Gabriel Rosado: “Southpaws Lead with Their Liver”

By Norman Marcus on June 19, 2012
Gabriel Rosado: “Southpaws Lead with Their Liver”
“You couldn't be sweet growing up in North Philly.” (Photo courtesy of SightWorkz)

Rosado came up the hard way. He didn’t have a big promoter to move him through the rankings. No handpicked opponents here…

There is a new kid on the block who looks like he has some big fights ahead of him.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Gabriel Rosado was a good street fighter. I caught up with Rosado on a Monday afternoon. He had spent the morning in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, mentoring and working with kids at an elementary school.

“You couldn’t be sweet growing up in North Philly,” Rosado told me. “You had to be tough.” He used to watch the Tuesday Night Fights on TV with his dad and cousins all the time. The young Mike Tyson was one of his heroes. His family encouraged him to box.

On a whim, one day he walked into the Brazen Gym in “Old City” Philadelphia. He asked if he could learn how to box and maybe become a pro. When he was asked his age and he said he was eighteen years old, they said he was too old to start in the sport and that he should “Keep playing basketball.” On his way out of the gym, Rosado was stopped by trainer Billy Briscoe. Billy told him to come back on Monday and he would train him to become a fighter. He would take a chance on Gabriel.

Rosado turned pro the next year when he was nineteen years old. Now, seven years later at the age of twenty-six, he has just beaten Sechew “Iron Horse” Powell to win the WBO Intercontinental Junior Middleweight Title. The bout took place on June 1 at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and some familiar names were there to observe and provide color commentary. Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes came to town for the fight. Rosado had spent the last three weeks getting ready for his bout with Powell at Freddie’s training camp. Roach told him, “Every fight should finish in a KO.” Gabby, as his friends call Gabriel, said “fans want to see action. They want to see KOs. Pay-per-view is a rip-off and the undercards are usually awful. People pay a lot of money to go to these fights and they deserve to be entertained.”

Rosado won the prestigious “Benny Briscoe Award” for the 2010 Philly Fight of the Year. The award personifies the dedication, work ethic and power of “Bad” Benny Briscoe, a Philadelphia boxing legend. Although Benny never won the middleweight belt, he was a top contender who fought three times for the title. Briscoe had a reputation for power, courage, and love of his craft. He fought from 1962 through 1982 and was respected by everyone in the fight game.

To win such an award was a good indication of things to come. There was something very special about this award-winning fight against Derek Ennis. Even though Rosado lost the split decision to Ennis that night, he showed such heart and skill that he still won the “Briscoe Award”! In fact both fighters were honored for a great showing that night. It was nonstop action from start to finish.

For the Intercontinental belt Rosado took on Powell in a 12-round bout, winning the fight by TKO in round nine. Powell is a southpaw and can give a conventional fighter a lot of trouble.  But as Gabby told me “The punches come from different angles and you have to be able to make adjustments as the fight goes on. You get a lot of counterpunches from these fighters. You have to be patient.” In other words, you see what works and what doesn’t work against the “mirror image” standing in front of you. In getting ready for this fight, Gabby’s trainer Billy Briscoe could only find him sparring partners that were right-handed but were willing to fight southpaw, so these practice rounds didn’t really help much. The fake lefties tried their best but they were awkward. “These guys were just turning around in the ring. They were not legit southpaws.”

Gabby remembers that one thing that was pounded into his head in preparation for this fight was that “southpaws lead with their liver.” The liver is located on the right side of the abdomen, just below the ribs and the diaphragm which separates the chest from the abdomen. When you throw a left hook to the body of a lefty you can land to the liver. This causes a lot of pain and slows down a fighter. Once Rosado saw how effective the liver punch was in the fourth round, he kept throwing it whenever he could. After Powell began to fade from this assault, Rosado got him up against the ropes and would throw left uppercuts. “The punch looks like a left hook to the body to a southpaw but it is really coming up,” Gabby said. The combination of left hooks to the body and left uppercuts to the jaw were all Rosado needed. Referee Steve Smoger stopped the bout at 2:43 of the ninth round. Rosado’s record now stands at 20 wins (11 KOs) and five losses.

