them, the true merits of said beef largely depend upon whom you ask.  

Davis (26-0, 24 KOs), a rising superstar who has headlined PPV cards across three divisions in his last four fights alone, has certainly had little patience for Romero’s antics at every turn, dating back to their original fight date of last Dec. 5. Yet the 27-year-old native of Baltimore, Maryland, has maintained that handing the brash Romero his first defeat is far more about business than it is personal.  

It may come as no surprise given his typically shirtless public swagger and crude way with words that Romero (14-0, 12 KOs) believes his opponent is full of it.

“Let’s say it like this, everything that happens to me, I feel is personal,” Romero told “Morning Kombat” on Wednesday. “I could get struck by f—ing lightning tomorrow and, to me, it’s f—ing personal. Boxing is a very emotional sport and Gervonta is a very emotional person. If it wasn’t personal, he would’ve never put his f—ing hands on me.” 

The incident in question is just one of many that Romero points to, depending upon the day or interview, as to why he dislikes Davis ahead of their much-anticipated showdown (9 p.m. ET, Showtime PPV) at 135 pounds, which headlines the Premier Boxing Champions card from inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.  

And if you’re just catching on, Romero is — for lack of a better word — different.

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The 26-year-old native of Las Vegas exudes a level of confidence that is almost maniacal — and a fighting style that is as physical and violent as it is crude for the elite level. Although he’s a reporter’s dream in a sense that he’s a flowing fountain of colorful (and often disparaging) quotes, one is never quite sure whether Romero is the court jester he appears to be at face value or instead a calculated disrupter who is far more “crazy like a fox” than he is outright insane.  

“It’s crazy for everybody else but this shit is normal for me,” Romero said. “Bold claims and the truth are the same shit.” 

It wouldn’t be abnormal for the root of a great grudge match between top boxers to be something outright innocuous. Oscar De La Hoya, for example, claimed to not even remember the evil laugh he was accused of giving in the direction of a fallen Fernando Vargas during a training run years before their memorable 2003 showdown, a PPV billed as “Bad Blood,” which was sold on the idea of Vargas seeking revenge for having his honor insulted.  

The best guess for the real fuel behind Romero’s extreme dislike of Davis seems to center upon four distinct categories or events.  

First off, Romero has long publicly clowned Davis for his physical attributes, calling him everything from a dwarf to “an ugly ass motherf—er with a really big head who is going to be pretty hard to miss.” Secondly, Romero has been outspoken about Davis’ level of matchmaking, which includes a close decision win (despite an injured left hand) over late replacement Isaac Cruz last December after Romero was removed due to sexual assault allegations on social media (although no charges were filed following an investigation).

“Everybody talks about [whether I can outbox] Gervonta but he’s not even a good boxer,” Romero said. “Everybody outboxes him and everybody punches him in the face. It’s all smaller dudes and weight-drained opponents. And the one person that had a f—ing pulse when they fought was ‘Pitbull’ Cruz and [he] has no boxing ability, whatsoever. Yet, he beat the f— out of [Davis] and you’re talking to me about potentially outboxing Gervonta Davis? Shit.

“He has one of the most padded records I have ever seen and people don’t realize that.” 

Then, there are the allegations that Davis failed to show up for a pair of scheduled 2017 sparring sessions.  

“That’s where the first problems really started,” Romero said. “[It was like,] ‘OK, you ducked me and you’re a f—ing bitch so that means you are labeled as a bitch in my book from here on out.'” 

According to Romero, however, the point of no return between the two came on the night of Errol Spence Jr.’s 2019 welterweight title defense against Mikey Garcia in Arlington, Texas. Romero claims he approached Floyd Mayweather and Leonard Ellerbe, the founder and CEO of Mayweather Promotions, respectfully at ringside only to be shoved and accosted by Davis until Mayweather’s security team broke it up.   

“It was March 16, 2019, and the thing is, he put his hands on me for no f—ing reason,” Romero said. “Floyd yelled at him and said he’s a f—ing disgrace to the f—ing company. Gervonta’s eyes got all kinds of watery and he started crying. Floyd said, ‘You’re a f—ing dumbass.’ 

“He put his hands on me and that’s already a problem there. I tried to swing at him and he ran away. He just pushed me but still, you don’t put your hands on another man. He has a problem trying to push people and shit. He better not try and do that dumb shit with me.”

Davis, after years of intermittent scuffling with Mayweather, said his contract with the promotion will expire after this fight and that he’s prepared to go his own way. It’s a pre-fight narrative that Romero was hush about, simply saying, “Gervonta Davis’ obligations to Mayweather Promotions have nothing to do with me. My job is to punch him in the face as hard as I can.”  

And even though he was just seconds removed from verbally disrobing Davis, Romero also took umbrage with the idea that he’s the latest all-action villain that boxing fans love to hate, carrying on in the legacy of former undisputed welterweight champion Ricardo Mayorga.

“I’m not the villain, I’m not the bad guy, no,” Romero said. “Mayorga was completely uncivilized and tried to talk all that gang shit and smoke cigarettes and shit on people’s families. Me? I just speak the truth and there is no other way. The thing is, I’m as real as it gets. I’m just a real person who speaks his mind, unlike everybody else. I’m not the villain, I just tell the truth.  

“I don’t mean to harm nobody. Honestly, I think I’m a kind soul. Everyone around me will tell you I take care of everybody and make sure everybody is good. I’m a sweetheart but in the ring, no, no; there is no time to be a sweetheart inside the ring. I have to go in there and f— them up because, if not, they are going to f— me up. It’s like war. We all know what the f— we sign up for.” 

Truth, like beauty, is often dependent upon the eye of the beholder. And it’s clear that Romero, along with his punching power, believes in every word he says regardless of how outlandish it sounds.  

Romero called it nothing short of “destiny” that he received this second chance against Davis, saying, “it wouldn’t have happened again if it wasn’t meant to happen.” And after calling himself “the most explosive fighter in boxing today,” it’s simply par for the course that Romero would predict a knockout of Davis with the first punch he throws.  

“Two trains are going to collide and I just happen to be the bigger train,” Romero said. “Bigger trains tend to last a little bit longer, you know? The impact is going to last a bit more on his side. This fight is going to end quick. I’m going to hit him once and knock him out.” 

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