By Jake Donovan
If there’s a single word to describe the resurgent careers of Gabriel Rosado and Charles Whittaker, it would be ‘redemption.’
Years ago, many would have laughed at the thought of either fighter being used as anything other than the B-side of a showcase bout for a high profile prospect. Now, a title shot looms for the winner of their head-on collision Friday evening at Sands Resort Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
The bout headlines a special Friday night edition of ‘NBC Sports Network Fight Night’ series.
Since its inception, NBC Sports’ boxing series has remained true its theme of every featured fight telling its own story. Friday night’s show holds sticks to the very spirit of the series. While the casino setting forces pundits to cringe, an actual hometown attraction is on hand as unbeaten Ronald Cruz takes on Antwone Smith in a crossroads bout.
However, it’s the main event that has caught the industry by surprise, as two former gatekeepers are now in prime position for a shot at a major title. Their bout is a sanctioned eliminator, with the winner set to face Cornelius Bundrage sometime next year.
Rosado (20-5, 12KO) is the prime example of the benefits to be gained when a fighter is willing to take risk. Such was the goal sought out by promoter Kathy Duva when first negotiating with NBC to get back into the boxing business and Rosado continues to capitalize on such opportunities.
“It’s a great opportunity again to be in the main event on NBC Sports Network,” said Rosado during Wednesday’s press conference.
The Philly native has two wins on the series. The most recent was a 9th round knockout of former title challenger Sechew Powell in June in the very same venue as Friday’s show.
“I'm excited to showcase my skills nationally again. I've trained extremely hard. I am not taking Charles Whittaker lightly.”
Whittaker (38-12-2, 23KO) has learned not to take any fighter – or fight – lightly after watching his career hit several potholes early on. A native of the Cayman Islands now fighting out of Miami, the hard luck contender has managed an eight-year, 14-fight win streak while working his way up the rankings.
His last fight came in Nov. ’11, beating Giorbis Barthelemy by decision to become the #2 contender in one set of alphabet ratings. A win on Friday puts him in position to challenge for his first major title, something that seemed like a pipe dream years ago.
“It’s been a long road for me,” Whittaker stated during his turn at the mic. “I have been under the radar, but it's gonna be a great fight.”
Rosado has been in several great fights while emerging as a sleeper hit in the super welterweight division. The lanky brawler earned overnight fame with a split decision win over former champ Kassin Ouma back in April ’09, though a knockout loss to Alfredo Angulo one fight later left fans wondering if he was just a one-hit wonder.
He has since won eight of his last nine, including knockout wins over Powell and Jesus Soto Karass. The secret has been to expect every opponent’s best efforts and taking his own game one step further. The same mentality is carried into Friday’s title elimination bout.
“I expect him to bring his A-game and I'm ready for that,” Rosado insists. “I want him to come with his A-game because it will bring out the best in me. Russell (Peltz, Rosado’s co-promoter) said I am ranked number three but after Friday I will be ranked number one.
“I feel like mentally and physically I will break him down. I will set him up in the early rounds and I will take him out in the middle rounds. My plan is to get him out of there by the sixth round."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox