(Gabriel Rosado pops Sechew Powell in his last appearance on NBC Sports)
The good and the bad about sanctioning bodies and eliminators co-exist in the upcoming junior middleweight eliminator that takes place on Sept. 21 between Gabriel Rosado and Charles Whittaker, which will air on NBC Sports.
First, the bad. While it is true that Whittaker (38-12-2, 23 KOs) has not lost in more than eight years, there is no win during that stretch that would suggest the native of the Cayman Islands is anything close to a title contender, even in today’s era of oversaturated “world” titles.
At 38, Whittaker has been highly ranked by the IBF for a number of years and defeated the unheralded Giorbis Barthelemy last November in Miami in an eliminator for their #2 spot. That same Barthelemy had only won three of his previous six contests.
Simply put, Whittaker does not belong.
Now, the good. For Rosado, the title eliminator system is really the only way a fast-improving fighter with a couple of early losses against him and no major promoter was ever going to earn an opportunity. “Earn an opportunity” is exactly what Rosado has done.
Since losing to Derek Ennis in an Internet-televised bout more than two years ago, Rosado has run out six wins in a row, mostly against fighters that would register as better than anything on Whittaker’s resumé.
Rosado has benefited greatly from the exposure he has received fighting on NBC Sports since the network got into the boxing game in 2011. His TKO victories over Jesus Soto Karass and Sechew Powell in 2012 have changed many perceptions on who Rosado is as a fighter.
Rosado was almost unanimously considered a club fighter before his breakout year and is now justly being labeled a contender. A victory later this month would setup Rosado with an opportunity against Cornelius Bundrage, whom many consider the easiest target amongst the 154-pound beltholders, though it likely also carries the smallest payday.
The Philadelphia native wears his early losses like a badge of honor rather than make excuses for them.
“Nowadays, an undefeated record is overrated,” Rosado told TQBR in a phone interview a few weeks ago. “Promoters want to promote guys like Floyd (Mayweather). He did it the old school way coming up. Nowadays a lot are undefeated but fighting washed up guys.”
As what we saw with Austin Trout earning a Miguel Cotto fight this coming December, while world titles don’t mean what they used to be, they are valuable bargaining chips with name opponents who carry the box office with them to the negotiating table.
Rosado knows what is expected of him as he steps in against a lackluster opponent.
“I want to leave an impression,” Rosado said. “I don’t want it going past five rounds. Charles Whittaker, the point I have to make is he isn’t at my level. I have to dominate him. It can’t be a back-and-forth fight.”
“It is a big opportunity and I’m blessed to be in this situation. I suffered a lot of early losses and a lot of people didn’t think I’d get this far.”
Rosado is completely old school in his approach to the sport. He is a blue collar fighter who has received on the job training as a professional fighting on undercards of small Philadelphia club shows.
Rosado’s first big opportunity came in 2009 in an ESPN2 nationally televised fight with Fernando Guerrero, who was building himself quite a following at the time. Rosado put Guerrero down in the 3rd round but lost a spirited eight-round unanimous decision.
“Besides being sick going into that fight myself, Guerrero didn’t make the weight,” recalled Rosado. “They didn’t mention that. I came in at 154 and he came in at 160. He stepped on the scale as a middleweight. At the time I was young, had a kid, and needed money so I just rolled with it.”
Rosado has changed perceptions on himself as a fighter that if a rematch with Guerrero were ever made, the majority would probably tab him as the eventual winner.
Many, including Rosado promoter J. Russell Peltz, see a dramatically improved fighter has emerged in the past few fights.
“I didn’t really get involved until he fought (Kassim) Ouma and even then, it wasn’t a deal until right before he fought Ennis,” said Peltz to the TQBR in an e-mail.
“Losses to Chris Gray and Joshua Onyango, which he avenged, simply shows how much he has improved because losing to those guys means Gabe was not a very good fighter back then,” Peltz said. “I think he had only 13 amateur fights, but he always had a terrific work ethic and always was willing to fight anyone and that is what really attracted me to him — his mental outlook.”
With the junior middleweight division being the home of many name fighters permanent or temporary, Rosado has a chance to make some life-changing money if he gets through Whittaker like he is supposed to. Floyd Mayweather Jr., Saul Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, and a bevvy of other second-tier fighters that would generate some good income for the 26-year old Rosado loom if he can get ahold of a title.
For now, his focus is on Whittaker, and although it isn’t exactly the most appealing matchup available, people will no doubt be tuning in as NBC Sports has garnered solid ratings for their boxing programming thus far.
“Right now I am just concerned about taking care of business on Sept. 24,” said Rosado. “I think the last fight against Sechew Powell was the highest rated that NBC Sports had. I think NBC is the future of boxing and eventually you will see title fights. I think it is great for boxing and its fans.”
Who knows, maybe the first title fight as aired by NBC and NBC Sports under this run with boxing could be the follow-up bout between Bundrage and Rosado? Considering much of Bundrage’s IBF reign has come away from major television, you would think he could be had for a reasonable price.
According to Peltz, it doesn’t look likely they would be able to secure the title fight under that perfect setting.
“If Rosado wins, we would love to fight K9 but it appears his recent financial dreams are a bit high,” Peltz said. “We may wait him out for the six to nine month period and force him to fight us for the highest bidder. If he gives up the title, better yet.”
Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail and followed via Twitter. Mark’s work has also appeared in renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly as well as the Martinez News-Gazette, a tri-weekly regional newspaper. He is also a member of the Boxing Writer’s Assoc. of America and RING Ratings Advisory Panel.