Gennady Golovkin's defense all set
Updated: December 4, 2012, 11:19 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com
NEW YORK -- Philadelphia junior middleweight contender Gabriel Rosado locked up a mandatory shot against titleholder Cornelius "K9" Bundrage by winning his last fight. Instead of waiting for that bout, Rosada did something unusual.
He decided to move up to middleweight and accept a title shot against fearsome-punching titleholder Gennady Golovkin, whom he will challenge for his belt on Jan. 19 at the Madison Square Garden Theater in the second fight of a world title tripleheader on HBO's "Boxing After Dark."
Although Rosado will gain wider exposure by fighting Golovkin on HBO and earn more money for the fight than he would have made to face Bundrage in a bout that might not have taken place until the summer, Golovkin is likely a far more difficult opponent. But Rosado said that is what motivated him to accept the fight.
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"This is what I have worked hard for, to be a world champion. This is a great opportunity," Rosado said at a small lunch gathering where the fighters met with a few reporters in midtown Manhattan on Saturday. "I know I could have stayed at 154 and waited for my title shot, but I like taking chances. I dare to be great. I'm excited to shock the world, but I won't shock myself when I win this fight."
The fight will be contested at a catch weight of 158 pounds at the insistence of Russell Peltz, Rosado's Hall-of-Fame promoter.
"I never asked for a catch," Rosado said.
"I did," Peltz chimed in.
The 26-year-old Rosado (21-5, 13 KOs) put himself in the junior middleweight title picture with three impressive victories this year on the new "Fight Night" series on NBC Sports Net. In January, he stopped the usually durable Jesus Soto Karass in the fifth round and then followed with a ninth-round knockout of longtime contender Sechew Powell in June. On Sept. 21, Rosado stopped Charles Whittaker in the 10th round in the official elimination bout to become Bundrage's mandatory challenger.
But when K2 promoter Tom Loeffler and HBO had trouble finding a top middleweight to face Golovkin (24-0, 21 KOs), Rosado got the call over prospect Fernando Guerrero and was happy to accept the fight.
"I always told Russell that if a great opportunity came at 160, I would go up," said Rosado, who is taller than Golovkin. "I'm pretty much a middleweight who can make junior middleweight, so I took advantage of that fighting junior middleweights. But Golovkin is one of those fighters that nobody wants to fight. I had to make sure the business end was good, but I like taking chances. It's no secret that he packs a big punch."
Golovkin, 30, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, is from Kazakhstan, lives in Germany and trains in California with trainer Abel Sanchez. He wants to fight regularly now in the United States and made a huge splash in his American and HBO debut Sept. 1 with a fifth-round destruction of former European champion Grzegorz Proksa.
"I think that you have two of the most exciting fighters out there right now," said Loeffler, the managing director of K2 Promotions, the company owned by heavyweight champion brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko. "Gabriel has shown some tremendous heart, and Gabriel's not going to go backward, and Gennady's not going to go backward. That why I know it's going to be a great fight.
"Gabe didn't have to take this fight. He had a title shot at junior middleweight, so you know he is coming to win. They are not going to have to look for each other."
Golovkin, who has a rematch clause if he loses, according to the promoters, is expecting a tough fight.
"It's a difficult fight. Gabriel is young, he's strong and a little taller than me. He's a good man," said Golovkin, who will be making his sixth title defense. "He has a big heart and he is not scared, so it's a difficult fight.
"I think we are at about the same weight (right now). It's going to be the first fight for me at Madison Square Garden. This is my second fight on HBO. It is a very good opportunity for me."
The main event of the card, which is being put on by K2 and Top Rank and will kick off HBO's 2013 schedule, has been set for awhile -- featherweight titlist Orlando Salido (39-11-2, 27 KOs) of Mexico will make his third defense against Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia (30-0, 26 KOs) of Oxnard, Calif. The bout was supposed to take place on Nov. 10 in Las Vegas but was postponed because Salido broke a finger when it was accidentally slammed in a car door.
In the opening bout, junior lightweight titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez (26-1-1, 16 KOs) of Puerto Rico will make the first defense of the vacant belt he won on Sept. 15 by facing Mexico's Juan Carlos Burgos (30-1, 20 KOs).
"Salido-Garcia is the classic boxer versus puncher matchup with the winner possibly moving up to fight the winner of Burgos-Martinez later in the year," Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said. "It's youth versus experience and, by far, Mikey's toughest fight to date, and shouldn't it be that way when challenging for a world title?
"Martinez-Burgos is another Puerto Rico-Mexico matchup. Neither guy really understands that slipping/dipping/ducking aspect so how can this not provide drama -- and blood. If you think Notre Dame versus Alabama is a great matchup; wait until the fans witness (this card). It's what 'Boxing After Dark' is really all about -- three terrific matchups with career defining implications for all six fighters and no-clear cut favorites."