Story by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Photos by Billy Briscoe
Gabriel Rosado, 21-7, 13 KOs, 1 ND, takes on undefeated Jermell Charlo Saturday night at the (Washington) DC Armory in a 10-round junior middleweight fight that offers the North Philly veteran a chance to go back to the days when a 154-pound championship looked like a foregone conclusion. That was before a rise in weight class and three big fights in 2013 all but brought the popular warrior to a dead end.
A victory against Charlo could put Rosado’s career back on the rails and return him to the top of the 154-pound division. But another loss could very well close the door on Rosado’s title dreams, and perhaps have him wishing that he had avoided that profitable path to the middleweight division.
About one year ago, after a trio of emphatic victories at 154, Gabriel Rosado gave up his #1 ranking as a junior middleweight for the opportunity to challenge middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin on HBO. Few gave the North Philadelphian much of a chance of taking the 160-pound title. So the lucrative move upward – both in weight and in class – was understood to be a calculated risk with a huge upside if Rosado could manage to pull an upset. Even in the worst case scenario Rosado would just go back to 154.
Unfortunately for Rosado, Golovkin retained his crown by bloody TKO that night. Then in a surprise move, Gaby postponed his return to junior middleweight, and that one fight at middleweight turned into three nationally televised bouts that kept Rosado’s schedule filled for 2013.
Rosado followed up the Golovkin fight with a 10-rounder against J’Leon Love on PPV, and then a second title shot, this time against Peter Quillin on Showtime. Rosado stuffed his bank account, and gained major exposure on boxing’s three biggest TV platforms. However, he finished the year without adding a single a win to his record. Still, those three fights branded Rosado as a blood and guts warrior who knows how to put on a show. That reputation apparently kept him in the mix for big fights.
With his career options appearing limited, Rosado managed to land yet another high-profile fight, another chance to battle his way to the top. But to take this latest opportunity, Gaby had to return to the junior middleweight division and fight a 10-rounder against scalding-hot prospect Jermell Charlo, 22-0, 11 KOs.
The move back down made many Rosado fans happy. Most of them felt that Gaby should have stayed put at junior middleweight in the first place, and they welcomed the news that he was going back down in weight.
But going home to junior middle would not be an easy task. By now, Rosado was walking around at nearly 180 pounds, and the 154-pound limit seemed a world away. Getting to 154 was never that easy for Rosado anyway. He was always the biggest junior middleweight around, and now he had even more weight to cut.
But Rosado has never backed down from a fight – in the ring or at the scales – and gladly accepted the match with Charlo. With long-time trainer Billy Briscoe in his corner, Rosado began to prepare for the DC bout.
Several weeks into camp, Philadelphia was hit with a bad snow storm and record cold snap.
“The weather sucked,” Rosado said. “It was snowing and it was difficult to lose the weight. I’d go for my runs and couldn’t sweat much. It was interfering with my focus because I wasn’t losing the weight. It kind of got in my head. So I told Bill (Briscoe) that I think we had to get out of here. (I said) Let’s go to Puerto Rico. I always wanted to do a training camp in Puerto Rico, and I know a couple fighters there. So I made a couple calls, and they said, ‘we’ll have sparring ready for you and get everything set’. So just like that, I booked the trip, and two days later we went to Puerto Rico.”
Team Rosado arrived in Puerto Rico and went right to work at Complejo Deportivo de Caguas, a gym in Miguel Cotto’s hometown of Caguas.
“It’s a big sports center,” Rosado said by phone from Puerto Rico. “You got your weight lifting, you got your track, you got your basketball and baseball. A little bit of everything. The boxing gym has two rings and everything you need in there. The people are great.”
Rosado feels that training in Puerto Rico also provides him with an extra career advantage.
“If you get the Puerto Rican fans, I’m talking about the fans from the Island, backing you up, supporting you, putting you in the papers, it takes you to a completely different level,” Rosado said. “Boxing is all about who has the fan base behind them.”
“Puerto Rico is looking for that guy, that next champion,” Rosado continued. “They like that I speak Spanish. They like that I know my culture. I’m not a guy from the states that doesn’t know anything. They were actually surprised that I was born and raised in Philadelphia. They thought I was born here and moved to Philadelphia. So I think coming over here wasn’t just good for the camp, it was good for me to connect with my background, my culture, and get the people interested in me and behind me. Once you have the people behind you, it becomes a different ballgame.”