Rosado came up the hard way. He didn’t have a big promoter to move him through the rankings. No handpicked opponents here, just the slow and steady education of an eager student. He has now won six fights in a row, five by KO. People are finally beginning to notice him as an up-and-coming boxer. When asked who he would like to fight next he replied, “Cory Spinks or Canelo Alvarez, who has an open fight date this September. Canello doesn’t have an opponent yet but I don’t think it will happen. I mean he is a champ but he has a lot of growing to do. He did beat Shane Mosley but it was the old Shane Mosley. I think I am more experienced than he is. He doesn’t back down but neither do I. But we’ll have to see what happens and what his people say.”

The Brazen Gym is a small gym on the third floor of a building that must have seen General Meade return from the Civil War. But it’s cool and quiet in there, once you get up the three flights of steps. The equipment inside is all first-rate and works well for the boxers and MMA fighters.

They use circuit training here for their fighters rather than the traditional methods used in some other gyms. It was first developed years ago at the University of Leeds in England. Rosado contends that this method gives him an edge in conditioning, stamina and core strength. The fighters run the circuit of various exercise stations for each muscle group. In this way they can better pinpoint specific areas of the body that need work. Three minutes of exercise at a station, then a minute of rest, followed by the next activity at the next station and so on, until they are finished the whole circuit. Then they start all over again. It could be free weights, step-ups, resistance machines and aerobics. There are a lot of different combinations, all to mimic the time periods of a real fight.

When asked to describe himself as a fighter, Gabby responded this way: “I would have to say crafty and unique. I am an entertainer. I execute the little things. They make all the difference in a fight. I’m always learning new angles, and I adapt to the other guy as the fight goes on. I’m always changing tactics in a fight. One round I’ll pressure my opponent, in the next round I’ll box him, then maybe switch over to counterpunching. Next round I could come out with my hands at my sides and step in with a flurry of combinations. I have fast hands.”

I finally asked him if anyone ever tried to provoke him into a fight on the street or at a club; guys are always trying to show off in front of their friends. Some ranked boxers actually travel with bodyguards so they don’t have to deal with these knuckleheads. Rosado just laughed and said he never had a problem out of the ring. “I am nice to everybody. Everywhere I go people are happy to talk with me.”

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  1. Evan 08:52am, 06/22/2012

    Anyone who wants to know more about the strength and conditioning home of Gabriel Rosado check out brazenboxing.com

  2. Dan Feinberg 12:03am, 06/21/2012

    Mr. Marcus paints a truly intimate picture of Gabriel Rosado - the man, not just the boxer.  It’s possible to get so immersed in Mr. Marcus’ article that the effect is more like that of watching a movie rather than just looking at the printed word.  I look forward to reading more of whatever Mr. Marcus writes.

  3. raxman 03:38pm, 06/20/2012

    irish - i dont know about you but i love a fighter with inside fighting skills. i love watching diaz v katsidis for that reason - even though i love my fellow coutryman in that fight it was the baby bull that blew me away. i loved (and have tried to teach the young blokes this while i was doing a bit of coaching) the way diaz flurried and then stepped around to his right to change the angle but without stepping back out to range. of course katsidis is great on the inside too - great to watch anyway - coz he never clinches.

  4. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat saijo 04:33am, 06/20/2012

    He’s a wrecking ball when he gets inside and starts landing those uppercuts!

  5. raxman 11:50pm, 06/19/2012

    its a shame that angulo fight was stopped. they were funny knock downs because his eyes seemed clear as when he got up, it was like each one was a flash knock down. i worry that he has the p-dub curse of dropping his lead hand when he throws the power shot. that said i think he looks great the way he moves and his punch selection

  6. Norm Marcus 06:45pm, 06/19/2012

    He seems like a very nice young man. Serious about his sport and how he can help others grow themselves.

  7. The Thresher 06:27pm, 06/19/2012

    Anybody who can stop Powell deserves respect.

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