By Keith Idec
Lou DiBella took one look at Twitter late Tuesday afternoon and determined entirely too many boxing fans are unfamiliar with Steve Rolls.
DiBella, whose company promotes Rolls, told BoxingScene.com on Tuesday night that they’re making a mistake if they’re sleeping on Rolls. Same goes for Gennady Golovkin, the former middleweight champion who’s heavily favored to defeat Toronto’s Rolls on June 8 at Madison Square Garden.
The Golovkin-Rolls fight was officially announced Tuesday afternoon by DAZN, the streaming service with which Golovkin signed a six-fight contract last month. The 37-year-old Golovkin was expected to face a far less imposing opponent than Canelo Alvarez in his DAZN debut because Golovkin hopes to square off against Alvarez a third time later this year.
Representatives for Brandon Adams and Hassan N’Dam were among those with whom Golovkin’s handlers negotiated before finalizing a deal with DiBella for the Kazakh knockout artist to battle Rolls. Adams (21-2, 13 KOs), who won season five of “The Contender” in November, opted for a more lucrative offer to challenge WBC interim middleweight champion Jermall Charlo (28-0, 21 KOs) in June in Charlo’s native Houston.
The 35-year-old Rolls, meanwhile, jumped at the chance to prove himself at the championship level versus Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs). Rolls is 19-0, including 10 knockouts, but he hasn’t faced anyone nearly as dangerous as Golovkin and has been scheduled for just one 10-round fight before he agreed to challenge Golovkin.
DiBella doesn’t think Rolls is in over his head, however huge of an underdog odds-makers might consider him.
“Steve Rolls is not some bum,” DiBella said. “He’s not the butt of a joke. Now, I’m not sitting here predicting that he’s gonna go beat Triple-G. He’s one of the best middleweights in the history of the sport. We know what we’re up against. It’s a very tough fight, a dangerous fight. We know Steve is a huge underdog, but he’s a real fighter. He was a really good amateur. He fought in international competitions all over the world. He’s a guy Emanuel Steward liked enough to sign and bring to the Kronk Gym. Unfortunately, Emanuel never got to do with Steve what he thought he could do because Emanuel got sick.”
Steward, a legendary trainer from Detroit, died due to complications from stomach cancer in November 2012, about 18 months after Rolls turned pro.
In June 2017, Rolls upset favored Demond Nicholson (then 17-1-1) by split decision in an eight-rounder Showtime televised as part of its “ShoBox: The New Generation” series.
In his last bout, Rolls won the USBA middleweight title by soundly defeating KeAndrae Leatherwood (21-6-1, 13 KOs). He beat Leatherwood by unanimous decision in a 10-rounder December 15 in Toronto.
“He’s a guy who works really hard and who’s always in great shape,” DiBella said. “He has wanted fights that he couldn’t get the other guys to take. It hasn’t been from a lack of trying on our part that he hasn’t had a big fight before now. He beat Steed Woodall on ‘ShoBox.’ And then he beat Demond Nicholson in a ‘ShoBox’ fight most people thought Nicholson would win. Steve Rolls can fight. He doesn’t deserve this disrespect he’s getting on social media.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.