Number 189 – Jose Roman

Boxing: WBC/ WBA World Heavyweight Title: Overall view of George Foreman in action vs Jose Roman during round 1 of fight at Nippon Budokan. Tokyo, Japan 9/1/1973 CREDIT: Neil Leifer (Photo by Neil Leifer /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: X17944 TK3 )

Jose Roman (tied for 184)
Vega Baja, Puerto Rico
December 17, 1946
5’10” / 71” reach / 176-204 lbs
54-27-4-1 (27) from 06/20/1966 to 3/19/1981 (14y9m)

0-2-0-0(0) against the top ten
0-1-0-0(0) against linear champions
0-1-0-0(0) against hall-of-famers
no fights for the linear championship

Top ten opponents: L-KO-1 George Foreman, L-UD-10 Jimmy Young

-2 total score (0 + -2 + 0 + 0)

Jose “King” Roman hails from the boxing-rich island of Puerto Rico. In the long tradition of boxing from PR, smaller fighters have generally stood out. Heavyweights have been comparatively rare, but Roman was an early exception. He turned professional in 1966 on the edge of light heavyweight and heavyweight, weighing below 190 pounds for his first year or so. Roman started his professional career with a 14-0(7) record, before running into a rough streak, losing twice and then drawing once, each time against journeymen.

Roman had a longer rough patch over the next year, losing by knockout to the 1-5-1 Al Singletary, as well as the 2-3-1 Charlie Harris. A twelfth round knockout loss to fellow Puerto Rican prospect Pedro Agosto in November 1968 seemed to light a fire under Roman, however. With that loss, Roman’s record stood at 17-5-1(7), and he hardly had the look of a future contender. But he seemed to improve, reeling off four straight wins, including a close decision over future contender Chuck Wepner. He would drop a razor-thin decision to British contender Jack Bodell, but then start a new winning streak. Roman would notch 17 straight wins over the next year-and-a-half, including decisions over fringe contender Jack O’Halloran and former contender Manuel Ramos. The streak would eventually end with a narrow split decision loss to a much larger journeyman, but he would rebound nicely, with six more wins, including a decision over recent contender Jose Manuel Urtain.

Everything was going well for Roman, and he carried a top ten ranking into the ring with him against George Foreman, the newly crowned Heavyweight Champion of the World. The fight was a huge opportunity for Roman, who became the first Puerto Rican heavyweight title challenger, as well as being a participant in the first ever heavyweight title fight in Japan. The fight itself didn’t go so well, as Foreman demolished Roman inside of a round. There was mild controversy over Foreman hitting Roman accidently after a slip, but the uppercut that finished Roman was completely clear.

After the Foreman fight… well, Foreman ruined Roman. I had thought about what to say about Jose Roman after his shot at Foreman. I wanted to talk about his struggles, his successes… but he really just collapsed. He continued fighting for years, but was never the same. Between December 1973 and March 1981, Jose Roman would compile a record of 10-19-3-1(5). He faced a few notable opponents during that span, losing decisions to Mike Quarry, John Dino Dennis, Mike Schutte (twice), Jimmy Young, and Boone Kirkman.

In 1978, he would be knocked out three times in a row, and not appear in a ring again until 1981. But his return fight would also end in a loss – by knockout.

Jose “King” Roman never achieved fistic greatness. But he was involved in important parts of boxing history, and had that shot that most fighters only dream of.

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