The 12-round world championship fight, dubbed “The Challenge,” is promoted by Thompson Boxing Promotions in association with Ohashi Promotions and will take place from Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan.
Roman, who lives and trains in Los Angeles, caught up with the Thompson Boxing team to discuss how he handles the new found pressure of being a world champion, the sacrficies that entails, and how he plans to fight Matsumoto.
After winning a world title, some fighters have a tendency to become complacent. How do you fight that off and remain motivated?
“I’ve always been one to train hard so that part hasn’t changed. My focus and dedication remain strong, but I still think I have a lot to prove. I want to be the best in the division. I know that I’m in the conversation, but I don’t want there to be any questions. That’s my goal, to be the best.”
The new place that you occupy – WBA champion – came at you fast. A world title eliminator last January, followed by the title shot in September. Now it’s your first title defense. How have you handled all the pressure? It seems like you never get rattled.
“As a challenger, you’re so hungry for those moments that you kind of just get lost in the sport. You find yourself in such a comfort zone because you know you’ve prepared for the best. Now that I’m in title defense mode, it puts me in a more focused mindset because Matsumoto is after my championship. I know how hungry those guys are because that was me just a few months ago.”
Your career didn’t start out the way you planned. You had some early setbacks that promoters held against you. How did you remain focused and not lose confidence when basically the best judges of talent were telling you no.
“My manager [Eddie Gonzalez] was shopping around for a deal. Most of the promoters wanted undefeated fighters. Even if you had one loss, or two, they didn’t want anything to do with me. I was mad about that because I knew I had the talent and desire to be great, it just was going to take me a little longer. In the end, it gave me more motivation to get better.
What’s the toughest part about training camp?
“Being away from family is probably the toughest. When I’m in camp, I have very little time to do anything outside of boxing. I’m at the gym twice a day for long hours at a time so when I’m not at the gym, I’m at home resting. My older brother just had his first child a few weeks ago and I’ve only seen them once because I’ve been so busy. That’s the sacrifice.
Your opponent, Ryo Matsumoto, stands nearly six feet tall. Will that pose a significant challenge for you?
“I don’t think so. Shun Kubo, who I beat for the world title, was tall and I was able to out box and out maneuver him. The plan is to do the same thing that we did against Kubo and that is to knock Matsumoto out. Can’t let it go to the judges.”