By Francisco Salazar
Daniel Roman's career as a prizefighter looked like it was not going to meet expectations after 11 fights. Roman had had a loss, two disappointing defeats, and his career had no specific direction.
A career as a gatekeeper may have been in the cards, but Roman was still confident he would one day become a world champion. 16 victories and a world title belt later, Roman has fulfilled those goals and has become one of the best fighters at 122 pounds.
He can cross off fighting on a premium network platform Saturday night when he defends his WBA junior featherweight title against unbeaten Moises Flores at The Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
The fight will precede the main event bout between IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence and mandatory challenger Carlos Ocampo. Both fights, along with the 10 round bout between Javier Fortuna and Adrian Granados will air live on Showtime (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).
At Thursday's weigh-in, Flores failed to make weight for tonight's fight, therefore he is not eligible to win the title. Even if he were to lose, Roman will retain the title.
Roman (24-2-1, 9 knockouts), who resides in the Los Angeles area, fulfilled his dream of winning a world title on Sept. 3, stopping Shun Kubo in round 9 in dominating fashion. He made a voluntary defense of his WBA title on Feb. 28, winning a unanimous decision over Ryo Matsumoto in Tokyo, Japan.
It is a long road from having fought in ballrooms in Southern California. Roman was signed to a promotional deal with Thompson Boxing, building his career the same way the promotional company built the careers of Timothy Bradley, Josesito Lopez, Mauricio Herrera and Yonnhy Perez.
Roman attributes the hard work to trainer/ manager Eddie Gonzalez.
Now that he has a world title belt, he has the proverbial bullseye on his back. Flores (25-0 1 NC, 17 KOs) has been one of the fighters gunning for Roman, awaiting his shot at the title for about a year.
Flores, who resides in the boxing hotbed of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, has not fought since fighting then-WBA titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux, who originally scored a first round knockout over Flores. Even though the punch Rigondeaux knocked him out with came after the bell, referee Vic Drakulich ruled the punch legal. About a week later, the Nevada Athletic Commission overturned the outcome, ruling the fight a non contest and the WBA title became vacant.
Roman acknowledges the challenge Flores possesses Saturday night.
"Flores is a tough opponent," said Roman, who has not lost since Oct. 18, 2013, a close decision loss to Juan Reyes. Roman has won 16 fights since.
"Flores is not an easy opponent. Nobody is at this level. I don't overlook anybody. I know he's going to come in and fight. Defending my belt is the only thing that's on my mind."
WBC titleholder Rey Vargas and newly-crowned WBO titleholder Isaac Dogboe have garnered much of the media attention in recent months and are likely high on many pound-for-pound rankings amongst junior featherweights.
Roman has inched closer to the top of the division and could become the fighter to beat, should he continue winning in impressive fashion.
Unification fights against Vargas, Dogboe, and IBF titleholder Ryosuke Iwasa are on the horizon for Roman later this year, including a fight in the Los Angeles area before family and friends. Whatever the situation may be, Roman is not going to alter or change the secret to his recent success.
"I just work hard every day like it's my first shot at a world title. I know that if I put in the work, everything will come together in the ring."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing