Image courtesy of SB Nation (BadLeftHook.com).
Undercard bouts on major pay-per-view boxing cards are often derided because they more commonly serve the interests of the event’s controlling promoter than complement the evening’s principal fight. Whether it’s a weak world-title fight or a one-sided showcase for a touted prospect, a genuinely deep undercard is a rarity.
When Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights Robert Guerrero this Saturday in Las Vegas, hardcore fight fans can also look forward to an intriguing clash between prospect J’Leon Love and rugged contender Gabriel Rosado. Rosado-Love certainly warrants a spot on the paid portion of the card, and while Love is clearly the undefeated, hyped prospect, this fight is anything but a showcase bout for him.
In fact, it is fair to speculate that Love (15-0, 8 KO), at this juncture, has, perhaps, bitten off more than he can chew.
Before getting bludgeoned by Gennady Golovkin in a bid for the WBA and IBO middleweight titles, Rosado (21-6, 13 KO), a natural 154-pounder, was riding an impressive three-fight stoppage streak. In halting Jesus Soto Karass, Sechew Powell and Charles Whittaker, Rosado has emphatically proven himself against legitimate opposition.
The same, however, cannot be said for Love. It is clear that Love possesses tremendous boxing skills and natural ability. That said, other than a victory over Derrick Findley in his last outing, Love has quite literally not fought anyone of consequence. Furthermore, Findley is the highest-grade boxer one can be while still carrying the “opponent” label.
Rosado will prove to be the ultimate litmus test for Love. Whether Love is ready to skip several grades of opponents in one leap should be evident early, and how he handles the event’s magnitude will be essential.
Rosado, who has fought and headlined on NBC and HBO, has the skills and experience to defeat Love, though fighting again at middleweight could prove costly. Questions abound about Rosado-Love, and the fight promises compelling answers.
|Reach||74''||Not listed on Boxrec|
|Record||21-6, 13 KO||15-0, 8 KO|
Despite campaigning mostly at junior middleweight, Rosado is taller than Love and should be able to stand up to the latter's punches given Love's 53.33 knockout percentage.
The biggest difference, which could end up being the key to this fight, is that Rosado is vastly more experienced than Love as a professional. Rosado has boxed 108 more rounds than Love has (171 to 63) and has done so against superior opposition.
Love might be able to counter this with his natural ability and elite sparring sessions, but in terms of experience heading into this fight, the numbers don't lie.
Note: All the numerical information complied here was taken from BoxRec.com.
J'Leon Love is part of “The Money Team” and is thus reaping the fruits of that union. While Love might possess the natural ability to someday become a champion, he has done nothing in a sanctioned professional prizefight to warrant this spot. So, will Love prove that he’s ready—now—for the big stage?
Gabriel Rosado’s foray into the middleweight division did not go particularly well. In agreeing to challenge Gennady Golovkin, one must commend Rosado for his courage. That said, Rosado was battered, bloodied and bullied until his corner threw in the towel during the seventh round. Will fighting at 160 pounds against a naturally bigger fighter again prove costly for Rosado?
What this fight boils down to is a fascinating contrast between Love’s talent and connections versus Rosado’s toughness, underrated skills and hard-knocks career arc. A loss for Love sets him back to the level of fighting Derrick Findley-type opponents (and perhaps, not even right away), while Rosado only stands to really lose if he gets blown out, which is unlikely.
Gabriel Rosado is adept at cutting off the ring and applying steady pressure. Using his underrated movement and jab to close distance, Rosado then excels at throwing compact hooks and uppercuts in the pocket.
A key part of Rosado’s success on the inside has to do with his upper-body movement, which allows him to avoid punches and maintain his leverage for landing his own power shots. Investing to the body is also one of Rosado’s better qualities, and his finishing instincts are honed.
Even though J'Leon Love is so untested as a professional, he can, to a certain extent, rely on his undeniable skills and pedigree. Love has trained at the Kronk Gym and is now part of Floyd Mayweather’s stable, which means he has engaged in plenty of world-class sparring. Simply put, Love could just be waiting for the proper platform to display his full arsenal.
More specifically, Love is a tremendous athlete. Fluidity, movement and boxing ability are all strong suits, and Love also possesses the natural hand speed one would expect from a touted prospect.
