It isn’t often that a fight between an unbeaten but largely untested fighter and an opponent who has six losses is looked at as perhaps the most compelling fight on a pay-per-view undercard.
But Gabriel Rosado’s scheduled 10-round middleweight bout with prospect J’Leon Love on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero is a crossroads bout that is anticipated by most hardcore fans. Rosado is coming off a hard-fought TKO loss to WBA titleholder Gennady Golovkin that was televised on HBO in January while Love is looking to cement himself as a bona-fide contender in the middleweight division.
This isn’t new territory for Rosado. A tough luck fighter early in his career who was brought in as “the opponent” on more than a handful of occasions, Rosado has blossomed into an extremely mature 27 year old. While nobody likes to lose, Rosado has learned something from each of his six losses and he hopes to teach his undefeated 25-year-old opponent his first lesson.
“I think experiences like what I’ve been through make or break a fighter,” Rosado told RingTV.com shortly before Wednesday’s final press conference for Mayweather-Guerrero. “Nine out of 10 guys would have folded going through the situations that I’ve been through.”
Rosado has never had things easy. A couple of early career defeats, when boxing wasn’t at the forefront of his mind, forced him to take even more difficult fights when his skills began to progress. A victory over a then unbeaten James Moore changed perceptions of Rosado a bit and he began to find himself in televised opportunities on a more regular basis.
Split decision wins over former 154-pound titleholder Kassim Ouma and tough Mexican veteran Saul Roman sandwiched a bad knockout loss to Alfredo Angulo in 2009 and 2010. To Rosado, it was those kinds of fights that forced him to get better; those were the fights he feels give him an edge over his opponent on Saturday.
“I remember when I fought Saul Roman,” said Rosado. “He was 32-5, a solid Mexican. He cut me open, and I won that fight off pure will. We will see if Love has that on Saturday. We’ll find out if he’s got the dog in him or if he is all talk.”
The talk that Rosado is referring to is the uncharacteristic smacktalk that Love engaged Rosado in at Tuesday’s grand arrival at the MGM Grand. The two went nose-to-nose very quickly as Love began unleashing some verbal abuse before Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, stepped in. Unfortunately, Ellerbe only exacerbated things when he pushed Rosado’s buttons and those two went face to face.
For Rosado, he thinks those early antics suggest that Love might be in over his head. Love told RingTV.com yesterday that he felt Rosado was dismissive of him, sparking his temper.
“When he was walking on stage, I looked at him like, ‘We’re fighting, this is real s__t. I’m not here to make friends.’ Imagine that, he couldn’t handle a staredown, imagine what will happen in the actual fight.”
According to Rosado, he and Love exchanged positive words to each other over Twitter as the two did share one similarity: both Love and Rosado lost loved ones while getting prepared for this fight.
“In training camp, we both trained with heavy hearts. My stepfather passed away and he lost his brother, so I reached out to him on Twitter and offered my condolences and he responded respectfully. When he approached me on the stage, he came at me out of character. That tells me that he’s nervous.”
Though the experience lies in Rosado’s favor, this is still the biggest fight in both of their respective careers. To fight on a Floyd Mayweather undercard is an opportunity few get to experience. Even though it is the opening fight of the pay-per-view telecast, it is a tremendous opportunity for both to increase their name and exposure.
Still, Rosado feels as though he has the edge to where Love won’t be able to adapt if plan A doesn’t go his way.
“I have been in against world champions and former world champions,” said Rosado. “He said to me, ‘I’m a different breed.’ What are you, you haven’t fought anyone yet? If he’s a different breed, I’m a f__ing Tyrannosaurus Rex.”
The heat between the two will only motivate Rosado to inflict more damage according to the Philadelphia native.
“It’s not going to the scorecards, and I mean that,” said Rosado. “He doesn’t have the skills to survive. When it gets hot in there, a veteran has the skills to survive and get away from certain shots. He’s young, will probably try and be bold. I’ve been in his shoes already.”
The fear for many, even those backing Rosado on Saturday, is that he took too much punishment againstGolovkin in January. Rosado was stopped in the seventh when his face was grotesquely swollen and cut. Rosado quickly put an end to that talk when asked about how that fight will affect him.
“If you think about it, the blood made it look worse than it really was,” said Rosado. “When they cleaned up the blood, it wasn’t as bad. A lot of the shots weren’t landing.”
Rosado was previously campaigning at 154 pounds, where he built himself into a potential title shot. Rosado decided to go after Golovkin at 160 pounds, if only because he wants the most difficult challenges that present themselves. In other words, Rosado is a throwback fighter.
“I looked at it like, I love to prove people wrong,” said Rosado on why he took the Golovkin fight rather than exploring his options at 154 pounds. “I turned down a title fight at 154 pounds and went to 160 to fight GGG. I like to try and do the impossible.”
Rosado says what makes this challenge at 160 pounds different from January is he’s grown into the weight class.
“Physically, I just wasn’t a solid 160 pounds against Golovkin,” said Rosado. “This fight, I’m more naturally a middleweight and I’m going to approach this fight as the bigger man.”
Rosado has previously upset the odds a number of times. On top of beating James Moore, Rosado has scored impressive wins against Jesus Soto Karass and Sechew Powell on NBC Sports. It was his three fights on that network that grew Rosado’s name and probably helped land the fight with Love.
Even though Rosado is the “B-side” in this fight, he feels as though he is a big part in selling the fight.
“Nobody would have cared about his fight if he wasn’t fighting me,” said Rosado. “If Love was fighting someone else, most people would probably be concerned about the pizza delivery guy than watching his fight.”
If the Golovkin loss didn’t take too much out of Rosado, his fight Saturday with Love has a good chance of stealing the spotlight on the undercard. It was Love who wanted to fight Rosado, personally asking Leonard Ellerbe to “make the fight with that tough Philly kid,” according to Love on Tuesday.
“If that’s true, which I doubt it is, be careful what you wish for,” said Rosado.
All boxing fans are hoping for is that the fight plays out the way it looks on paper.
Photos / Decora Michelle, Esther Lin-SHOWTIME