NEW YORK — Gervonta Davis didn’t let go of his hands and Rolando Romero took advantage. He would stalk “Tank” Davis, sometimes even forcing him to hold on after hitting each other with a few power shots.
But as always, Davis found a way with his devastating left hand, a counterstrike that sent Romero crashing face-first onto the rope. “Rolly” hit the count with shaky legs, and the referee stopped the fight, giving Davis another brutal TKO win on Saturday in a career filled with them.
The finish came with 21 seconds remaining in Round 6 ahead of 18,970 in a packed Barclays Center, allowing Davis to retain his “regular” WBA lightweight title and perhaps move on to a high-stakes showdown with Ryan Garcia, who is scheduled to die on ring sat.
“He sure was strong, but it was a couple of shots that I warmed up with and he caught me and I was like, ‘I can’t sit with him yet,'” said Davis, who was ahead with two scorecards, 49-46 and 48-47 while Romero led the others 48-47.
“I know when to take it to my opponents and when to relax. There was someone in the crowd … and they told me to push forward, and I said, ‘Not yet, I need to loosen it up a little more.'”
Shortly after Davis left the ring Saturday night, many fans attempting to exit Barclays Center ran back to the arena floor, with some even jumping into the ring in panic.
A Barclays Center security officer told ESPN that there was a person with a gun in the main outdoor court, leading to a stampede of fans who rushed back into the arena. Several people were taken to a local hospital, the official said, who estimated around a dozen injured. Including: A concussion and an elbow injury.
An NYPD detective told ESPN they are investigating the possibility of a shooting. Tennis star Naomi Osaka, who had been ringside, tweeted: “All of a sudden I heard shouting and saw people running, then we were yelled at that there was an active shooter and we had to huddle in a room and close the doors. I was so damn petrified.”
Security forces held some fans in an area for a while when the situation was raised. It was immediately unclear whether it was directly related to the boxing match.
Davis (27-0, 25 KOs) was scheduled to fight Romero in December, but Romero was pulled from the fight after he was accused of sexual assault. Instead, Davis fought a decision over Isaac Cruz, his first long-range fight since 2014.
Meanwhile, no charges have been filed against Romero, and the heated promotion, which began in October, got back into high gear as the underdog tried to anger Davis. When the bell finally rang on what might have been months of preparation, Romero, known for his awkward, free-floating style, employed a more focused, disciplined strategy.
He doubled and tripled on the jab, effectively keeping the smaller Davis at bay. On several occasions – notably in rounds 2, 3 and 5 – Romero connected with punches that caught Davis’s attention. There was never any doubt that Romero could bat. But in his first legitimate test, the question was whether he could solidly box round after round against one of the sport’s elite fighters and prove he could take a punch.
“The crazy thing is I didn’t even throw it that hard,” said Davis, who has also competed at 130 pounds and 140 pounds. “I just threw it. He just ran right in. About when [Manny] Pacquiao got caught [Juan Manuel Marquez].”
Romero (14-1, 12 KOs) admitted he was wrong when he “jumped in his shot” but otherwise felt in control. The 26-year-old from Las Vegas said Davis suffered multiple injuries, most notably from a hard jab, and felt he had won every round to the end.
“He caught me with a left hook,” Romero said. “I am a warrior, I wanted to keep fighting. … I won every moment of this fight. I exposed him and we need to pull this shit back. … I had let him go … the whole fight. He had a good shot. He was afraid of me. He won’t fight me again.
A rematch is obviously not an appetizing option. What is: A Davis fight against the likes of Garcia, Devin Haney or George Kambosos, the undisputed lightweight champion who is fighting Haney next weekend.
“Golden Boy isn’t going to put Garcia anywhere near Davis,” said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, which promotes both Davis and Romero. “The closest he comes to Gervonta Davis is where he was tonight. He doesn’t want to fight ‘Tank’. It’s all talk. All talk.”
No matter who Davis fights next, there’s no doubt about his star appeal. The Baltimore native never fails to bring out the stars, packing homes across US Atlanta. Los Angeles. And now Brooklyn. Madonna was ringside. So were Michael Strahan and Tracy Morgan.
Davis is clearly one of the biggest stars in all of boxing. Now all he needs is a top-notch dance partner to take him to the next level and bond with his mentor, Floyd Mayweather.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.