By Jake Donovan
Jhonatan Romero has less than four years of experience as a professional boxer, but isn’t at all concerned about being fast-tracked towards a major title shot. The 122 lb. contender travels to Tijuana, Mexico, where he will face local favorite Alejandro Lopez in a vacant title fight this Saturday, which will air live on UniMas (11:30PM ET/8:30PM PT).
Romero (22-0, 12KO) earned the shot with a near-shutout over Efrain Esquivias in their final eliminator last September. The event took place on Showtime’s ‘ShoBox’ series, though Romero insists the television exposure was means to introduce boxing’s best kept secret.
“In my last fight, it was an eliminator. Before that, I already thought I was strong enough to fight for the title,” Romero believes. “After the fight, I grew more confident.”
Romero is careful not to look past Lopez (24-2, 7KO), who in addition to hometown advantage comes in with a four-fight win streak which includes wins over Teon Kennedy and former champ Takalani Ndlovu.
However, a win on Saturday puts the Colombian boxer in a prime position. He envisions a future of major fights in a loaded division. One in particular would help resolve unfinished business from way back in his amateur days.
“Guillermo Rigondeaux is someone I’d love to fight,” Romero admits of the unbeaten Cuban and present 122 lb. titlist.
The two were supposed to fight during the 2006 Central American Games in Cartagena, Colombia. Romero was anxious for a showdown with the two-time Olympic Gold medalist, even more so that it was taking place in his home country.
Instead, Romero was forced to withdraw due to injury. Rigondeaux went on to win the tournament, one of the last in which he participated before defecting from Cuba a year later.
Now one win away from joining Rigondeaux in the title ranks, Romero would love nothing more than to pick up where they left off nearly seven years ago.
“I hurt my shoulder and had surgery,” recalls Romero. “That’s why I want to fight him in the pros. I want to win the title and defend in Colombia one day. But I would also love to face Guillermo Rigondeaux and beat him in the pros.”
Jake Donovan is the Boxingscene.com Managing Editor, Records Keeper for Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox