There once was a time when HBO Boxing After Dark wasn't just a different name for HBO World Championship Boxing. That was also a time when Lennox Lewis vs VItali Klitschko could draw 4.6 million viewers to HBO. We are no longer in those times.
But BAD is getting a bit of a turn back the clock edition this Saturday night from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as the focus is on action, testing of prospects, and potential contenders for the future. There are no big-name stars on this show, zero world titles are at stake, and the main event features a guy who hasn't won an officially sanctioned boxing match in over two years. And that's alright.
David Lemieux vs Gabriel Rosado
This weekend, Montreal middleweight David Lemieux brings his power-punching, all-aggression style Stateside for a clash with grizzled young veteran Gabe Rosado in the 12-round headline bout. Lemieux, 25, has bounced back from a pair of losses in 2011 against Marco Antonio Rubio and Joachim Alcine that could have really derailed his career, and is now working on a seven-fight winning streak, albeit against pretty overmatched and carefully selected opposition, which is also how he built his record.
Lemieux (32-2, 30 KO) is a vicious puncher. This is not disputed by anyone. Rubio was able to weather the storm against Lemieux and turn the inexperienced and overzealous young fighter's aggression against him, stopping Lemieux in the seventh round. It was a tactical decision from Team Rubio that paid off handsomely. A strong middleweight with a lot of experience, Rubio was certainly hurt by Lemieux, but he knew how to handle that, and how to survive, and how to make Lemieux waste a lot of energy. It worked, as Lemieux gassed himself out, allowing Rubio to use his own power to finish the young fighter off.
It was a learning experience, as was the follow-up loss to Alcine eight months later, which came via decision. Lemieux wasn't in the best physical shape that night, and wasn't really himself. More than the loss to Rubio, the fact that Alcine even lasted the distance with Lemieux seemed a bit of a red flag. It was worth questioning if Lemieux would really come back from that.
He has, to a degree. Wins over the likes of Alvaro Gaona, Albert Ayrapetyan, Marcus Upshaw, and Fernando Guerrero aren't going to prove he's a world class contender, and maybe even beating Rosado (21-8, 13 KO) won't do that, either. But if Guerrero is the most talented fighter that Lemieux has beaten since the losses, Rosado represents a different challenge.
Like Rubio, Rosado is tough, durable, knows how to survive in the ring, and has faced big punchers. Gennady Golovkin stopped Rosado in January 2013, but he didn't knock him out. With a face drenched in blood, Rosado was never even dropped by the fearsome GGG. It was his corner, led by trainer Billy Briscoe, that made the decision to get him out of that fight, as he was taking a terrible beating. Knowing his fighter, Briscoe knew that Rosado wouldn't quit, and that he had to be the one to step in.
Is Lemieux a bigger puncher than Golovkin? It's not impossible or anything, but the suggestion would rightly raise some eyebrows. Peter Quillin also stopped Rosado, in the 10th round in October 2013. Rosado had given "Kid Chocolate" all he could handle (even if the ridiculous scorecards at the time didn't reflect that at all), and though Rosado had gone down in round two, he had rallied. It was a cut that stopped that fight.
Last time out, on January 25 of this year, Rosado lost to Jermell Charlo, an unbeaten prospect right on the cusp of contention. That 10-round decision was a clear win for Charlo. And once again, Rosado was cut in the fight, on his left eyelid.
The cut issue is going to follow Rosado the rest of his career. He is neither defensively good nor inclined enough to become a safety-first fighter who protects things like that, and at any rate, even if he were that guy, you're going to get hit in the eye at some point during a fight. Rosado's going to cut and bleed in most of his fights from here on out. That's just a reality he'll have to deal with.
At 28, it feels like the Philadelphia native has been around forever. That's because we've seen him fight forever, more or less, on TV. Back when he was a kid who wasn't ever supposed to make it to HBO or Showtime, Rosado was an unprotected scrapper from the Philly gyms who was fed to prospects like James Moore and Fernando Guerrero. He beat Moore. He lost to Guerrero.
Rosado has come up in boxing without the aid of power promoters or people looking out for his best interests. He has learned in the gym, of course, but more than most fighters you ever get to see fight at this level, he has learned on the job. He lost two of his first eight fights. Guys who start 6-2 in today's boxing world aren't supposed to go anywhere. Maybe their career ends at 6-2. Maybe it ends at 10-8. Maybe it ends at 25-18. But never are they expected to be an HBO headline fighter.
