“Fighting Words” — Rose Got Plucked on Valentine’s Day

by David P. Greisman

The camera followed Brian Rose. So, too, did his trainer and a member of the security team at Winter Gardens, a venue in his northwestern England hometown of Blackpool. They could only follow, for Rose had kicked open a door and stormed forward.

He had left the ring before the result was announced, a first-round technical knockout at the hands of American journeyman Carson Jones. Or rather, as Rose felt, the stoppage came from the prematurely waving arms of referee Ian John-Lewis. Rose pushed a table over and kept walking, holding his still-gloved hands out for a few seconds, visibly upset. Rose kicked a plastic cone and soon arrived in his locker room, where he knocked another table down.

He couldn’t overturn what he’d angrily left behind, so instead he overturned whatever he saw in front of him.

In the moment, it was a devastating and frustrating defeat. The controversy will actually work out in his favor, however. It will buy him another shot at redemption. He still may not have much more after that. Rose’s shortcomings have been exposed over the past 16 months.

One loss can remove a boxer from contention just as one win can return him to prominence. Except these losses and wins do not carry equal weight. Nearly any loss will be a significant setback. Yet it takes a win on a certain level to make a man matter again. The more a fighter loses, the less often those opportunities present themselves.

Rose was a 13-0-1 prospect when he suffered a surprising technical knockout defeat against Max Maxwell, a designated opponent with a reputation for going rounds with his foes. At the time in 2009, Maxwell was 11-9-2. He’s now 19-47-3, with one stretch between September 2012 and April 2014 in which he fought 34 times in those 19 months, losing 33 in a row before pulling out a victory of his own. Maxwell has only knocked out three, and he has only been knocked out twice himself.

Yet the Rose who fought Maxwell was a shell-shocked fighter still reeling from his previous win, when he’d sent Jason Rushton to the hospital and ended his career. Rose didn’t fight again for seven months. He likely should’ve taken even more time off. Nevertheless Rose rebuilt, winning 10 in a row, including a decision over Maxwell in a rematch and a final-round stoppage of former 154-pound titleholder Joachim Alcine. By the end of 2013, Rose was in position to challenge for a world title. He just needed to defeat Javier Maciel first.

The official result shows a split decision for Rose over Maciel. Many of those watching felt Maciel was robbed, with Rose gifted the win and a shot at the World Boxing Organization’s belt. Those people were wholly unsurprised, then, that Demetrius Andrade outclassed and beat down Rose for six and a half rounds last June, with Andrade ending the charade.

It was the kind of loss that can make a fighter introspective, looking at his limitations and considering what changes he can make, if any, that would make a difference.

A prospect coming back from a loss is like a toddler stepping into a swimming pool. He doesn’t dive in headfirst but rather dips his toes in on the shallow end, then moves deeper at a deliberate pace.

First came a win last October over Ignacio Fraga, who was all of 11-7-3, and who lasted all of two minutes and 58 seconds.

Next came Jones, a calculated gamble, a fighter with some credibility and some name value, but an opponent who wouldn’t have been picked had he not been expected to lose.

Jones is incredibly experienced for a man who is just 28 years old but has now fought 52 times. He is one of those journeymen who develops in the paid ranks, losing early and often, falling short against some familiar names among the lower tiers such as Alfonso Gomez, Freddy Hernandez and Roberto Garcia, yet improving over time.

Perhaps Kell Brook overlooked Jones when he hosted him in Sheffield in July 2012. The future titleholder struggled at times, leaving with a hard-fought majority decision. They’d fight again a year later, Brook scoring a technical knockout. Jones didn’t fight again for another 14 months, returning last September way up at light heavyweight in a hometown feature in Oklahoma City.

It’s likely that Rose’s team also saw Jones as being on the decline, coming off inactivity and fighting them at 154 pounds, one division above where Jones had first faced Brook.

That matchmaking seemed wise 44 seconds in, when Rose landed a good short right hand that had Jones retreating. Rose followed aggressively, loading up on punches and either blocking or evading those Jones sent in return. He soon recognized that Jones was stable and returned to patiently working behind his jab and occasionally following with right hands.

Flaws can only remain hidden for so long. We’d seen Rose’s flaws against Maciel’s ruggedness, then seen them again against Andrade’s speed and skill, and now we’d see them once more.

With less than a minute to go in the opening round, Rose threw a jab from too close. Jones leaned in and threw a left uppercut that missed and then followed with a right hand that laced behind Rose’s still outstretched left arm, catching Rose on the left ear and upsetting his equilibrium. Rose stumbled and Jones sought to seize the opportunity, sending out an onslaught while Rose failed to clinch and stem it.

Rose moved back and his legs splayed. Ian John-Lewis, the referee, began to jump in between the fighters but didn’t separate them. Jones continued to throw and land. John-Lewis jumped in again, ending the bout somewhat abruptly.

Rose was shaken and taking shots but had not yet been rendered in the kind of condition typically seen when stopping a bout with the losing fighter still on his feet. The end may very well have been near, or Rose may have recovered. We don’t know. And while we often say we want referees to err on the side of caution, we’d rather officials not err at all, instead making the right calls at the right times. This was too soon. There would’ve been no one calling for John-Lewis’s head had he let the fight play out a little longer.

John-Lewis has been the brunt of criticism in the past, both for his performances as a referee as well as scoring ringside as a judge. He’s among the multiple notable names to continue officiating in the United Kingdom despite compiling a ledger of dubious evenings. That lack of accountability is not at all isolated to the U.K.

There were some who had no complaint about the stoppage Saturday, a fact that may be due to the perception of Rose as a lower-level fighter whose limits had already been shown and who didn’t belong much longer in the spotlight.

They’re probably right about Rose. While his end may not come next or in a rematch with Jones, it should be coming soon.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve the same kind of chance others receive to steady himself and battle back. This controversy will earn Rose one more shot, but the fighter in him would’ve rather gone out on his shield.

The 10 Count will return soon.

“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on Pick up a copy of David’s book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at or internationally at . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]

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