- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Jermell Charlo is one of boxing's top prospects, a 23-year-old junior middleweight from Houston who is on the verge of big things.
Gabriel Rosado, a 28-year-old from Philadelphia, is trying to stay relevant after a difficult 2013 in which he went 0-2 (in middleweight world title bouts) and had a no-contest, which was originally a Rosado decision loss before opponent J'Leon Love flunked a postfight drug test and the result was changed.
So it will be Charlo's desire to reach the next level up against Rosado's hunger to get back into the mix when they meet at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C., on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) in the co-feature to junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson's defense against mandatory challenger Dierry Jean.
A big factor in Rosado's favor is that he is returning to 154 pounds after his lost year at 160, where, besides the no-contest with Love, he was stopped on cuts by Gennady Golovkin (in the seventh round) last January and by "Kid Chocolate" Peter Quillin (10th round) in October.
In 2012, Rosado emerged as a solid junior middleweight contender with impressive victories against Jesus Soto Karass, Sechew Powell and Charles Whittaker to earn a mandatory title shot. However, Rosado gave up his position and instead opted for more money and a bigger spotlight by challenging Golovkin. Now, he is returning to the division where he says he is most comfortable.
"I'm just excited for this opportunity at 154 to make a statement," Rosado said. "I kind of have unfinished business in this weight class, giving up my No. 1 ranking when I went up to fight GGG. So I'm just excited to go back down at 154. I think I'm going to be bigger and stronger, and I'm just ready for it."
Rosado (21-7, 13 KOs), however, said he has no regrets taking the shot at middleweight.
"It's funny how things play out. I think everything happens for a reason," Rosado said. "I really don't regret going up and giving up my No. 1 spot in the IBF. I think when I went to middleweight to fight GGG, I wasn't naturally a middleweight. I think I was still a small guy, and then I kind of grew into the middleweight division once I fought Kid Chocolate and I felt real comfortable at middleweight. But I could still make junior middleweight. I'm a big guy, but I could still make junior middleweight.
"So I don't regret it, man. I think everything happens for a reason. Even though I didn't get a win on my record for 2013, I won the fans over and the fans got my back and I'm getting a lot of support and they're backing me up. So in a way, it was a great year. I just plan to be a world champion in 2014."
A victory over Charlo (22-0, 11 KOs) could pave the way for Rosado to get a shot the same way a victory over Rosado could pave the way for Charlo to get one. Already, Jermell's twin brother and fellow prospect Jermall Charlo is scheduled to challenge junior middleweight titlist Carlos Molina on March 8 on the Showtime PPV undercard of Canelo Alvarez's fight with Alfredo Angulo.
"I would certainly think that the winner of this fight has a strong case and a strong possibility to fight for one of the world titles," said Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer, whose company promotes Charlo and Rosado. "The fact is that we are promoting most of the world champions at 154 within Golden Boy. So I think the winner of this fight definitely has a shot at one of the world titles. That's the idea. So there is much, much at stake. Both fighters know that, and I think that is one of the reasons why Gabriel Rosado decided to move down to 154 as well.
That is music to Charlo's ears.
"It's a great thing," Charlo said. "As of right now, my focus is on [Saturday], this win, and go from there. I've waited for a big fight like this against a top-level opponent, and now I've got it. Rosado is a rugged, tough fighter, and with a win over him I'll be making a statement to the boxing world that I'm ready for even bigger and better things.
"This is a great opportunity for me and Gabe. It's a good fight. It was well matched, and I appreciate Golden Boy for putting this fight on. This is my time. It's my season, and in order for me to do what I have to do and make noise or be the fighter that I need to be in boxing, I need to stand up and step out, and this is what this fight's going to do for me."