Junior middleweight Gabriel Rosado (20-5, 12 KOs) faces Charles Whittaker (38-12-2, 23 KOs) on Sept. 21st in an IBF title eliminator (NBC Sports Network). Rosado, a pressure fighter from Philadelphia, has raised his profile in 2012 with stoppage wins over Jesus Soto Karass and Sechew Powell. He recently spoke with Saturday Night Boxing in a wide-ranging interview. He discusses, among many topics, his upcoming fight with Whittaker, what he learned from Bernard Hopkins and his keys to inside fighting.
Interview by Adam Abramowitz
(This Interview has been condensed.)
SNB: Thank you very much for your time. You’ve had an excellent year so far with two big wins against Jesus Soto Karass and Sechew Powell. What were the keys to those fights in your opinion?
GR: The key with the Soto Karass fight was putting pressure on him and flipping the script on him. He’s a pressure fighter and most guys that are pressure fighters really don’t want to fight backing up. He was coming up in weight class and I definitely took advantage of my size advantage on him. I just backed him up and applied pressure and got the stoppage.
With Sechew Powell, he’s a counterpuncher, a sharpshooter. With him, I just basically had to stay patient and not be as aggressive as I was with Soto Karass. I just had to be patient. I think that the experience I’ve had pretty much allowed me to get him at the right time, in the middle rounds. I was able to adjust in the middle of the fight.
SNB: After a couple of early losses in your career, you’ve been on a six-fight winning streak. What have you and Billy Briscoe [Rosado’s trainer] specifically worked on in the gym during this recent run?
GR: I think it’s just experience has kicked in. I think I have a whole new mindset, a whole new different focus. I was always determined to win, but I think at this point, I know what it takes to win. The experience is kicking in. Me and Billy Briscoe are always working on our craft and we’re always working on getting better.
I’m a complete different fighter. Back then, it wasn’t like I could train full time. I always had a job. It’s kind of hard to have a full time job... now I’m fortunate to train 24-7 and just focus on boxing. I get my rest and the things I need to be able to be 100% when I step in the ring. I definitely think that has made a difference in my career.
SNB: What was your full-time job before?
GR: I did everything, man. I did construction. I worked at a school as a handyman. I’ve done a bunch of things. I’ve always held a job throughout my career. My last job was a graveyard shift at Home Depot.
I trained and then I’d go to work, you know like a 10-hour sparring session. You get out of work at like six in the morning and you’re exhausted. You get about four hours sleep in and you do the same thing the next day.
So it’s tough, but a lot of fighters have to go through that. I think the fact that I went through that in my career helps make me appreciate more that I have all the time in the world to now train. So I take full advantage of that because I know how hard it was when I had to do that – how hard it was to get ready for a fight. I take full advantage of being able to be free to train at whatever hours I can.
SNB: I saw a great quote from you in an earlier interview where you said, “In boxing right now, guys don’t even understand the inside game. And I think that’s the advantage we have.” My question is: What’s the toughest part about fighting inside? What does a fighter need to learn to master it?
GR: I think the inside game takes a long time. It’s a skill that my trainer’s been trying to teach me forever – since we started. It’s never kicked in until I fought Ayi Bruce. It was around the time I was beginning my winning streak. [The Bruce fight was Rosado’s third win in his current six-fight winning streak.]
The inside game is old school. It’s an old-school craft. James Toney was probably one of the best at it and now-a-days, guys don’t really know about the inside game. Joe Louis had that style. James Toney had that style. Bernard Hopkins could tie you up on the inside. It’s a skill. You’re in the inside with a guy and they may want to punch but you’re catching a shot because your hands are in the right position and you’re moving your head. And as you’re catching shots and moving away from shots, you’re countering him. You’re touching him to the body and you’re breaking him down little by little. We definitely have that. That’s my game and definitely a big advantage.
SNB: You fight Charles Whittaker on September 21st in a title eliminator. What do you know about Whittaker?
