- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Junior middleweight contender Gabriel Rosado, one of the hottest contenders around, will get a mandatory title shot but he is hoping for an even bigger fight.
Rosado hammered Charles Whittaker into a 10th-round knockout on Sept. 21 in the main event of a “Fight Night” card on NBC Sports Net in a title eliminator to become the mandatory challenger for Cornelius “K9” Bundrage.
But like every other fighter at 154 pounds, he’d love a shot at division money man and titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
"I think it's funny because Canelo is the champion and they are taking care of him, protecting him,” Rosado said of Golden Boy, Alvarez’s promoter. “You shouldn't protect the champion. I think once you are the champion you should just fight the best competition out there. It's kind of like a joke, being the junior middleweight champ and then you're fighting lightweights (as Alvarez did against Josesito Lopez on Sept. 15). I think Canelo is a fighter. I think personally if it were up to Canelo he would take the fight. At the end of the day it is a business. He is the hot ticket at 154 so they want to keep that ball rolling, so obviously facing a guy like me is a big threat to them."
It has been quite a recent run for the 26-year-old Rosado (21-5, 13 KOs), who had only 11 amateur fights before turning pro in 2006. A lot of his pro career has been on-the-job learning, which is why his record is dotted with a few losses.
But he has earned his title shot by beating credible opponents and doing it in impressive fashion. He has come into his own during a seven-fight winning streak that began in December 2010. During the streak, Philadelphia’s Rosado has had three consecutive strong performances on “Fight Night.”
He knocked out the usually durable Jesus Soto Karass in the fifth round in January, followed up with a ninth-round knockout of longtime contender Sechew Powell in June and then rolled past Whittaker last month.
The mandatory with Bundrage is due by March, although Bundrage has been linked to other potential fights that would take place before the mandatory defense. So Rosado likely will fight again before March just to remain sharp.
But the fact that Rosado can even be discussed as a serious title challenger or in the same sentence as a possible future opponent for Alvarez, or even Miguel Cotto, is a sign of just how far he has come.
“I think to expect that Canelo or Cotto or one of those guys was going to say three, four , five months ago, even after the Sechew Powell fight, 'Yeah we'll fight Gabby,’ I think that was a little unrealistic,” promoter Russell Peltz said. “I think now, even though a lot of people pooh-poohed Whittaker before the fight, they saw him cracking Gabby with some good left hooks after knockdowns, and the fact that Whittaker was actually a world class fighter despite the fact that he hadn't been seen much on American TV, I think now Gabby is definitely in the mix with everybody, whereas six months ago it was just wishful thinking -- not ability-wise, but I think marketing-wise."
Peltz said there were talks for a possible Alvarez-Rosado bout before the Alvarez camp picked Lopez, a career lightweight and junior welterweight who had pulled off a big upset of Victor Ortiz in June at welterweight before being offered the fight with Alvarez at an even heavier weight. (Alvarez wiped him out, scoring three knockdowns en route a fifth-round knockout.)
“I spoke to Stephen Espinoza at Showtime, but I guess they wanted to keep it in-house. We think Canelo should come out and play with guys his own size,” Peltz said.
Rosado, of course, will be happy to challenge Bundrage for his belt – or whomever might hold it by March – but Alvarez is the guy he keeps coming back to.
“I think people are just starting to know who I am. I think it's a fight that would sell because you have two young fighters. I'm Puerto Rican, he's Mexican and at the end of the day we all know that the biggest rivalry in boxing is Puerto Rico and Mexico,” said Rosado, who is trained by Billy Briscoe. “I think that can sell. And then he can fight and I can fight. We both have knockout power, so I think the fight is a fight that can sell."