Things are different now for Gabriel Rosado.
The transformation from a fighter whose career appeared heading down the journeyman/gatekeeper path into a growing fan favorite and authentic contender began a couple years ago. The career growth spurt had to confront tough losses and developments in his personal life when he became a new father and had a brush with the law. It concluded at the beginning of this month with a win over Sechew Powell that confirmed Rosado wasn’t just an all-action brawler — he was a real threat in the junior middleweight division.
“I’ve just done a 360 in my career,” Rosado told TQBR this week. “It feels good. People are starting to notice, after these last two big wins, that I’m a top contender at 154. It’s a lot of fun right now.”
To hear Rosado tell it, all the things that have happened to him over the past couple years, good and bad, are the exact reasons he’s gotten to where he is. Those fights where he lost, he argued, were part of what forced him him to learn how he had to get better. It led to a dedication to improving his craft, and has been accompanied by new training methods that he said have made him stronger. And his two-year-old daughter is a major inspiration in his career, especially because, he said, she is a huge boxing fan who stays up late to watch her father fight on television. (“She’d rather watch boxing than Dora,” Rosado said.)
NBC Sports will re-air the Rosado-Powell fight several times over the next few days, starting Friday at 9 p.m., and Rosado said appearing on the network’s new Fight Night program has also made a difference in his career.
Rosado (20-5, 12 KOs) didn’t exactly start off his pro career poorly.There were a couple losses to relatively anonymous opponents, one of them avenged, but then he took on the role of a spoiler: He beat James Moore, threw a scare into Fernando Guerrero in a loss and then won a split decision over Kassim Ouma, all over a stretch from mid-2008 to mid-2009.
But Alfredo Angulo made quick work of Rosado in a 2nd round stoppage on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights, and after a close decision win over tough Saul Roman, Rosado lost an all-Philadelphia duel against Derrick Ennis in 2010, and it looked as though he was hitting a ceiling. But Rosado said that’s not what was happening.
“At the time that I was taking those fights I was still learning on the job,” he said. “I didn’t have the experience. I started boxing when I was 18. I only had 11 amateur fights. I turned pro at 19 and was still, like, learning on the job at this time.”
Fast forward to the start of 2012. Rosado appeared on NBC Sports, where he stopped Jesus Soto Karass, a notoriously hard-headed boxer who never had suffered a knockout of any kind. Rosado was impressive, sharper than ever, but maybe that win could be attributed to Karass fighting at a higher weight and having a lot of ring wear. But then Rosado beat Powell, who had lost a few recent fights but came in focused and owns a boxing, moving style that had proven difficult for Rosado in the past. And Rosado stopped Powell without getting reckless in a patient, destructive display.
“Now I’ve got the experience to know what it takes to fight a 12 round fight,” he said. “I knew it was a matter of time for me to get on the inside. Little by little, I got into his space. I knew he came in with a lot of experience so I couldn’t make mistakes and get caught with counters. By the time I got to the middle rounds I got on the inside, landed some good body shots and I knew it matter of time for me to get to him.”
Kathy Duva of Main Events, which promotes the NBC Sports program, said she was initially unsure about putting Rosado in with Powell. The original plan was for Rosado to face Joel Julio, who pulled out of the bout. Duva said she wasn’t sure whether Powell would produce a stylistically appealing fight with Rosado. But Russell Peltz — who works as a matchmaker on the program and represents Rosado — and Main Events matchmaker Jolene Mizzone convinced her. Peltz assured her that Powell would be a bigger step up for Rosado than Julio, because of his boxing ability.
Duva said with the two wins on Fight Night, Rosado has turned himself into a player.
“We have learned that he has grown and changed and become a much better figher than we started,” Duva said. “He’s a money player when all the pressure’s on. As a promoter to work with someone that exciting and willing to take on a real challenge, to fight live opponents and not just pad his record with a bunch of wins, makes for tremendous television, and he’s won a lot of fans as a result.”
Rosado said his love of the sport is a big motivation for bearing down. He admires “old school,” hard-nosed craftsmen like James Toney, Evander Holyfield and Pernell Whitaker. He and his trainer have worked to hone his own craft.
Rosado has also taken to working with Brazen Boxing & MMA, a Philly training center, on his strength. The methods there incorporate things a wrestler does — Rosado said he works with weights, in contradiction to boxing orthodoxy that lifting weights in the wrong kind of exercise for a boxer. The exercises include lifting 80-pound kettle bells and pull-ups but vary frequently to trick his muscles. Rosado began working with Brazen Boxing & MMA before the Soto Karass fight.
“It’s added a lot to my game,” Rosado said. “Those last two fights are the two fights where I’ve looked this strong. It’s definitely made a huge improvement.”
His daughter, Isabella, also has been a boon. “I think about her sometimes in the middle of a fight, when it gets tough or I get winded. She motivates me to put my foot on the gas,” Rosado said.
There was a setback in Rosado’s personal life amid the upward arc; in February, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on a police officer from an incident the previous summer in Atlantic City on a night when he was celebrating a victory over Ayi Bruce. That brought another lesson.
“It was an unfortunate situation. I wish it never happened,” he said. “After fights I go straight home with family, and don’t stay out or anything like that. I make sure I have the right people around me, to stay out of trouble.”
With his latest win, Rosado called out popular Mexican star Saul Alvarez, and a lot of boxing fans and writers took the idea of the match-up seriously. Instead, Victor Ortiz will get the fight, assuming he beats Josesito Lopez next. (Rosado is predicting Ortiz to upset Alvarez.)
Rosado isn’t sure what’s up next for him. Duva said Rosado is welcome back on NBC Sports, because he fits the prototype of the program’s mission.
“It’s about risking real competition,” she said. “If you win, you grow and move on. If you don’t, you fix what’s broken. In the case of Rosado, he didn’t have a big amateur career and had some early fights and had some losses. That’s how he learned. That’s how he got better. The tendency in our sport is that if someone gets losses on the record, we throw him on the scrap heap and he’s done. The fights we’re going to have Saturday night, with Bryant Jennings and Steve Collins and [Tomasz] Adamek-[Eddie] Chambers, you have two fights where all four guys are going to move on. That’s kind of what we’re trying to do. NBC is allowing us to be promoters matchmakers.”
And they’re happy with the results at NBC Sports, Duva said. Fight Night replays, she said, often do better ratings than any other programming on the channel on any given day.
For his part, Rosado has enjoyed being on the show, too. People often tell him they see him on those replays. “It’s definitely allowed people to know who I am now. I’ve gotten a lot of buzz and a lot of people recognize me from it,” he said.
With his two most recent wins, Rosado feels like he’s on the verge of a big title shot. He’s not sure what he’ll have to do to get it, but he speaks with the composure of someone who’s seen rough times, come out on top and is confident that he will again.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, beating top guys. Eventually it will happen,” said the 26-year-old.
“I’m just being patient. Everything falls into place over time.”
(Follow Gabriel Rosado on Twitter at @kinggabrosado)