NEW YORK — Gervonta Davis wouldn’t let go of his hands and Rolando Romero took advantage. He stalked “Tank” Davis and even forced him to hold at times after connecting with a few power shots.
But, as he always does, Davis found a way out with his devastating left hand, a counter-hit that sent Romero crashing face-first onto the rope. “Rolly” beat the count on unsteady legs, and the referee stopped the fight, handing Davis another brutal TKO win on Saturday in a career filled with them.
The end came with 21 seconds remaining in Round 6 before 18,970 at a sold-out Barclays Center, allowing Davis to retain his “regular” WBA lightweight title and perhaps move on to a high-stakes showdown with Ryan Garcia, who was at ringside.
“He was strong for sure, but it was a few shots I was warming up to and he grabbed me and I was like, ‘I can’t sit with him yet,'” said Davis, who was ahead on two scorecards 49-46 and 48-47, while Romero was ahead on the other 48-47.
“I know when to bring it to my opponents and when to relax. There was someone in the crowd…and they were telling me to move on and I was like, ‘Not yet, I need to relax it a bit.’ “
Shortly after Davis left the ring on Saturday night, scores of fans attempting to leave the Barclays Center ran to the arena floor, some even jumping into the ring in panic over shots fired near the exit outside the arena. Security held fans in one area for some time as the situation was resolved. It was unclear immediately after if he was related to the boxing match.
Davis (27-0, 25 KOs) was scheduled to fight Romero in December, but Romero was pulled from the fight after being charged with sexual assault. Instead, Davis struggled to come to a decision on Isaac Cruz, his first remote fight since 2014.
In the meantime, no charges have been brought against Romero, and the heated promotion that began in October has returned to high gear as the underdog tried to antagonize Davis. When the bell finally rang on the months of fighting that lay ahead, Romero, known for his goofy, free style, used a more focused and disciplined strategy.
He doubled and tripled on the jab and effectively kept the smaller Davis at bay. On several occasions – particularly in rounds 2, 3 and 5 – Romero connected with punches that caught Davis’ attention. There was no doubt that Romero could strike. But in his first legitimate test, the question was whether he could box solidly round after round against one of the sport’s elite fighters and prove he could absorb a punch.
“The crazy thing is I didn’t even throw it that hard,” said Davis, who also competed at 130 pounds and 140. “I just threw it. He just ran in. Some thing like when [Manny] Pacquiao got caught by [Juan Manuel Marquez].”
Romero (14-1, 12 KOs) admitted he was wrong when he “jumped into his shot,” but felt he was in control otherwise. The 26-year-old from Las Vegas said Davis suffered multiple injuries, particularly from a stiff blow, and felt he had won every round until the finish.
“He caught me with a left hook,” Romero said. “I’m a warrior, I wanted to keep fighting. … I won every moment of this fight. I exposed it and we have to run this s— back. … I made it run … everything the fight. He had a good shot. He was afraid of me. He won’t fight me again.
A rematch, of course, is not an appetizing option. What it is: A Davis fight against Garcia, Devin Haney or George Kambosos, the undisputed lightweight champion who will face Haney next weekend.
“Golden Boy is not going to put” Garcia near Davis, said Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, who promotes both Davis and Romero. “The closest to Gervonta Davis is where he was tonight. He doesn’t want to fight ‘Tank’. It’s all talk. All talk.
No matter who Davis fights next, there’s no doubting his star appeal. The Baltimore native brings out the stars time and time again and packs houses all over Atlanta in the United States. Los Angeles. And now Brooklyn. Madonna was in the front row. Just like Michael Strahan and Tracy Morgan.
Davis is clearly among the biggest stars in all of boxing. Now he just needs a top dance partner to take it to the next level and get closer to his mentor, Floyd Mayweather.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.