Story by John DiSanto – PhillyBoxingHistory.com
Photos by Darryl Cobb Jr. – dcbbjr.com
It’s been more than seven years since Gabriel Rosado last fought in Philadelphia. Back then, he stopped Jesus Soto Karass in round five, and that fifth round TKO was the victory that began the sweet spot of Rosado’s career, the first chapter of his story. He’d fight two more times in 2012, and by the time the year ended, he was the #1 contender in the IBF at 154 pounds. In so many ways, 2012 was the best year of Rosado’s career. It was Rosado at his most effective – smart pressure galore and a no-nonsense drive to win the fight.
The following seven years brought many ups and downs for Rosado, including two world title bouts, several raw decisions, a move to Los Angeles, the launch of an acting and modeling career, and many big purses, which out-paced most other Philly fighters over the past decade. His career has been remarkable, and that stoppage of Soto Karass really started it all.
On Friday night at the Liacouras Center (also internationally streamed live on DAZN), Rosado, 24-11-1, 14 KOs, 1 ND, returns to his hometown to fight Poland’s Maciej Sulecki, 27-1, 11 KOs, with hopes of launching the final chapter of his career.
“That’s how I feel,” Rosado said. “What’s better than to start in Philly, that second chapter of my career? I just feel like mentally, I’m in a good place. Physically, I’m in good shape. I’m excited to be back in Philly.”
Rosado’s career keeps moving along, despite posting more losses than wins in recent years. He has established himself as a boxer who is compelling to fans, whether he wins or loses, because his fights usually give viewers exactly what they want. Rosado just keeps doing his thing, and it keeps him in the mix, and paying benefits.
As it turns out, Friday’s fight can place another world championship opportunity directly in front of him. If he can beat Sulecki – the favored, once-beaten, former title challenger – Rosado is expected to advance to another world title bout. It was announced earlier in the week that the winner of Rosado-Sulecki is in line for a June meeting with WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade.
“There’s a lot on the line,” Rosado said. “I’m not trying to put that added pressure on myself, but Eddie Hearn made it official that the winner gets a world title shot against Andrade. I don’t want to think ahead. I just want to make sure that I take care of business on Friday.”
Eddie Hearn, promoter of Friday night’s mega-card in Philly has high hopes for the Rosado-Sulecki fight.
“I expect an absolute war between both men, Hearn said. “I think it could be fight of the night, and on this card, that’s saying something.”
Rosado is no stranger to wars. His eventful and high-profile boxing career has been full of them. Often bloody and brutal, Rosado has won some and lost some, but his fights have usually been must-watch for fight fans. It is this attribute of his fights that continues to keep Rosado relevant. However, his reputation as a brawler has never sat well with him.
“I think the reputation that I should be getting credit for is that Gabe can box and Gabe can brawl,” Rosado said. “Unfortunately I don’t have the kind of name, like Andre Ward, where they’ll give me the benefit of the doubt. The media and the commentators have a lot of power when they start talking a certain way about a fighter. If they start praising a guy like Rigondeaux, who comes to box, it’s like a jab is a big deal. Or a simple pivot is a big deal. Then when Gabriel Rosado does it, they say, ‘when is Gabe Rosado going to war?’.”
With Rosado’s career, it is this concern that he has, that has always concerned me most. Rosado is at his most effective when he is aggressive and, if not a brawling, then working hard to impose his will, no matter what the cost, to bring a fight to a close. Okay, maybe that’s brawling. His biggest strengths in the ring are aggression, pressure, heart, and bravery. When it comes to these characteristics, few fighters can match Rosado.
However, his desire to possess skills usually associated with the finest boxers of his lifetime – Roy Jones, Andre Ward, Sugar Ray Leonard – have perhaps led him astray through the years. Somewhere during a fight – or even during the preparation for it – Rosado decides that he will win by showing everyone that he is more like one of his boxing idols than anyone ever expected. So at times, Rosado shifts his focus to pure boxing, and although he shows ability, he is never as successful when he does this.
Perhaps being “pure Rosado” has gotten tougher as a middleweight. At 154, he was bigger and stronger than everyone else he fought. This is not always the case with full-fledged middleweights. Still, Rosado has held his own against all of those he’s faced, and in most cases, been in fights that were winnable – until he stopped being himself.
However, to be his very best, Rosado must fight. Of course, he needs to use his boxing skills, but his essence, the more aggressive version, must lead the way. He may not want to go to war, or be the type of fighter that goes to war, but this is the very best version of Gabriel Rosado. It is the version that still may lead him to a world title belt. That is if he can do it in his next two fights.
A few days before the Sulecki fight, Rosado suggested that the Rosado that I long to see may show up on Friday night.
“I think the fans are going to see the old Rosado,” he said. “You’re going to see skills and you’re going see boxing ability, but you’re going to see that animal in me, where when I smell blood, I’m going for the kill. I’m not playing it safe.”
How great would it be to see that Rosado on Friday night? It would be just like 2012 all over again, when a world title belt for Rosado seemed like a certainty.
To read more about the Philly fight scene – past and present – visit www.phillyboxinghistory.com.