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David Lemieux vs. Gabriel Rosado: The Comeback Kid vs. The Gatekeeper


by Tyson Bruce

Getting to watch a fight like David Lemieux vs Gabriel Rosado on HBO (broadcast this Saturday night from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center) is a bit like going to a five star restaurant and ordering a cheeseburger. Lemieux is essentially a prospect on the rebound and Rosado is a gatekeeper in every sense on the word.

In other words, it’s not exactly typical fare for HBO.

While neither guy figures to crack the pound for pound lists anytime soon, they have the coveted headline spot because they figure to put on one of the most entertaining fights of the year. Justifiably, fans have come to expect HBO fights to bear some kind of consequence, but sometimes fans just want a good old-fashioned scrap. Lemieux-Rosado is the latter of those two concepts in a nutshell.

The official byline for the fight seems to be that of the young contender, Lemieux, against the grizzly gatekeeper, Rosado. In truth, however, the matchup in slightly more complicated than that.

In 2010, Lemieux, 32-2-0-(30 KOs), was considered by most boxing experts to be one of the finest prospects in all of boxing.

Then his career was torpedoed by Marco Antonio Rubio in 2011. Lemieux has won seven straight bouts and reentered the American consciousness by blasting out Fernando Guerrero in vicious fashion on Showtime earlier this year. Saturday’s fight against Rosado, 21-8-0-(13 KOs), will provide the ultimate litmus test for how much Lemieux has recovered from his past setbacks and what level of talent he truly possesses.

Rosado, on the other hand, was never considered a prospect and had to fight his way out of obscurity. In a sense, he is the luckiest unlucky fighter in all boxing. Unlucky because he never got the breaks coming up and was forced to take fights before he was ready in order to make a decent buck (think Gennady “GGG” Golovkin) or has been on the short side of decisions against the house fighter (think Peter Quillin).

Yet, despite having seven losses on his record, Rosado keeps getting invited back to the big stage because he’s such a reliable and consistent performer. However, Rosado has lost three straight (against top flight competition) and if he were to lose a fourth, one would figure that future opportunities on the same level will be few and far between.

Stylistically, the match figures to be a grueling and intriguing affair. Lemieux comes out like he’s been shot out of a gun in every single fight—with just five of his thirty-two wins going past the fourth round. Lemieux is built like a middleweight from a bygone era with his short and squat physique, which he uses to bull-rush in on opponents. Perhaps no better term expresses his fighting style than explosive.

Lemieux is a pure puncher.

While critics would point out that most of his KOs have come against a highly questionable caliber of opposition, very few fighters ever score the kind of one-punch knockouts that Lemieux has made commonplace in his relatively brief career.

The fact that he punches as hard as he does has been a blessing and curse: gaining that valuable experience has been a difficult task. When a fighter doesn’t possess the seasoned amateur background or Golovkin or a Lomachenko, it is incumbent that he gains rounds against experienced opposition.

In 2011, this proved costly, as Lemieux threw everything he had at Rubio in the early rounds only to flat line in the middle stage of the fight. He failed to make the proper adjustments in his next fight against Haitian-Canadian Joachim Alcine and paid dearly when a fighter most viewed as well past his prime outboxed him.

It’s the less talked about loss to Alcine that may in fact be the biggest red flag against Lemieux’s ability to flourish at the higher level of the sport.

Lemieux has stated that he has learned from the Rubio disaster by implementing a new team and a more focused and dedicated approach to the sport. Ironically, his second attempt at breaching the chrysalis will come against a fighter that bears a striking resemblance to Rubio in Gabriel Rosado. Apart from an early career bludgeoning against Alfredo Angulo, Rosado has shown a remarkable ability to handle punchers at the world-class level.

Golovkin may have turned Rosado’s face into road kill, but he never managed to knock him off his feet. Peter Quillin, regarded as one of the premier punchers at 160, never came remotely close to stopping Rosado. Hence, if Lemieux were to stop Rosado, it would make a notable statement about his power.

As fight day draws nearer, there is a small contingent of vocal critics who feel Rosado should be favored in the fight. They say so with good cause, as it is Rosado that has fought the much higher quality of opposition and who seems to be the more multi-dimensional fighter.

Lemieux
Charismatic French-Canadian KO artist David Lemieux
(Rich Kane-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions)

Rosado is the classic example of a Philly fighter who should box but always seems to get lured into a slugfest. His recent hiring of venerable Jesse Reid and relocation to the West Coast figures to increase Rosado’s chances of putting forth a more disciplined performance.

Reid, the former trainer of Orlando Canizales and Paul Spadafora, is a highly technical trainer, so one figures that Rosado will box and use the jab more than he has in the past. If Rosado picks up few tricks from the Hall of Fame trainer and fights from range, it will be difficult for the much smaller Lemieux to find his way inside.

Lemieux has only one speed, which is to move forward and throw bombs.

When he is unable to do so successfully (like the Alcine fight), he has never shown the ability to adjust. The key for Rosado will be making it out of the first few rounds without getting tagged or having his fragile skin broken open.

From the outside, this fight may look like a showcase fight for Lemieux, whose charisma and exciting style has HBO seeing dollar signs and fans salivating. However, what we truly have is an evenly matched fight between two guys with a lot to lose. That’s usually a solid recipe for a great action fight.

What’s at stake for Lemieux is the chance to justify the hype and move past the failures of his past. A lose to Rosado could very well end all discussion about his ever being a legitimate top-ten middleweight, but a win would usher him towards the mega-fight he covets.

For Rosado, it’s his last chance to prove that he is something more than a game club fighter. With three losses in a row going in, it’s also likely his last chance to fight on premium cable for premium dollars.

A loss would send Rosado back to the netherworld of smoky club shows and less glamorous ESPN 2 shows.

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