As soon as Rosado arrived in Puerto Rico, things started to click. The change of pace helped to refocus him, and the weather helped with the weight-cutting process.
“The temperature ranges from 85-90,” Rosado said. “So it’s pretty damn good. It’s so hot down here that when you start working out, you start sweating like a son of a gun.”
It was a big change from Philly, and the pounds began coming off. Along with Briscoe, Rosado’s prime sparring partner, undefeated light heavyweight Dennis Hasson, also made the trip.
“The weight is coming off smooth,” Rosado said. “It won’t be an issue. It’s not as easy as it used to be, but I’m feeling good. I’m eating good and feeling strong.”
There’s no doubt that Rosado can get back down to 154, but he’ll need to make the weight and retain his strength and stamina to be effective. If he can do this, then all the experience he gained last year, will make him well-positioned for Charlo. He’ll enter the ring as a true veteran with genuine experience against some of the very best fighters in the world. Charlo is a serious prospect, but compared to GGG and Kid Chocolate, he doesn’t exactly strike fear in Rosado.
“When I heard him talk (on the recent press conference call), I could just hear the inexperience in his tone and in what he was saying,” Rosado said. “He was talking about overcoming adversity, but he hasn’t been there yet. In reality, no fighter knows if he can go through adversity until he really goes through it. Charlo will find out if he can overcome adversity on January 25th.”
Rosado certainly knows adversity himself, and having gone through so much of it already will give him valuable confidence against Charlo.
“I know I can go through it,” Rosado said. “I’ve been through it a couple times. I know what I can go through. Once you survive a tough fight, a knockdown, a cut, and things like that, and fight through it, then you really know what you’re made of. He’s saying he can go through adversity but he really doesn’t know that. You’ve never been down, you never had to get up from a knockdown, or you never had to fight through cuts. And bunch of things I’ve been through. He really doesn’t understand that. He doesn’t even understand what I mean.”
Even with a significant edge in experience, Rosado will still have a serious assignment before him. Charlo is an excellent fighter with victories over Denis Douglin, Harry Joe Yorgey and Demetrius Hopkins. Still, Rosado exudes confidence.
“I saw this guy in the Demetrius Hopkins fight,” Rosado said. “I was at ringside. I saw his eyes. There was a round when Demetrius caught him with a good right hand, and I really saw this guy get discouraged.”
The Hopkins fight pointed Rosado to the key against Charlo.
“I saw it in that fight,” Rosado said. “If I apply pressure, I can take his will. So that’s pretty much the game plan. We’re really working on jumping on this guy early, and approaching every round like it’s the last round. We don’t want to start off slow. We don’t want to break him down little by little. We want to go in there and just go for the kill.”
Rosado learned in his last two fights, that getting a knockout makes a big difference.
First, Rosado appeared to edge J’Leon Love on the cards, but failed to sway the judges. (That fight was later changed to a No Contest when Love failed his drug test.) Then in the hotly contested Quillin fight, Rosado learned after his TKO loss that he barely earned a round on two of the three official cards.
These fights taught Rosado that he must keep his destiny in his own hands, or fists. Especially now. Another defeat could end his time in the spotlight and push him into the twilight of his career.
“I know that there is a lot on the line in this fight,” Rosado said. “I know what I gotta do. We already know what happened in the last two fights. This is a must-win and a must-knockout (against Charlo).”
If Rosado can score a KO over such a respected young prospect, it could truly turn back the clock to 2012, when the only thing that stood between he and a title shot was time. At that time, Rosado was the mandatory challenger for the IBF belt.
“In the press conference a couple days ago, (Golden Boy Promoter) Richard Schaefer said whichever fighter comes out victorious he’s going to be sure they get a title shot next,” Rosado said. “So there is a lot on the line.”
Golden Boy controls the futures of most of the top junior middleweights, so all this makes sense.
“I’m really motivated for this fight because there are so many big fights at 154,” Rosado said. “I know I could possibly get the winner of Canelo-Angulo next. Or maybe get Lara next.”
Rosado has had a knack for keeping himself relevant, even after a loss. The reason is no doubt because of the type of fighter he is. Win or lose, Rosado shows up and makes the fight interesting. He’s an emerging star, but he needs this win to keep his career going. Rosado realizes this and is ready to go.
“I feel like this is a fresh start for me,” Rosado said. “I have unfinished business at 154. The fact that I’m going back to ’54 feels like I’m going back home again. I’ve been away for a while, and I’m finally coming home. It’s exciting for me.”
To read more about the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.