Story by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Photos by T. Miranda
After being turned back in his first title challenge against Gennady Golovkin, North Philly’s Gabriel Rosado, 21-6, 13 KOs, planned to return to 154 pounds and resume his assault on the junior middleweight division, where all of his previous fights had taken place. But in boxing, things don’t always play out the way you plan.
With all of the major 154-pound stars tied up with other bouts, Rosado accepted a fight with middleweight J’Leon Love, 15-0, 8 KOs, for his next assignment. Rosado and Love face off Saturday night in Las Vegas as part of the big Floyd Mayweather PPV show.
Love is a smooth boxing Mayweather protégée from Dearborn, MI, who is one of the hottest prospects out there right now. The undefeated boxer is rising in stature amid the very big expectations that surround him.
In his last outing, Love easily handled veteran Derrick Findley by winning a wide-margin 10-round unanimous decision for his 15th victory. On display in the bout, were Love’s terrific boxing skills and all of his huge potential. It was a solid win over the straight-forward battler, and now J’Leon looks at Gabriel Rosado as the right opponent for his coming out party, scheduled for May 4th.
“Supposedly he asked for this fight,” Rosado said from his training camp in Phoenix, AZ. “So like they say, be careful what you wish for.” Perhaps Love felt that after the bloody loss to Golovkin, Rosado would be damaged goods – just a gun shy junior middleweight ripe for another defeat. However, from the moment the GGG fight was stopped, Rosado was raring to get back into the ring and earn another title shot.
It remains to be seen where Rosado is mentally after the loss, but physically he’s found a new home. “I think he outgrew middleweight,” trainer Billy Briscoe said. “I think the plan is to stay at middleweight now, clean out that division and then get a rematch with Golovkin.”
Always big for a junior middleweight, Rosado feels stronger and more natural at the higher weight. “We got over here (Phoenix) at 178,” Rosado said last Thursday by telephone. “I woke up this morning weighing 169. So we definitely grew into the weight now.”
The 10-rounder with Love is not for a world title, but for Gaby, it could be a route toward one. Rosado is now under contract with Golden Boy Promotions, and is committed to two more fights with the promoter, if he beats Love. At Golden Boy, options for Rosado abound, with many of the top 154 and 160 pounders also signed with the promoter. Although comfortable at middleweight, Team Rosado still keeps one eye on the lower division.
“I’m pretty much going to stick to middleweight, but if a title shot were to come up at 154, I’ll go down,” Rosado said. “It’s going to be hard as hell, but I’m pretty sure I could make it. But it’s not going to be as easy as it was before.”
“If one of the champions offered him a title shot, I think he could do it,” Briscoe said. “Other than that it wouldn’t be worth the while.” At middleweight, WBO champion Peter Quillin is also a Golden Boy fighter, and looms out there as an obvious target for Rosado. But before he can get the slightest consideration as a future challenger for Quillin, Rosado needs an impressive win over Love on Saturday.
“He’s a good boxer,” Briscoe said about Love. “He’s got a real good jab. He uses the jab well. He moves very well. He boxes good.” “I think he’s a good fighter, but he’s tiny,” Rosado said. “I think this fight is too much for him to handle, as far as experience and things like that. He’s a decent fighter, but I think it’s a big, big, big step.”
For Rosado to make the impression that he needs to get himself back into the title chase, a knockout against Love would certainly help his cause. He at least needs to make a statement that he has rebounded from his loss against Golovkin, and must also prove that middleweight is the right division for him.
“He just has to go out there and fight his fight,” Briscoe said. “Put the pressure on him. Same thing he did with (Charles) Whittaker, with a little more volume punching. We know we might lose the first couple rounds, but then we’ll take it down the stretch.”
“I think obviously he’s going to box,” Rosado said. “That’s his style. So I just have to do my job. Walk him down with head movement and smart pressure. It’s a difficult fight if I didn’t do my job, but I trained extremely hard.”
Rosado will have his hands full with J’Leon Love. It’s a tough match against a guy who can move and possibly avoid the grinding physical battles that mark Rosado’s best performances. However Gaby seemed to find his style and ring identity last year, with those three KO victories over Jesus Soto Karass, Sechew Powell, and Charles Whittaker. He couldn’t do as well against Golovkin, but at this point who could?
It is true that Rosado will be the toughest and among the most experienced opponents that Love has ever faced. If he can do what he does best – apply pressure and breakdown his opponents physically – Rosado may find himself on another run at a world title. “At this stage of the game, every fight is a career defining fight,” Briscoe said. “You know, we have to just keep winning. With the size that he’s got now and the pressure he’s going to apply, we’ll get him.”
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