The blessing that came with Daniel Roman’s untimely injury was two-fold.
Ideally, the streaking junior featherweight would have preferred to proceed with his mandatory title defense versus Murodjon Akhamdaliev as originally planned only to suffer tendinitis in his left shoulder, forcing him to postpone their scheduled fight last September.
The diagnosis was a downgrade from what his team thought was a partial tear, having fully healed and prepared to face Ubekistan’s Akhmadaliev (7-0, 6KOs)—a 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist—this Thursday as part of a DAZN pre-Super Bowl show in Miami, Florida.
Also of benefit to the 29-year old Los Angeles native is that the 122-pound division is essentially the same as he left it prior to hitting the injured list.
“I love boxing, I love fighting. It bummed me out when I was injured, but I realized that it happened for a reason,” Roman (27-2-1, 10KOs) told BoxingScene.com. “I was able to fully heal and return to training at full strength. At first, I was worried, but I kept building up strength and feel better than ever.”
The bout will be Roman’s first since his thrilling 12-round win over previously unbeaten TJ Doheny in their 122-pound title unification clash last April. The Fight of the Year contender extended Roman’s win streak to 19 straight, although his picking up his 20th win in a row this week is hardly the end game.
Even armed with two belts, Roman is still forced to fight for respect in a stacked division which includes a pair of titlists from Mexico, Emanuel Navarrete (30-1, 26KOs) and Rey Vargas (34-0, 22KOs). It’s dealer’s choice as to whom is regarded as the class of the division—Navarrete has remained the most active, Vargas has reigned the longest while Roman is a unified titlist who has completely turned around his career.
Navarrete is due to appear on the undercard of the February 22 heavyweight title fight rematch between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. Vargas’ next fight has yet to be announced or even teased, as the unbeaten 29-year old recently signed with Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and awaits his next assignment.
The good news for Roman—assuming he prevails on Thursday, with Akhmadaliev coming in as the slight favorite—is that the downtime he was forced to endure didn’t have any effect on his plans to fully take over the division.
“If everything goes like we expect it to on January 30, I definitely want the two other champions in the division,” insists Roman of his desired next steps. “I really want to fight Emanuel Navarrete, I’ve wanted that fight for as long as he’s been a champion.
“If we can’t make that fight next, then I want to fight Rey Vargas. He’s reigned as champion longer than all of us and I would love the chance to end his reign and add a third title. But Navarrete and Vargas are the next two fights I want after (Thursday). Winning this fight and then beating both of them would be my perfect 2020.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox