The middleweight class is certainly one of the more lively in boxing at present.
WBC king Sergio Martinez from Argentina is a cert for the Hall of Fame whilst WBA counterpart Gennady Golovkin from Kazakhstan seems to be destined for a berth alongside him. IBF champion Darren Barker from Barnet invokes a bit of British interest.
But WBO czar Peter Quillin is also starting to make head way along the railings and he'll certainly be looking to sizzle before the world's fight media when he makes a second defence of his title against Philadelphia's Gabriel Rosado at the Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City tomorrow evening.
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The Cuban descendant, known as 'Kid Chocolate', spent his formative professional years learning his craft in the New York borough of Brooklyn. Undefeated in 29, with 21 stoppage wins, he appears to possess the full package; speed, athleticism, durability, a high punch output and chilling power.
A former streetfighter with nominal amateur experience, the 6ft 1in starlet joined the profession in June 2005 and cruised past the likes of Antwun Echols, Fernando Zuniga, (both comprehensively outpointed over 10), Jesse Brinkley (butchered in three) Edinburgh’s useful Craig McEwan (halted in six) and a faded Winky Wright (pts10), dropping the former two weight world champion in round five.
Sterner tutorials will have taken place behind closed doors at coach Freddie Roach’s Wildcard gym in California where his sparmates include Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr and Gennady Golovkin. Brits Carl Froch and Matt Macklin both provide glowing testimonials after utilising Quillin’s services.
In his coming out parade at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn last October, Quillin, now 30, captured the vacant WBO crown by bouncing French-African Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam off the canvas half a dozen times prior to bagging a landslide decision. He successfully retained the belt in April by trouncing 25-1 Fernando Guerrero inside seven rounds at the same venue.
Tomorrow's challenger, a Puerto Rican descendant, enters with moderate 21-6-1ND (13) stats that were largely accumulated down in the light-middleweight division. Don't be deceived by them.
Rosado joined the pro ranks in January 2006, aged 20, after just 11 amateur bouts. Five of those setbacks came in his first 19 bouts while he was a part-time pro yet only mallet-fisted Mexican Alfredo Angulo (rsc2) managed to put him away early.
Since working alongside the great Bernard Hopkins, the 6ft Phillie fighter has developed into an altogether tighter and smarter article. Seven straight victories, five ahead of schedule, earned him mandatory challenger status to then IBF light-middle boss Cornelius Bundrage.
But Rosado boldly snubbed that opportunity to confront the formidable Golovkin, for the WBA middleweight strap last January.
It is a testament of his toughness and courage that he remained upright for seven rounds before his corner belatedly raised the white flag on his behalf. In his solitary start since he took heralded prospect J'Leon Love to the wire, dropping him en route to a split decision loss that was later amended to a No Decision when Love, 15-0, tested positive for a banned diuretic.
To analyse the action, boxing writer Glynn Evans called up reigning British super-middleweight king Paul Smith - who defends his title against Luke Blackledge on a huge Liverpool Echo Arena on Saturday 7th December - an acquaintance and former spar hand of Quillin's to get his opinion.
“People talk about the current strength of the world middleweight champions but I see ‘Chocolate’ right up there with the likes of Sergio Martinez, Gennady Golovkin and Darren Barker. I really rate him.
I spent two periods over at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card gym in Hollywood when Peter was over there and he’s a nice kid. We sparred together a lot and I was really impressed. I believe he’s scored something like 31 knockdowns in his 29 fights but when you watch him on fight night he doesn’t always appear overly devastating. In the gym, he’s different; a beast!
He’s very powerful and explosive, really handed. Even with the big gloves and head guards on you had to be conscious of his power. He could still hurt ya. He didn’t drop me but I saw him drop loads of other good kids in the gym. His sparring would seem quite sedate. You’d look away for a sec then hear this ‘Crack!’ and turn to see some poor kid ‘Chocolate’ was sparring writhing on the floor. That made a statement with me.
From TV, I’d mistakenly thought Quillin looked pretty average but working up close with him, I got to see what he’s really about. For a start, he’s ridiculously strong, right up there with some of the strongest light-heavies I’ve sparred and, remember, he’s only a middleweight.
Also, he’s very capable technically. People might classify him as just a banger but that’s definitely not the case. He’s got all the tools and ability needed to dominate a fight at long range. He then closes the distance very quickly and times opponents as they come on to him.
He’s also got an excellent defence, Mayweather like. He does that Philly shit, rolling under and over, side on, but it makes him very difficult to hit.
I think Rosado is the perfect type of opponent for ‘Chocolate’ at this stage of his career. You need to gradually build into being a champion rather than just diving straight into unification matches.
I understand that he offered to come to the UK to fight Martin Murray put they couldn’t put it together. I don’t think Rosado was his first choice of opponent but it’s still a fight ‘Chocolate’ can look very good in. I understand there’s been a lot of needle between the pair on Twitter.
Rosado’s paid his dues and definitely knows his way around the ring. Against Golovkin and Love, Rosado definitely seemed the type who’d come and have a fight; very game and tough without an enormous amount of natural ability.
If Rosado is to give himself any type of chance, he’ll need to stay very tight and make Quillin work constantly, by applying educated pressure. He needs to get the fight into the later rounds and, if he’s still there and not too badly bashed up, try to put it on Quillin. Easier said than done.
Quillin has very few weaknesses. It’s possible maybe that his work rate and fitness could be an issue in a long fight. His dedication in the gym is remarkable and he lives a fighter’s life but, even in sparring, he’s trying to decapitate people with every shot. (Ex WBC light-heavyweight champion) Jean Pascal is the same. That wastes a lot of energy and could cost in a long, hard championship fight.
When he won his title by beating Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam – a lad I’d been sparring in the build up – the French kid seemed there for the taking. ‘Chocolate’ had him over five or six times but continually stepped off the gas and failed to finish him off. Perhaps he doubts his own fitness and energy levels. I don’t know.
He still has to prove it on the night but I think Quillin is a couple of leagues above Rosado. This is more an opportunity for ‘Chocolate’ to showcase his wares and expand his profile and fan club.
Excel in this and a couple of similar defences, to improve your bartering position, and your chances of success, in a unification fight. That said, I’d already fancy him over the rival champions bar Golovkin.
If I was to have a bet, I’d be looking at ‘Chocolate’ winning by stoppage between four and six rounds. I don’t expect to see an even fight but Quillin’s still a fighter I always enjoy watching. His power alone makes all his fights gripping. He can change things with one punch. One moment he’s cruising, next thing the opponent’s on his back!”