Despite possessing the ability to apply intelligent pressure, Gabriel Rosado can also get carried away when gunning for a knockout. For instance, Rosado was carelessly tagged on more than one occasion when he got overly aggressive against Sechew Powell and Charles Whittaker—even when both were seemingly hurt.
Thus, in a sense, Rosado is hittable, which he generally offsets with his quality chin. However, he was hurt and bloodied against Gennady Golovkin, and one has to wonder about his condition—both physically and mentally—after such a grueling defeat.
J'Leon Love’s biggest weakness, at this point in his career, is his inexperience. Through 15 fights, the combined record of Love’s opponents is a paltry 82-101-11.
In contrast, Rosado’s last four opponents have combined for 112 victories, and Rosado has been exclusively fighting adversaries with winning records since the year before Love turned professional.
While Love clearly beat Derrick Findley in his last outing, it was by no means a picturesque bout. Love exhibited admirable toughness under duress, but it is unclear how he will cope with the more skilled in-fighting of Rosado. Also, given Rosado’s excellent chin, Love’s average-to-respectable power could be exposed in this matchup.
Controlling the ring’s geography will be essential for Gabriel Rosado, and much of this has to do with a need to force J'Leon Love to retreat. If Rosado backs up Love, he could trap him against the ropes, get in his chest and unload his sharp hooks and uppercuts. Not giving Love the chance to box and move is critical.
Rosado also must commit to banging Love’s body. This could end up being a rugged, distance fight, so slowing Love down by tagging his midsection could enable Rosado to close the fight with authority. Love’s athletic ability and movement are some of his strong points, and body punching is the most effective way to neutralize these assets.
To win, Rosado must display controlled aggression. Getting into a posturing match while trying to outslick Love will not work; thus, Rosado must move forward with feints and head movement in order to create openings and to avoid getting countered. And finally, Rosado has to act like the more experienced and assertive fighter. He should show Love respect, but not too much.
Fighting at range will be crucial to J'Leon Love’s success against Gabriel Rosado. If Love allows Rosado to crowd him, he could end up getting suffocated and trapped in positions where he is unable to get appropriate leverage for his punches. Jabbing will also be essential to maintaining this range and setting up power shots.
Despite Rosado’s skills, he is inherently bullish and aggressive. To counteract this, Love must exhibit variety. This can involve using quickness/slickness to counter Rosado’s attacks and advances, but Love must also initiate exchanges to keep Rosado guessing. Love is skilled enough to diversify his combinations; if he doesn’t, Rosado will figure him out.
Using lateral movement will also be key for Love to win. Naturally, Love wants to prevent Rosado from backing him up and walking him down. Employing precise lateral movement to turn Rosado when trapped will allow Love to create space and re-establish his offense. Love can indeed initiate at close range, but he should consistently look to move to create new angles and get back to the centre of the ring.
An interesting analogy is the way Terence Crawford schooled Breidis Prescott on the undercard of Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado II. While it wasn’t the most exciting fight, Love could follow a similar blueprint of movement and varied boxing to beat Rosado.
J'Leon Love is “supposed” to win this fight in the sense that he’s the prospect, the bigger man, the supposedly more skilled boxer and part of “The Money Team.” Backed by Al Haymon, and seemingly destined for a world title, there’s a lot to love about J’Leon.
But that said, Rosado is the kind of fighter who tends to burn everyone who picks against him in a competitive fight. While Rosado will be giving up weight again, it seems unlikely that Love will be able to punish him the way Gennady Golovkin did. Once Rosado sees he can take Love’s punches, the tempo of the fight could shift in his favor.
Pressure and bullying could ultimately win the day in this intriguing matchup. Love is a fighter who simply needs exposure against better opposition, and Rosado seems to find himself in an ideal position to expose this.
Should Love win, he will prove that he is worthy of the hype he’s received; perhaps, his career arc has merely been a case of careful and deliberate progression. If he emerges victorious, it’ll likely be via wide unanimous decision.
That said, the pick here is: Rosado to win via a tight, perhaps majority, decision.
Despite Love’s affiliation with “The Money Team,” expect Rosado’s own brand of “hard work and dedication” to prevail.