Lee Groves

10: Eligible Fighters Not on IBHOF Ballot

Gilberto Roman, 1981-1990, 54-6-1 (35 KOs)

Titles: WBC super flyweight (March 30, 1986-May 16, 1987, April 8, 1988-November 7, 1989)

First Full Year of IBHOF Eligibility: 1996

How Roman could not be on the ballot 16 years after his first year of eligibility is one of the great mysteries of the IBHOF’s screening process. He is inarguably one of the top five 115-pounders who has yet lived and was one of the most prolific and successful champions Mexico has ever produced.

Roman didn’t fight in the stereotypical Mexican style; he was more Miguel Canto and Ricardo Lopez than Ruben Olivares and Julio Cesar Chavez. Roman used his freakishly long arms to outbox much taller rivals and his impeccable mobility to both set up his own punches and establish the perfect distance from which to strike without being struck. Though he boxed much more than he brawled once he became champion, Roman’s precision and timing enabled him to conjure occasional shows of power. For evidence, check out his fight with Yoshiyuki Uchida (KO 5).

Points in His Favor: With the notable exception of Galaxy, there wasn’t a better 115-pound fighter than Roman between 1986 and 1989. Yes, his reigns only spanned a combined 33 months but his 11 defenses rank second all-time to Galaxy’s 19. His victims during reign one include lanky southpaw Edgar Monserrat (W 12), former title challengers Ruben Condori (W 12) and Antoine Montero (KO 9), undefeated Thai Kongtoranee Payakaroon (W 12) and former WBC flyweight titlist Frank Cedeno (W 12), who dropped Roman early only to be comprehensively out-boxed over 12.

Cuts were a recurring problem for Roman and they cost him the belt in his second fight against two-time flyweight king Santos Laciar (they drew in fight one, a bout many thought Roman deserved to win in Laciar’s native Argentina). But Roman regained the title two fights later by decisioning Laciar’s conqueror Sugar Baby Rojas. In his second reign, Roman beat Rojas again on the Sugar Ray Leonard-Donnie Lalonde pay-per-view undercard  and rolled off decisions over future 122-pound titlist Kiyoshi Hatanaka, Laciar in the rubber match and 22-1 mandatory challenger Juan Carazo, who beat Laciar to earn his chance against Roman.

Other notable fighters Roman beat include Paul Ferreri (W 10) and onetime flyweight beltholder Antonio Avelar (KO 7).

What Hurts His Cause: Roman’s entire time as champion overlapped Galaxy’s yet they never staged a unification bout. Had they met in Roman’s prime the Mexican had a better-than-average chance of out-boxing the “Thai Tyson,” but later in his career his love of the party life eroded his skills. Also, his decision defeat to Nana Konadu that ended his second and final reign saw Roman dropped five times and lose by an embarrassingly wide margin.

His propensity to cut worsened following a 1987 automobile accident in which his head went through the windshield and subsequently received 150 stitches. Another car crash claimed Roman’s life at age 28, just 18 days after losing his final fight to Sung Kil Moon (KO by 9). To be fair, Roman’s skills were on the wane at that point.

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