By Lem Satterfield
Lamont Roach Jr. made it look routine, stopping one opponent in the first round and delivering a near shutout 10-round unanimous decision over another 41 days later last fall.
Roach knocked out Luis Hinojosa at The Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, on October 21, 2017, and routed Rey Perez, 99-91, on all three judges cards on November 30 at The MGM Grand in Oxon Hill, Maryland, near his hometown of Upper Marlboro.
“I was fighting hard, but I guess I made it look pretty easy,” said Roach. “But nobody watching really knew what I was dealing with on the inside.”
Roach literally fought through heartache following the death of his cousin and head trainer, Bernard Roach, last October before his Hinojosa fight “of a heart attack while running,” according to Lamont Roach Jr.
“It was in the middle of camp,” said Lamont Jr., 23, whose father, Lamont Sr., has coached his past three fights. “I fought 14 days after [his death,] and then, a came back and fought at home after that.”
December 12th would have been Bernard’s 54th birthday, according to Lamont Sr.
“It’s been devastating and hard to handle,” said Lamont Jr. “[Bernard Roach] was not only my head trainer, but a part of my everyday life, and a big chunk has been missing since then.”
Roach (18-0-1, 7 KOs) was equally composed during Saturday's workmanlike unanimous (97-93, 98-92, 99-91) over Puerto Rican southpaw Alberto Mercado (15-2-1, 3 KOs) on the undercard of a failed WBA 168-pound “regular” title defense by England’s Rocky Fielding (27-2, 15 KOs) against Mexico's Canelo Alvarez (51-1-1, 35 KOs), whose four-knockdown, third-round stoppage victory earned his third crown in as many divisions at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"I controlled most of the fight, and felt like I hurt him in almost every round. I am proud of the fight that I had tonight,” said Roach, who was supported by nearly 300 busloads of fans who made the trek from the Washington, D.C.-area. “Most fighters don't take the type of fights I say yes to. I'll do what it takes to make it to the top and that means fighting skilled fighters."
Roach wasn’t intimidated by the atmosphere, having raised his mark to 9-0 with a unanimous decision over Jose Bustos on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin’s eighth-round TKO of David Lemieux in October 2015, and done the same against Jose Arturo Esquivel on the undercard of Alvarez’s sixth-round stoppage of Amir Khan in May 2016 to improve to 11-0 with three knockouts.
“My first time fighting at Madison Square Garden was on a big undercard headlined by Triple-G, and I fought on the Canelo-Amir Khan card at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, so I’m not a stranger to these big cards,” said Roach, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
“I’ve headlined in my last four fights on ESPN, so, now this was a wonderful opportunity, and I want to thank [promoter Oscar De La Hoya of] Golden Boy for putting me in this position. This is going to let the world know that I’m here.”
The 5-foot-9 Mercado is a 30-year-old who represented the fourth left-hander Roach has faced in seven fights and the third in a row. In his previous fight in July, Roach stopped Deivi Julio Bassa in the sixth round after having battled to a draw with title challenger Orlando Cruz in April.
“My confidence wasn’t knocked down from that draw,” said Roach. “We took it as a learning experience and implemented that into our game plan for the last fight, but this next guy is a little taller than the last two guys that I fought.”
Mercado had won two straight since falling by unanimous decision to Jayson Velez in March 2017, and was coming off a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Miguel Marrero in September. Mercado resembled Roach’s first-round stoppage victim Alejandro Valdez, whom Roach fought in January 2017.
“I fought a tall southpaw in Alejandro Valdez, and he was a mover and a survivor who tried to use his length,” said Roach, who enlisted Maryland neighbor Mykal Fox (19-0, five KOs), a rangy 23-year-old.
“We’ve sparred with Mykal Fox. He’s a 6-4 southpaw who is fighting at 140 and who had a knockout last Saturday [December 1.] Mykal gave us a lot of good work.”
Roach is intrigued by the possibilities of facing left-handed 130-pound champions Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19 KOs) of Baltimore, Tevin Farmer (28-4-1, 6 KOs) of Philadelphia or Alberto Muchado (21-0, 17 KOs) of Puerto Rico if not right hander Masayuki Ito (24-1-1, 12 KOs) of Japan.
Farmer, 28, also performed on the Alvarez-Fielding undercard earning his 21st consecutive victory and second straight knockout in as many IBF title defenses by unanimous decision (117-111 three times) against Francisco Fonseca (22-2, 16 KOs).
A 24-year-old from Costa Rica, Fonseca had scored won three straight (all knockouts) since August 2017, when an eighth-round knockout loss to Davis ended his five fight KO streak.
Muchado, 28, stopped Yuandale Evans (20-2, 14 KOs) in the first round of his initial WBA title defense in October, and the 27-year-old Ito makes his first WBO title defense on December 30 against Evgeny Chuprakov (20-0, 10 KOs).
The 24-year-old “Tank” Davis, a two-time champion, reportedly eyes his initial defense against three-division champion Abner Mares (31-3-1, 15 KOs) on February 9 at a venue to be determined in Southern California near Mares’ native Los Angeles.
“I know who the WBO and WBA champions are. Ito and Alberto Machado. I'll fight any of them. But I'm in line to fight for the WBO Title, so I really hope that happens next,” said Roach, who lost a pair of close bouts to Davis as an amateur, according his father and trainer, Lamont Roach Sr.
“I’m ranked No. 5 by the WBO, so Ito makes the most sense. Tevin Farmer is a great champion…If that fight presents itself, it will make for a great fight. Gervonta Davis would be a great mega-fight as well. We fought twice in the amateurs, and that fight would have to be in a football arena. If it makes dollars then it makes sense, and we wouldn’t shy away from it, especially a champion.”
Lamont Sr. said his Bernard would be proud of Lamont Jr.
“December 12th would have been Bernard’s 54th birthday, so this was kind of an emotional time,” said Lamont Sr. “We’ll go over the tape of the fight and make the necessary improvements, but I’m very proud of what he’s accomplished.”