Story and Photos by John DiSanto – Philly Boxing History (.com)
After seven years as a professional fighter, Gabriel Rosado has fought his way to the doorstep of his dream. On Saturday, he faces fierce fighting machine Gennady Golovkin at Madison Square Garden Theater for the WBA & IBO middleweight championship of the world.
“This is something that I always day dreamed about,” Rosado said. “It’s always played in my head, the big stage, HBO, the title, being the underdog. Exactly the situation that I’m in, is exactly what I’ve always dreamed about.”
He’s done the work and taken the risks. Now with a little luck and a disciplined performance on Saturday night, Rosado can make his dreams come true.
“I’m constantly thinking about the fight,” Rosado said. “I actually dreamt about it last night – I knocked him out in the fourth round. It goes through my head every minute of the day. I’m constantly thinking about the fight, and I’m really excited about it.”
Rosado, like every fighter to come before him, probably began dreaming of becoming a champion even before he entered a boxing gym for the first time. He was a tough Philly kid looking to do something to keep himself busy and out of trouble. He found boxing, and it did the trick.
That first day in the gym Rosado met Billy Briscoe who became his trainer, and the two have taken this trip together.
Briscoe had the same dream as Rosado, but poor vision and eye problems forced him to shift his focus from fighting to training. However his championship dreams never budged.
“I studied from the great Mr. Wesley Mouzon, may God rest his soul, who studied from Gene Buffalo, who studied from the great Jack Blackburn,” Briscoe said. “That’s the lineage.”
Mouzon trained Briscoe to take his place as one of the legendary Philly boxing trainers, a dying breed with very few examples remaining.
“When he got sick about 10 years ago, I asked Mr. Wes to stick around 10 more years, so I’d be ready to take his place. He said, ‘Billy, you’re ready now. Don’t let anybody tell you anything different. You just need the right guy to get you there.’ That was 10 years ago. And here we are.”
In Philly, boxing is always an option. The city is steeped in so much boxing lore that every kid grows up knowing about Joe Frazier, Bernard Hopkins, and a slew of other fighters who did big things in the sport. Even “Rocky” was from Philadelphia.
The citizens of Philly spend years arguing over which boxer should get a statue next, while other cities never even consider immortalizing a fighter in bronze. For this and many other reasons, Philadelphia has always been considered a boxing capital.
Over the decades, thousands of Philly kids pursued the dream of becoming a boxing champion. However only about 30 were able to actually make it to the top. The first one was Danny Dougherty, who did it in 1900. The most recent was Rosado’s friend, Danny Garcia, who did it last year. These two Philly champs, and the 28 men who came during the 112 years between them, are the exceptions to a very strict rule in boxing that says only a very few win the championship.
They don’t call boxing the “School of Hard Knocks” for nothing.
Gabriel Rosado is the latest to take the test. If he can topple Golovkin (24-0, 21 KOs) and win the middleweight championship, he will fit nicely into the roll call of Philly champions.
Rosado is a hard-boiled, hard working, no frills, fighter. He can box in the ring, but always chooses to fight. It’s what he does best. He has never been handed anything, nor has he been fed easy fights. For the majority of his career, the self-managed fighter has accepted every opponent offered to him, regardless of the risks. He just wanted to fight, learn, improve, and keep moving forward.
“Gaby don’t turn nothing down but his collar,” said Briscoe of his fighter’s willingness to face any foe.
His challenge of Golovkin fits the Rosado mold well.
While sitting pretty as the mandatory challenger and #1 contender for the junior middleweight title, Rosado accepted the fight with Golovkin at middleweight, and let his rights as a 154-pounder disintegrate.
Most fighters would have played it safe and waited for the safer opponent (Cornelius ‘K9″ Bundrage) at the safer weight, but Rosado took the challenge to vie for the title at a higher weight against a guy many think to be unbeatable.
“I could have waited for K9, but I purposely took this fight,” Rosado said. “If I fought K9 and beat him, I’m supposed to beat him. But if I beat Triple G, I become a star. I get the big fights. That’s why I took this fight.”
Rosado even declined an accommodating 158 pound catch weight for the upcoming title fight.
“I just feel that weight classes are there for a reason,” Rosado said after discarding the two-pound concession made by Golovkin. “This is a middleweight fight. I don’t want there to be any excuses when I win. So I want to fight at 160 (pounds).”
Much of the boxing world thinks that Golovkin will win the fight easily. It’s no knock on Rosado. It’s just that Golovkin is regarded that highly. Many say that he’s not only better than WBC champ Sergio Martinez, but that he is also the man to soon inherit the top spot in the Pound-for-Pound ratings.
