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WBA 122lb champ Daniel Roman arrives in Japan

Report, photos by Joe Koizumi

WBA super-bantamweight champ Daniel Roman (23-2-1, 9 KOs), a Mexican American born and residing in California, arrived here in Japan on Wednesday—a couple of weeks prior to his title defense against Japanese challenger Ryo Matsumoto (21-1, 19 KOs) in Tokyo on February 28. Why did Danny come here so early? He explained, “To get acclimated to the jet lag and adjusted to the local climate I like to arrive at the fight place early. That’s my policy.”

Fast-punching Roman impressively dethroned Japanese defending titlist Shun Kubo, an elongated southpaw, on a ninth round stoppage in Kyoto last September. Danny remarkably raised his stock here with his beautiful display of speed, skills and power in lopsidedly battering Kubo almost at will.

Why don’t our fight fans pay great attention to this title bout?

There might be some reasons:

(1) People show more interest in a sensational rematch between WBC bantam ruler Luis Nery and ex-titlist Shinsuke Yamanaka the following day of the Roman-Matsumoto encounter. The former will take place at the Ryogoku Sumo Arena (the capacity of which is some 11,000), while the latter at the Korakuen Hall (only 2,000). Simply the former bout might be more sensational to our fight fans than the latter fight, if not say five times.

(2) Roman, whose nickname is “Baby Faced Assassin,” is less known to Tokyoites since his splendid coronation over Kubo was witnessed in Kyoto, a traditional city in the west Japan.

(3) Matsumoto, a good puncher with an excellent mark, hasn’t been so highly evaluated by our aficionados. Why? Matsumoto, when ranked WBO #2, disappointingly lost to unknown Mexican Victor Lopez by a fifth round stoppage in May 2016 chiefly because he had suffered thyroiditis and was terribly sluggish and slow from the start. Having dropped to nowhere in the world ratings, Matsumoto had to struggle to recover from illness and avenged his humiliation by halting the Mexican Lopez in a rematch after seven months. His performance has been fluctuating—sometimes excellent but sometimes mediocre—though people recognize he can punch.

(4) Among top Japanese 122-pounders, Matsumoto isn’t the very best in comparison with such former world champs as Tomoki Kameda and Yukinori Oguni, OPBF ruler Hidenori Otake, ex-world challenger Shingo Wake, upcoming national titlist Yusaku Kuga. Technically speaking, Matsumoto might be inferior to those world contenders.

Daniel, a handsome champ, arrived at the Haneda airport with his sub-trainer Jesus Lopez Sr. and photographer Jason Robles. His manager/trainer Heriberto Eddie Gonzalez, after covering another boy’s fight on Friday, will be here on Sunday. Danny, on Thursday, showed a public workout before Japanese press people and Fuji Television to prove he’s in very good shape.

Roman said, “I’ll concentrate on defending my belt against Matsumoto. If victorious, I wish to fight a unification bout with Rey Vargas after the WBA mandatory defense with interim champ Moises Flores of Mexico (who was knocked out by Guillermo Rigondeaux with a shot after the first round last June, and it was eventually reversed to a no contest).”

Matsumoto, in 2011, won the national high school tournaments in the flyweight category, while Naoya “Monster” Inoue conquered it in the light-flyweight division with his younger brother Takuma in the pin-weight class. Ryo said, “All try to rush to the top too quickly. I don’t care, and will do at my own pace to win the world belt.” The 5’8” Matsumoto, some three inches taller than the champ and three years his junior at 24, must be an underdog without doubt, but may have a puncher’s chance.

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