UNCASVILLE, Connecticut – Rolando Romero didn’t get the traditional type of knockout he wanted Saturday night, but this win wasn’t the least bit controversial, either.
Romero knocked down late replacement Avery Sparrow early in the first round, built a sizable lead against his game opponent and beat him by seventh-round technical knockout. Sparrow’s trainers requested a stoppage during the seventh round due to the right knee injury Sparrow suffered in the previous round.
Referee Johnny Callas ended their scheduled 12-round, non-title fight 43 seconds into the seventh round at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Las Vegas’ Romero, who is promoted by Floyd Mayweather, improved to 13-0 and recorded his 11th knockout. Philadelphia’s Sparrow (10-3, 3 KOs, 1 NC) officially lost inside the distance for the first time as a pro.
Although Sparrow took this fight on about 30 hours’ notice, Romero was much more impressive in this opener of a “Showtime Championship Boxing” tripleheader than he was in his previous fight.
“I fought a dirty fighter,” Romero said during a post-fight press conference. “He hit me with a dozen, if not more, low blows – on the back of the head, on the back. He was trying to wrestle, trying to do all sorts of things. It is what it is. I got the victory. I dropped him with that hook in the opening round, and I thought it was gonna be over right there. But he’s slick. He knows how to survive.”
Judges Ken Ezzo, Don Trella and Steve Weisfeld all had Romero in front by the same score, 60-51, entering the seventh round.
Romero won a controversial, 12-round, unanimous-decision against Jackson Marinez in his prior bout, August 15 at Mohegan Sun Arena. All three judges – Trella (115-113), Glenn Feldman (116-112) and Frank Lombardi (118-110) – scored that 12-round fight for Romero, who had difficulty dealing with Marinez’s movement and boxing ability.
Sparrow replaced Justin Pauldo as Romero’s opponent Friday afternoon because Pauldo failed his final pre-fight physical. Houston’s Pauldo (14-1, 7 KOs, 1 NC) also was five pounds overweight for what was supposed to be a 135-pound fight for Romero’s WBA interim lightweight title.
Romero’s team had agreed to oppose Pauldo at the junior welterweight limit before he failed the aforementioned physical.
The 27-year-old Sparrow was on standby and weighed in just in case he had to replace Pauldo or Romero on short notice. He weighed in at 136 pounds, which rendered him ineligible to fight for Romero’s title.
Sparrow suffered his second straight defeat. In his previous appearance, Abraham Nova (19-0, 14 KOs) beat him by unanimous decision in a 10-rounder June 25 in Las Vegas.
As the end neared against Romero, Sparrow fell to the canvas with 1:06 to go in the sixth round, apparently after injuring his right knee. With about 35 seconds remaining in that sixth round, Sparrow landed a low left hand that made referee Johnny Callas deducted two points from Sparrow because he said Sparrow fouled Romero intentionally.
Callas warned Sparrow a little more than a minute into the sixth round for holding and hitting Romero.
Romero reacted weirdly after Sparrow landed a right hand as soon as the sixth round started. He didn’t seem hurt, but he moved away from Sparrow after absorbing that shot.
Sparrow countered Romero with a right hand about 45 seconds into the fifth round. Romero later connected with two right hands, one straight right with just over a minute to go in the fifth and a right uppercut about 10 seconds later.
Sparrow moved forward for much of the fourth round, but Romero landed the more effective punches to his body and head in those three minutes.
Sparrow connected with a right to Romero’s body about a minute into the third round. Sparrow drilled Romero with two stiff jabs during the second half of the third round.
Romero caught Sparrow with a short, left hook on the inside with 15 seconds remaining in that third round. A right hand by Sparrow knocked Romero off balance just before the third round concluded.
Sparrow landed a left hook up top as Romero went after his body about 1:10 into the second round. Sparrow barely missed with a right hand that he threw from a long distance later in the second round.
Toward the end of the second round, Romero moved Sparrow into the ropes with a left hook to his body.
Romero landed a stiff jab that knocked out Sparrow’s mouthpiece early in the first round. A short, left hook by Romero sent Sparrow to the canvas a few seconds later, only 40 seconds into the opening round.
A surprised Sparrow got up from his gloves and knees relatively quickly. Once the action resumed, Sparrow started winging right hands at the superior puncher, rather than trying to hold and move away from Romero.
A left-right combination by Romero knocked Sparrow into the ropes with about 20 seconds to go in that opening round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.