A back injury to former light heavyweight titlist Gabriel Campillo has pushed junior middleweight contender Gabriel Rosado into the spotlight.
Campillo was supposed to face Russian prospect Sergey Kovalev in the main event of a "Fight Night" card on Friday night (NBC Sports Net, 9 ET) at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Bethlehem, Pa. But when Campillo pulled out a couple of weeks ago because of a back injury, Main Events turned the Rosado-Charles Whittaker title eliminator -- which was a late addition to the show in the first place after Main Events won a purse bid to promote the bout -- into the main event.
Now, Philadelphia's Rosado (20-5, 12 KOs), who looked good in his previous two fights by knocking out Sechew Powell and Jesus Soto Karass on "Fight Night" cards, is a solid favorite to take care of the Cayman Islands’ Whittaker (38-12-2, 21 KOs). The winner of the bout will become the mandatory challenger for the 154-pound belt held by Cornelius "K9" Bundrage.
"It's a great opportunity again to be in the main event on NBC Sports Network," said the 26-year-old Rosado, who is riding a six-fight winning streak. "I'm excited to showcase my skills nationally again. I've trained extremely hard. We finished up our last couple of weeks in camp in Phoenix. Camp was great there and I feel strong. I am not taking Charles Whittaker lightly.
"I expect him to bring his 'A' game and I'm ready for that. I want him to come with his 'A' game because it will bring out the best in me. [Co-promoter] Russell [Peltz] said I am ranked No. 3 [by the IBF], but after Friday I will be ranked No. 1. 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."
It's a bold prediction from Rosado because Whitaker, 38, is on a 14-fight winning streak since 2004, although he has faced modest opposition. He has not been stopped since a fifth-round TKO loss to Vincent Harris in 2000, a defeat that came in the midst of a five-fight losing streak.
Whitaker said he has watched plenty of Rosado and knows he's not in for an easy fight.
"Gabriel is young. I've seen a few of his fights," Whitaker said. "He comes hard and he comes in shape. He says he is going to be No. 1 and I know I'm going to be No. 1 after Friday. The fans are going to be the recipient of a great fight."
The tripleheader will also include Kovalev (18-0-1, 15 KOs) against a new opponent in New York’s Lionell Thompson (12-1, 8 KOs) and welterweight Ronald Cruz (17-0, 12 KOs), who is responsible for the bulk of the ticket sales since the fight is in his hometown, meets Antwone Smith (21-4-1, 12 KOs) of Miami.