And Rosado has lost his share of fights since then, too. After a win against Kassim Ouma in April 2009, he was fed to Alfredo Angulo four months later. He lost to Derek Ennis in 2010 after beating Saul Roman. It wasn't until 2012, when he scored a series of wins over Jesus Soto Karass, Sechew Powell, and Charles Whittaker, all televised on NBC Sports, that Rosado made a real move.
Lemieux, on the other hand, has been the guy getting fed over his career. When he stumbled, he had his career nursed back to health. That's not a bad thing, either. In a business as unforgiving and harsh as professional boxing, it's not the worst thing to have people with resources looking out for you. But the simple fact is this: David Lemieux and Gabriel Rosado got to this weekend's fight from very different places. That's not to say one way is better than the other, or will affect the result. It's just the way boxing can work.
Thomas Dulorme vs Hank Lundy
Dulorme (21-1, 14 KO) and Lundy (25-3-1, 12 KO) are set to meet in a 10-round junior welterweight fight, both coming in on modest winning streaks. Dulorme, 24, has won five in a row after a 2012 loss to Luis Carlos Abregu, with Lundy winning three straight after a 2013 loss to Viktor Postol.
Dulorme is one of many Puerto Rican prospects in the post-Cotto world who has been seen as something of a letdown. His loss to Abregu sent him back down in weight to 140 pounds, a move that was made gradually and with care. In his last fight, a March 29 win over Karim Mayfield, he was officially a junior welterweight, with no more one or two pound cushion. Dulorme won clearly, but the fight was also a stinker. He'll look for a more fan-friendly performance here.
That should be a little easier against Lundy than it was Mayfield. While Mayfield is a fighter with an ugly style, the 30-year-old Lundy can be downright reckless at times. The Philly fighter has had some exciting nights against the likes of John Molina, David Diaz, Dannie Williams, and Ray Beltran. More recently, he scored a dominant win in 2013 over Olusegun Ajose, once a flavor of the month in the division, and followed that earlier this year with a beatdown of Angelo Santana (also once a flavor of the month). In May, he beat Gerardo Cuevas in a stay-busy fight.
Dulorme will have a height advantage, as he's a tall, lanky guy at 5'10" with a 70-inch reach, and he'll probably try to control distance and stay out of Lundy's wheelhouse. But Lundy, a natural lightweight, has a way of getting guys to fight the way he wants when he's on his game. And he's certainly not afraid to take shots to do that.
Hugo Centeno Jr vs James De La Rosa
Unbeaten junior middleweight prospect Centeno (21-0, 11 KO) is short of a blue chipper, but he's got a solid future by the looks of things, and this fight is something of a nice little setup for him to score an "impressive" win on HBO against De La Rosa (23-2, 13 KO), an also-ran who beat a shot-to-bits Alfredo Angulo in his last fight on September 13, part of the Mayweather-Maidana II undercard.
It's easy to say that hindsight is 20/20 and all that, and to give De La Rosa great credit for beating Angulo. And the win itself deserves credit, too. De La Rosa beat Angulo handily. But to say that De La Rosa beat Alfredo Angulo is grossly overrating the Alfredo Angulo that De La Rosa fought. Furthermore, Angulo was never particularly good. He became boxing-famous because he's exciting, not because he was ever a true top fighter. When in with better opposition, Angulo generally fell short. And by the time he fought De La Rosa, whatever he was good at was pretty much gone.
Now, if De La Rosa wins this fight, sure, I'll eat some crow. And it's not like it would be some massive upset. De La Rosa, 27, did beat Angulo, after all. But he also has losses to Marcus Willis (2013) and Allen Conyers (2011), and his two fights this year equal the amount of fights he had in 2012 and 2013 combined.
Centeno, 23, is kind of a typical Golden Boy prospect. A native of Oxnard, California, he's a good but not great talent, similar to the likes of Ronny Rios, Luis Ramos Jr, and Randy Caballero. Of those three, Rios and Ramos both eventually hit the wall, while Caballero recently picked up a paper title at bantamweight. Which way will Centeno go? This fight could tell us something about that, because despite my non-belief in De La Rosa as any type of legitimate contender or whatever, it didn't take a legitimate contender to beat Luis Ramos Jr, either.