Undefeated middleweight contender and alphabet titlist Gennady Golovkin (24-0, 21 KOs) has become an almost mythical figure in the sport today, and he’s done it without really having yet beaten top level opposition. Saturday Night Boxing’s Adam Abramowitz told me recently it wasn’t for lack of trying on Team Golovkin’s part. They want fights against other top middleweight contenders, he says, but no one wants to fight him.
“Quillin, Sturm, Geale, N'Dam and Macklin have all been offered fights with Golovkin in the past six months,” said Abramowitz.
Enter opportunistic junior middleweight contender Gabriel Rosado (21-5, 13 KOs). Unlike the larger and more well-known group of fighters who’ve passed up a chance to step in the ring with Golovkin, Rosado accepted the challenge almost as soon as it was offered him. Sure, the talented 26-year-old Philadelphian has had his ups and downs, but a string of well ballyhooed (and televised) successes has catapulted into the spotlight. He’s won seven straight since his last loss, a majority decision over Derek Ennis in 2010, with his last three perhaps his finest to date.
Rosado began 2012 with an impressive stoppage over tough veteran Jesus Soto Karass last January to help kick off NBC’s new Fight Night Series. Rosado was brilliant, using sharp reflexes and fast hands to batter Soto Karass to the head and body for all five rounds it lasted. Rosado followed it up twice more. In June, he dispatched of Sechew Powell in nine rounds then finished the year with a ten round stoppage of Charles Whitaker in September, earning a top ten ranking in perhaps the sport’s most talent-laden division.
Is this the guy to derail the Golovkin Express? Critics have their doubts, but Rosado sure thinks so.
“Everybody is looking at this guy like he’s the next best thing,” Rosado told The Sweet Science. “I like the challenge. I’m a competitor. I feel like I have the skills and what it takes to beat him.”
Many fight fans have lauded Rosado’s decision to reject the 158 pound catchweight proposal negotiated for him by advisor Russell Peltz. Others have called it suicide. Rosado simply calls it a matter of respect.
"Golovkin is the champion and out of respect to him and towards the sport of boxing, we will fight at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds,” said Rosado via press release last week. “When I beat him, I don't want any excuses about the extra two pounds he had to lose. I will beat him at his best, fair and square.”
Rosado says he’s a new school fighter with an old school mentality.
“The old-timers didn't need any catchweights, they were real men. Middleweight champions fight at 160 and that's what I want."
Sentiments such as these are sure to win fight fans over, for we are a demanding lot. In fact, one could argue this was precisely the reason the press release went out in the first place. But does Rosado really want to rumble with perhaps the scariest middleweight on the planet, at his best and most natural weight to boot? Isn’t that needlessly heading into the lion’s den when he could fight him somewhere else instead?
“I just feel that a catchweight is a way of giving up…it’s a weakness,” Rosado said. “If you’re going to fight a guy for his title, you should honor the weight class and respect the sport. That is why there are weight classes. It doesn’t make sense to make him come down. I don’t need the catchweight. I want to beat him fair and square.”
The Ring’s Ryan Songalia told me what it really boils down to is economics, and maybe he has a point.
“Some guys just don't have a lot of options, and any opportunity to fight on HBO is lucrative,” Songalia said. “It wasn't like Rosado could wait around and get his own HBO date. That's why he's leaving his best [and most] natural weight class for [the fight].”
Indeed, Rosado said he is quite looking forward to appearing on HBO as well as tussling with Golovkin in New York in boxing’s most famous venue, Madison Square Garden. He says it will be a dream come true on both accounts.
“I remember seeing guys like Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto fight there and daydreaming about me one day fighting at the Garden on HBO,” he said. “It’s perfect.”
In boxing, though, dreams can quickly turn into nightmares. Most pundits are picking the larger, heavier-handed Golovkin to continue his menacing ways come January 19 in New York. He’s simply too big, too strong and too skilled, they argue, but Rosado remains undeterred. In fact, when asked if he was anxious about testing himself against the naturally larger man’s power, Rosado talked only of preparedness.
“I’m not anxious,” he asserted. “I’m ready.”
Rosado insists he will shock the world against Golovkin. He mentioned the value of traveling the tough road up the boxing ranks, where he experienced five losses, and how it can make the right kind of resilient person a winner in the end. He says he feels as if he’s finally at his very best and that now he’s ready to prove it.
“I think with this win, I will show people I am a different fighter,” he said. “A lot people still think about the Angulo [loss], the Guerrero [loss]…they still think I am that same fighter. Once I beat Golovkin, they’re going to realize I’m a different fighter now. It takes years for a fighter to learn his craft. Those fights were almost four years ago. Everything is on point.”
As our discussion winded down, I noticed a quiet confidence in his voice. It’s an admirable quality, really, especially considering he’s fighting one of the more intimidating figures in the sport today, and moving up in weight to do it. In my discussion with boxing writer Jimmy Tobin on the matter, though, he warned me against overly praising the fighter for simply doing what a fighter should do.
“Rosado is taking the biggest fight he can get,” he said. “That's what it's about, and commendable. But it doesn't warrant apotheosis.”
I have to admit, while I certainly agree with Tobin in principle on the matter, it certainly warrants something or other…doesn’t it? I mean, we are so quick to judge fighters for the opposite of what he’s doing, don’t we? I know I have.
So whatever that something may be…money…fame…respect…adulation…whatever, let’s hope Rosado finds it waiting for him in the ring alongside what most certainly will be on that evening, Gennady Golovkin.