By Francisco Salazar
Junior lightweight Lamont Roach is considered a prospect by many boxing publications, but would like to shed that title sooner than later.
He could do that tonight with an impressive performance and take on the title of contender.
Roach will face Colombia's Deivi Julio Bassa at the Grand Oasis Arena in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The 10 round bout will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes (7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT).
At Thursday's weigh-in, Roach tipped the scale at 129.4 pounds. Bassa weighed in 128.8 pounds.
The 22-year-old Roach (16-0-1, 6 knockouts), who resides in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, fought to a 10 round split decision draw against former world title challenger Orlando Cruz on Apr. 19. Roach scored what looked like a clean knockdown of Cruz late in the fight, but referee Luis Pabon incorrectly it a slip, with the point costing Roach a victory.
The fight, along with the outcome, did provide a lesson for Roach.
"I learned I could've started putting my punches together earlier in the fight," Roach told Boxingscene earlier this week. "I could've dictated the pace and utilized my speed more. He was flashy, but he was throwing one punch at a time. He was there to survive late in the fight."
Roach was penciled to face Cruz in a rematch, but reportedly backed out of the fight.
Bassa (20-4 1 NC, 12 KOs) is a southpaw with a modest record. He lost back-to-back fights to unbeaten featherweight Joet Gonzalez and former world title challenger Ronny Rios.
"We didn't do anything different because of the change of opponent," said Roach, who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. "We still trained for a southpaw."
Roach represents a region known as the 'DMV,' which is made up of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. It is where unified junior middleweight world champion Jarret Hurd, WBC featherweight titleholder Gary Russell, Jr., and Dusty Hernandez-Harrison also reside in.
Roach wants to add his name to the that list of world titleholders and contenders.
"Jarret Hurd represented the DMV earlier this year with the win over (Erislandy) Lara. I want to win a world title belt so I could fill another void of world champions in my area."
A regional title belt and a world ranking is on the line. Roach believes an impressive victory could lead to a world title ranking in early 2019.
That may be a bit ambitious on the part of Roach, but he is certain he is ready to take the next step in a competitive division. Roach wants to make a statement Friday night at the expense of Bassa.
"A victory could lead to a world title fight. I want to let the other fighters in the division know I'm here to stay at 130 pounds."
"There is no way they can avoid me."
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