GR: He’s a game guy. He’s been on a winning streak as well. He hasn’t lost in about eight years. He has a winning mentality even though his record has losses. That fact that he’s won in the last eight years shows me he has a winning mentality. I’m pretty sure he’s going to come game and ready. I’m not sleeping on him. He is older than me, but that doesn’t mean anything. [Whittaker is 38; Rosado is 26.] He’s going to come to fight. That’s what I know about him. I know he’s taller and has a good right hand. Other than that, I’m ready for whatever he’s going to bring to the table.
SNB: I watched some tape on Whittaker. I noticed that he has a good right uppercut. As an inside fighter, how do you get around an opponent who has a good uppercut?
GR: The thing is you have to fight at an angle when you’re on the inside. The thing is most guys who fight on the inside now fight squared up. When you fight squared up, you’re open to a lot of shots. You get hit in the ribs. You can get hit through the middle with uppercuts.
You have to be at an angle and you have to be facing him with your lead shoulder. You have to keep your right hand right underneath your chin so that when he does shoot uppercuts, you catch that shot. And if he throws the straight right hand, you can roll it off your shoulder. And if he comes back with a hook, that right hand, bring that back up to the chin. You have to keep that hand there to get away from his uppercut. When you’re at an angle, it’s harder for a guy to land an uppercut. When you’re squared up, that’s the easiest time to hit a guy with the uppercut. That’s the key to make sure you stand at an angle on the inside.
SNB: As a Philly fighter, you’ve been on the scene for a number of years, but I noticed that you’re in Phoenix for the last few weeks of training camp. What brought you out to Phoenix?
GR: Training camp went well in Philly. I got good sparring and things like that. My strength trainer, Jason Sargus, from Brazen Boxing, got me in great shape as far as my strength, stamina, things like that. The last few weeks I wanted to get away to Phoenix to focus on the fight, not that I wasn’t focused in Philly, but when you’re in your hometown, your friends are around. Your family’s around. Sometimes you don’t get the critical rest you should get. So I tried to go away, me and my trainer. Out here, we train and we rest. We don’t have to worry about anyone bothering us or distractions, or anything of that nature.
Phoenix, Arizona – the heat. It’s about 110 degrees out here so it helps me lose weight. I’ve already lost five pounds out here. It definitely works out as far as making weight and being able to just concentrate on the fight.
SNB: I saw that prior to the Powell fight you went out to the Wild Card Gym in L.A. What did you take away from your time there?
GR: The Wild Card Gym was great. There’s a lot of good fighters out there, a lot of good sparring. Unfortunately when I was out there, they had switched up opponents on me. I was supposed to fight Joel Julio and I ended up fighting Sechew Powell, who’s a southpaw. So we didn’t really get the southpaw work that we needed. We had to make the adjustment in the middle of the fight with Sechew Powell because we didn’t get the southpaw work.
As far as the atmosphere in the gym, it’s definitely a great atmosphere. Freddie Roach, great guy, definitely welcomed us in. So it was a good experience.
SNB: You had a couple of early losses in your career to guys like Chris Gray and Joshua Onyango. What do you remember about those fights and how do you look at that period of time now?
GR: The fight with Chris Gray was my first loss and I remember winning the fight. A lot of people thought that I won the fight but it went his way. It was just early in my career. I started boxing at the age of 18. So it wasn’t like I was in the game for a long time. I started boxing at 18 and I turned pro at 19. That was an early stage. That was probably my sixth pro fight. I was still learning on the job.
I actually fought Josh Onyango in a rematch on three-day notice and I knocked him out in the third round. It just comes with experience. You know, the losses, they make you or break you. It just taught me to be stronger and work on my craft. I never had my head down. When I took a loss, I always went back to the gym and just worked on my craft.
SNB: I know that many of the Philly fighters are very close with each other and pull for one another. What’s the best piece of advice or the best tip you’ve been given from a Philly fighter and who gave it to you?
GR: The best tip was from Bernard Hopkins. I did five training camps with Bernard. I think a lot of things that I do were things I learned from Bernard. Bernard is a mental guy and boxing is all mental. At the end of the day, you can have all the skills in the world, all of the talent in the world, but mentally, if you don’t believe in yourself – you don’t have that strong mental strength – you’re not going to go far. Mentally, I’m a strong fighter. Bernard Hopkins, I learned that from him. Mentally, you have to be strong.
