Lightweight Rolly Romero (14-0, 12 KO) is a quote machine married well to the social media age.

Romero brings a big punch with the personality, a combination that has sold tickets for as long as tickets have been sold. 

Saturday (Showtime PPV, 8 PM EST), Romero faces former three-time Jr. lightweight titlist Gervonta Davis (26-0, 24 KO) in a fight delayed from 2021 while Romero dealt with conduct accusations outside the ring. Davis will be defending a secondary WBA belt while making his second straight start at lightweight after a move to Jr. welterweight.

Rolly Romero is probably going to get the living hell beaten out of him.

There isn’t a lot of evidence to suggest otherwise. 

Three fights ago, Romero was lucky to get a decision over Jackson Marinez. While Davis’s competition can be a talking point for fans still skeptical about how good the Baltimore attraction is, there is a sizable gap in opposition for the combatants this weekend. 

Romero will be Davis’s first opponent in his last four who wasn’t ranked in the top ten by TBRB or Ring Magazine prior to the fight. Among those three, Leo Santa Cruz had won belts from bantamweight to Jr. lightweight and suffered his first knockout loss. Mario Barrios, stopped by Davis, moved to welterweight and went the distance with former titlist Keith Thurman. Issac Cruz bounced back from a competitive loss to Davis with what could end up being a retiring win over Yuriorkis Gamboa.

Davis also has a knockout win over Jose Pedraza in 2017, his first for a title, that no one has come close to matching since.

Romero looked pretty good against Anthony Ygit his last time out for what might be the best win of his career. One of these resumes isn’t like the others. To say Romero is taking a step up in class is an exercise in understatement.

It doesn’t mean Romero can’t make the step. Romero could shock the world. He’s taller and if he lands the right shot, anything can happen. It’s part of the allure of boxing, right?

The thing is, we remember the nights the guy who could win if he just landed the right shot got it done so well because it doesn’t usually happen like that. The guy with the superior skill set, superior technique, superior speed, superior explosiveness, and superior experience is almost always the safer bet. On paper, this is a competitive step backwards from his last few fights for Davis.

Davis is supposed to win and probably will.

What losing looks like for Romero, if he loses, will make all the difference. 

If Davis blows through Romero with ease, it will confirm perceptions of this fight as a mismatch for those who hold them. It’s a credit to the appeal of Davis that the fans who buy tickets don’t really care. They’re going to Barclays to see the knockout artist get busy. 

But what if that knockout doesn’t come for a while? What if it doesn’t come at all? What if Romero finally puts the Marinez fight behind him and makes everyone tip their cap by the end of the night?

Romero has a chance this weekend to win even if he doesn’t win.

It happened in Davis’s last fight. Issac Cruz might have been seen among various media outlets as already among the ten best lightweights in the world, but Cruz’s performance against Davis elevated his esteem even in defeat. 

It’s happened plenty of times in the past as well.

For whatever reason, the fight that has come to mind in this corner since Davis-Romero was initially signed last year was another New York main event from 2006: Miguel Cotto-Paulie Malignaggi.

Davis-Romero is nothing like that fight stylistically. It shares some of the same spirit going in. While there were some who thought Malignaggi’s boxing skill and speed could trouble Cotto before that fight, for the broader public Cotto was the star on the rise with the far tougher schedule to then. Malignaggi didn’t have a big punch but he had personality and flash. In a clash of unbeaten young tigers, the better clawed seemed pretty evident at the time. 

Cotto won, as expected. What happened between the first and last bell is what made the difference. Malignaggi took a beating that night but he showed professional depth in doing so. Malignaggi was cut. Malignaggi was dropped. Malignaggi suffered a broken cheek bone. 

Despite all that, the underdog fought his heart out, won his share of rounds, lasted the distance, and proved for good he belonged with the best in the game. It’s far from the only example. Ray Mancini lost to Alexis Arguello. Razor Ruddock lost twice to Mike Tyson. Azumah Nelson lost to Salvador Sanchez. 

Every one of those defeats was a win for the men involved. They left the ring elevated by how they performed and moved on to bigger paydays. In the case of Mancini and Nelson, they moved on to titles and the Hall of Fame. 

Time will tell if Davis can finish with a career as great as any of the veterans mentioned above. If Romero just moved on to another big payday or two like Ruddock, that would be something. What he does in the ring this weekend, if Romero doesn’t win, could make his future.

How much can Romero take? How much is he willing to endure? Is he still coming to the end? 

The answers this weekend could mean victory no matter whose hand is raised.               

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.