Golovkin is a phenomenon, but the underdog role and long odds do not intimidate Rosado. He feels the naysayers just need to better acquaint themselves with what he can do.
“Those that don’t know me just look at the records and say ‘Gennady is going to tear this guy apart’ but the records fool them,” Rosado said. “It actually fuels me to prove them wrong. When I take care of business and win this fight, they are all going to say, ‘Wow!’ and it’s going to change their outlook.”
“We’ve been underdogs for how long? Since the beginning of time,” Briscoe said. “Golovkin is a good fighter, a very good fighter. But we’re not talking about Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Robinson. We’re talking about Golovkin. No disrespect, but if we were fighting Hagler or Robinson, I might be worried.”
Still, Team Rosado needs a plan to defeat the middleweight champ.
“The key is to stay disciplined, and to fight a disciplined fight each round,” Rosado said. “Be disciplined with the jab and stay focused throughout the entire fight. Hit and not get hit. That’s why we work on defense. I have confidence in my defense, catching on the inside, slipping, making punches graze off. I can fight him in the pocket, or on the outside. If I have to box, I can box. If I got to bang, I can bang. I think that’s going to present a problem for him.”
“We have to stay calm, relaxed and alert,” Briscoe added. “Dictate. Work when we want to work, don’t work when we don’t want to work. Apply our pressure and make him work.”
“I think as a professional, I’ve been in with the better competition,” Rosado said. “I’m going to pull things off that he’s never seen in the professional ranks. That’s going to throw him off.”
“In boxing they say, don’t look for the knockout,” Rosado said. “I don’t look for the knockout, I set the knockout up. The first couple rounds, you break a guy down, the middle rounds you apply pressure, and in those later rounds, you go for the kill. I’ve got that down to a science. I know how to break a guy down now over twelve rounds. It’s just a whole different me, and I just want to display that on the 19th. I’m going for the knockout all the time. I think it’s going to get to a point where I’m hitting this guy at will.”
If he can, he’ll be the latest champion from Philadelphia.
“Another reason I picked the fight is legacy,” Rosado declared. “I want to make history in the sport. I don’t want to just retire and have people forget about me. I want to be known. When they bring up Bernard Hopkins, I want them to bring up my name.”
“Real Philadelphia fighters fight everybody,” Briscoe said. “They’ll fight anybody, and that’s why most of them never became world champions.”
“I think the fact that I’ve gone this far is because I’m from Philadelphia,” Rosado explained. “The gym wars that I’ve been through early on with the Mitchell twins, Anthony Thompson, Jameel Wilson, when those guys were in their primes. I was just learning and I was going to war with these guys.”
“I learned a lot being in five training camps with Bernard Hopkins,” Rosado continued. “So definitely going in the ring as a Philly fighter, there’s a lot of pride. I feel that if you can make it out of Philadelphia, you can make it anywhere.”
Billy Briscoe knows the feeling.
“I earned my stripes in the Blue Horizon, knee deep in blood, sweat and tears,” Briscoe said. “I’ve been training professional fighters since I was 15 years old. I was blessed to be with old timers. They used to tell me, ‘A lot of these guys talk, but when the bell rings, all the talk stops. Then it’s who’s the better man.’ I believe I got the better man.”
Added to Rosado’s goals of beating Golovkin and becoming Philly’s latest champion, is his desire to set an example of the old school ethic that he embodies.
“I think this fight is giving me an opportunity to bring something special to boxing,” Rosado said. “I didn’t accept the catch weight. I turned down my mandatory at 154 to go up to middleweight to fight a bigger guy, and I want to bring that throwback feeling to boxing where the best fight the best.”
“I want the reputation that I don’t duck anybody, and that I want to fight the guys in the tougher fights,” Rosado said. “That’s what I want to bring back to the sport. Maybe other guys will look at me and get motivated by that. Maybe it can become the cool thing to do. Now the cool thing is to stay undefeated and take the opponents that build a record. Everybody wants to follow that trend. I want to bring back the old way of doing things, and I think people will respect that and appreciate that I’m taking a risk. I want to bring that back to the sport.”
It sounds like the Philly way.
Gabriel Rosado is an excellent example of the Philly fighter. He has the attitude and values that the memorable fighters from the City of Brotherly Love all seem to share. And if he can make his dream come true on Saturday, he’ll have something that only 30 other Philly fighters have – a world championship belt.
He’ll be the exception to the rule.
Rosado said, “I know I have the talent and I know I have the ability to do something great in this sport. It’s all or nothing.”
For more on the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.