There’s a lot of things that I’ve seen Bernard work on in the gym that I observed and I took and added to my game. So Bernard always taught me some things, always spoke to me and was always open about showing me new things.
SNB: For the last few fights, you hooked up with Hall of Fame promoter Russell Peltz. He’s also known for his great matchmaking. How has your career changed since you’ve been affiliated with him?
GR: We’re definitely on the same page – Russell and Doc Nowicki [Rosado’s manager] are my advisors. Russell’s an old-school guy and I’m kind of an old-school fighter. I’m young but I have that old-school mentality. It meshes well. He’s put me in critical fights…you know Soto Karass on NBC. That fight right there gave us a lot of buzz. And again, with Sechew Powell, that worked out and got a buzz for me. And now, being in the main event, against Charles Whittaker, for the IBF mandatory is definitely going to put a stamp on me with the fans, and the boxing world is definitely going to want to see me fight K9 [Cornelius Bundrage] for the title. Me and Russell, it’s just working out well right now.
SNB: Here’s another quote from you that I really like. “I never saw myself as an ‘opponent.’” What’s the toughest part about being an underdog in your opinion?
GR: I actually embrace that. I like it. I don’t want to be the guy that got it the easy way. People question them. I don’t want to be that guy. I like to be the blue-collar worker. I’m the type of guy that comes through adversity. I like to be the guy when times get tough, I definitely try to get a positive out of it…I never had the “opponent” mentality. Whenever I took a loss, obviously, I was disappointed, but I always made sure I came back strong. I like the fact that I come back and I have that mentality.
SNB: If you can beat Whittaker you’re in line for a title shot. Thinking about this now from where you started at the beginning of the year, what’s 2012 been like for you?
GR: It’s been very exciting. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had in my career. Just having a good time, man. With this fight, with Whittaker, I’m just going to keep it flowing. I’m not taking him lightly at all. The whole goal is to become world champion and Whittaker’s in the way right now.
I know that with the type of performance that I’m going to put on, it’s going to be a performance where people are really, really going to believe in me. People might question that I can’t beat guys like Canelo [Saul Alvarez] or whoever the case may be, but when they see me on the 21st, they’re really going to believe in me.
I already have a lot of people that believe in me now but the type of statement I’m going to make on the 21st is going to be that I am improving all the time. I think every time I step in the ring, I’m always adding something to my game and I’m always getting better. I’m never satisfied with a fight. I always want to add to my game. I always want to do something better. I think that’s the statement I want to make. I think once the fight’s over, the fans are really going to appreciate it and the boxing world is really going to appreciate it. I’m expecting big things for me.
SNB: Present company excluded, whom do you see as the best fighter at 154 pounds right now?
GR: Honestly, I truly feel in my heart that I can beat anyone at 154. I’d say myself. Whoever it may be, I feel I can beat anyone at 54 right now. I feel that I’m a different fighter, a much more complete fighter. The thing is a lot of fighters and a lot of people really underestimate my boxing I.Q. This is chess. This is about who is able to make the best adjustments. I have that in my game.
I never get discouraged… The fact that I’ve been through the hard times and I’ve been through the tough losses…I already know what that is. I’ve experienced that. So when I step in the ring now, I feel like there’s nothing that I haven’t been through. I’m in that ring with confidence and believing in my abilities. I can beat anybody at 54.
SNB: Again, thank you very much for your time. One final question: What’s something that not a lot of people know about you?
GR: My faith in god. I’m a god-fearing man. I’m not perfect but I definitely pray…I always ask god to help me stay humble. I know that with being in the spotlight and getting known and more money comes, people can just kind of stray away and get caught up in the hype. I just want to stay humble. I just want to represent people that work hard – the guy who gets up and does that 9 to 5. That’s who I represent. I’ve been there. I’ve worked hard. I’ve been in that position. I want people to know that I’m a humble guy just like everybody else. I want to do big things in the sport, stay humble and please the fans.
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