Lamont Roach Jr.: “I’m Not Here To Play; I’m Here To Stay.”

On Saturday night, Maryland super featherweight Lamont Roach Jr. (17-0-1) will appear for the second time in the main arena at Madison Square Garden as he takes on 15-1-1 Puerto Rican prospect Alberto Mercado on the undercard of the big Canelo vs Fielding DAZN show. A stand-out amateur and a highly promising professional prospect, the 23-year-old Roach is one of Golden Boy Promotions’ youngest rising stars, and is currently the number five ranked contender by the WBO.

Roach is known for his careful and calculated approach in the ring, as his analytical skills have not only been on display inside the squared circle, but also inside the classroom as a former student of the University of Maryland’s Mechanical Engineering department. Managed by his father, Lamont Sr., Roach trains out of Capitol Heights, Maryland and an impressive win on Saturday should lead to much bigger things in the near future. Alden Chodash spoke with Lamont recently as the rising contender got set to shine under the big DAZN spotlight. Check it out:

So you’re fighting in Madison Square Garden for the second time. What does it mean to you to be performing for boxing fans at such an historic venue at this stage in your career? Does it give you the jitters to walk into an arena that has hosted so many amazing fights and so many legends such as Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran, Joe Frazier, and Rocky Marciano, just to name a few? 

Lamont Roach Jr.: Of course it’s great to be able to compete in such a prestigious arena, considered the “Mecca” of boxing. It means a lot. This will be my second time showcasing my skills at Madison Square Garden and the first time I fought there [in 2015 against Jose Bustos], it was amazing, the atmosphere was electrifying. But I won’t say it gives me the jitters really, because I’ve fought at home, been the main event at home before, and that’s one of the best feelings ever.

Winner of nine national amateur titles, a young Lamont shows off the hardware.

When you perform in front of a hometown crowd, you know everyone’s there for you and it’s just rocking. You’re in your own little world, but you know that everything that’s surrounding you is just loud and crazy and full of support for you. It’s just nothing but motivation and I love it.

What do you make of your next opponent Alberto Mercado?

I hope he comes and brings everything to the table, and I hope he’s as good as his record says on paper. We’ve been looking to step-up every fight. Every fight we want to face tougher opposition and we want to get better because we want to climb the ranks. Right now, we’re ranked number five in the WBO, so hopefully a big win on Saturday bumps us up into one of the mandatory spots or at least in line for a title eliminator.

Speaking about going forward, are there any particular goals you guys are pressing for in 2019 and beyond?

In 2019, it’s time to get a world title for sure. We want that belt. Moving on from that, we want to either unify, and if we can’t unify we’ll just move up. My goals in boxing aren’t just set on one goal, one challenge. There’s a lot to look forward to. But my main goal right now, and the one that’s very obtainable, is getting that world title.

Roach trains out of Capitol Heights and his father, Lamont Sr. (right), is his manager.

In terms of your weight, you mention going up. Do you see yourself campaigning at 130 for the a long time to come, or is moving up to 135 something you see happening soon? Any difficulties making 130?

There are no difficulties making 130. We’re smooth sailing making 130. It just depends on what the other champions want to do when I do get a title. These days, boxing’s so divided. Now, big fights are getting made but champs aren’t usually fighting other champs. The champs in my weight class have always just been defending their titles and not fighting each other, so once I get a championship I want to unify against those other champions. I want to be the one-and-only champ!

A match-up that I would love to see is you against IBF titlist Tevin Farmer. I’m guessing you would be very interested in that match-up should it come your way. 

Absolutely. Tevin Farmer is a great champion, he’s had to overcome a lot and had a hell of a road to success. I commend him. I actually like him as a fighter so I would love to face him. He’s a great fighter and I figure that would be a good match for me if we do clash later on down the road.

Last April, Orlando Cruz held Roach to a disputed draw.

This year you got a chance to face a former world title challenger in Orlando Cruz. What did you learn from that experience in terms of facing such a cagey veteran so early in your career?

I learned that nothing is going to be handed to you, especially when the cards are stacked against you. You still have to push and work hard. Everyone knows that was a controversial decision as far as that being a draw. I feel I won that fight. But the referee didn’t count the knockdown and it was a clear knockdown. Had it counted that would’ve given me the win. But, like you said, it was a learning experience and I learned a lot from that fight. I took a lot from it and that whole experience has made me work and push a lot harder.

So I gotta hand it to you Lamont, you’re the first professional fighter I’ve ever met who was also studying to be a mechanical engineer. Could you tell us your career plans moving forward?

I finished my freshman year at the University of Maryland to be a mechanical engineer but once I got heavy into my pro boxing career it was very time consuming. Colleges don’t care about boxing or anything of that nature unless it’s for the school. So some of that stuff isn’t excused, so I had to take a break. But mechanical engineering is no joke. It’s like math until you die.

In his spare time, Roach studies mechanical engineering.

Any closing remarks for the 130 pound division? What should they be worried about as your career progresses towards a title shot?

They should be worried about getting in the ring with me! That’s about it man, I’m not here to play I’m here to stay. And when I do arrive I will be here for a long time.

In your opinion, what do you think your biggest weapon is? What makes the difference and allows you to come out on top? 

My will, more than anything else. My determination to win. But I have the full package. I can box, I can punch, I’m smart, I’m in shape. I can do a lot of different things. And I’m ready for the big time.          — Alden Chodash 

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