|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY September 18, 2012||
By John DiSanto
Junior middleweight contender Gabriel Rosado and trainer Billy Briscoe left Philadelphia for a two-week training camp in Phoenix, Arizona, where they spent their time doing final preparations for their September 21st nationally televised fight. Today they fly back to Philly, and then head straight to Bethlehem, PA for what figures to be their most important fight yet. That phrase has come in handy in 2012, with each of Rosado's fights this year increasing in difficulty and every win propelling him closer to a world title fight.
Friday night, Rosado, 20-5 (12 KO), faces Charles Whittaker, a Miami-based boxer from the Cayman Islands with a 38-12-2 (23 KO) record. The 12-round fight is an IBF Title Eliminator. This means the winner of the fight becomes the #1 IBF junior middleweight in the world, and secures a mandatory title shot against champion Cornelius "K9" Bundrage.
This is everything Rosado has been fighting for. So once again, the phrase fits. It's the most important fight of his life.
"I expect it to be a good, tough fight," said Billy Briscoe, who has trained Briscoe since his first day in the gym as an amateur boxer. "Charles Whittaker is a hell of a fighter. He doesn't get the recognition he deserves, but he can fight. The man hasn't lost since 2004, and even then he lost a majority decision in Michigan to a guy from Michigan. So he might be unbeaten since 2001."
Rosado has been fighting professionally since 2006 after a brief amateur career. He learned his profession on the job, which put him on a long and tough road to this point. Most of the way, he's only had himself and Briscoe to depend upon. He's taken every fight that has come his way, and win or lose, just kept moving forward after each bout.
Those five losses on Rosado's record bothered him for the longest time. He took each loss hard and hated looking back at them. But eventually he did look back, and he realized that perhaps even more than some of his best wins, those five losses pushed him to be the fighter he is today.
"I'm definitely proud of my record," Rosado said. "I've been though some hard times, but I'm older now and now I know what it takes."
Rosado has embraced a pressuring style in his most recent - and most impressive - victories. He always had this style in his arsenal, but didn't always embrace it the way he does now. It's made a difference, crystallizing his performances and making him a dangerous fighter.
"We just got to fight our fight," Briscoe said. "Fight smart, break him down. We'll give him different looks, keep shuffling the deck. We'll find the look to get inside, then we'll close the distance and God willing, take him out of there."
Rosado agrees. "I keep saying that the fight won't go past six. I definitely want to stop him. I don't just want to win the fight. I'm not going to be satisfied with just the win. I really want to make a statement. I really want to put on a show. I want to keep the buzz going about how I've been winning my recent fights by knockout. I want to keep that going."
This is the primary difference in the 2012 version of Rosado. He's undergone an evolution. He seems to have realized that what he does best is use his size, make his opponent uncomfortable and work for the knockout. In doing so Rosado has distinguished himself from the pack.
Knockouts have almost become a lost art in boxing. Many of the highly paid, top fighters seem unwilling to take any chances in the ring, which usually means they squeak by on the scorecards with their undefeated records - and future options - intact. But knockouts are the life-blood of the sport. Without them boxing becomes diluted and fights tend to run together.
Fortunately the KO has made a bit of a comeback this year, with Rosado doing his part against Jesus Soto Karass in January, and Sechew Powell in June. Both fights were televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network "Fight Night" boxing series. Rosado-Whittaker is also a "Fight Night" feature bout.
"I'm definitely going for the kill," Rosado said about his upcoming fight.
That's the new Rosado. He doesn't just want to win. He has a particular type of victory in mind. He wants emphatic wins that make an impression with fans as well as the powers that be.
"It always feels good to be the main event," Rosado said. "I think it's going to be great for me and for the fans."
"Boxing is all about timing," Billy Briscoe said. "Experience; it kicks in when it's going to kick in. You can't rush it. You got to cultivate it."
Rosado and Briscoe have been on that hard road waiting for experience to kick in for them. It began to do so in January, when it seemed to just click on like a light switch.
If that light stays on through the Charles Whittaker fight on Friday night, Rosado will be the mandatory challenger for the IBF champion, and fighting for the title will just be a matter of time. Perhaps just a few months.
"I think the type of performance I'll put on (against Whittaker) will definitely create the type of buzz where the fans will want to see that fight (against Bundrage for the title)."
But Charles Whittaker is first, and Rosado is focused and ready.
He said, "I'm just excited to go back home and put on a good show for the fans. I can't wait."