Photos: Will Hart
By Hamilton Nolan
Gabriel Rosado (21-9) is a classic boxing type: the tough B-plus fighter who is good enough to give a hard fight to the best fighters in the world, but not quite good enough to beat any of them. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a proud and legitimate role. Without men like Gabriel Rosado, the world of championship boxing could not run smoothly. Rosado is the sort of opponent that a true A-level world class fighter must defeat in order to prove himself. Rosado has decent speed, above average power, and heaps of toughness, but he is not superlative enough in any area to defeat the very best. He was good enough to beat Jesus Soto Karass and Sechew Powell, but was bloodied and stopped by Gennady Golovkin, and stopped by Peter Quillin, and outpointed by Jermell Charlo. He seems to have found his ceiling, just below the stars. Sometimes, these sorts of fighters are able to grow into stars of their own. Sometimes, they hit their heads on the ceiling and fall back down to the depths.
David Lemieux (33-2, with 31 knockouts) is also a classic boxing type: the scary knockout puncher from a foreign country with a scary record who has compiled most of that record against low-level competition in his foreign country. Lemieux is from Canada, and he has never fought outside of Canada. (Though he did knock out Fernando Guerrero in his last fight, so he’s no fluke.) Is he really as good as his fearsome record would indicate? Nobody really knows. Lemieux, now, was in New York City, and he was fighting a true contender. One man’s type would be validated.
After nine and a half rounds of showing and proving, we can now say this: Gabriel Rosado is too tough for his own good. By this I mean that his toughness and determination outstrip both his offensive and defensive skills. Rosado’s ability to stand up to the scariest of punchers, and his determination to fight on in the face of screaming adversity, add up, in the end, to a threat to his own health. Rosado is able to give fans thrilling fights--fights thrilling because of his ability to face down severe punishment. Fights that he loses. Of all of the packages of talent that boxing bestows upon fighters, this is the most dubious.
We can also say this: David Lemieux is a scary puncher. A world class middleweight puncher. He fights, in fact, like a heavyweight of old, like Rocky Marciano. He ambles and shuffles forward, a calm Neanderthal, hunched and violent, with rudimentary jabs. When he gets inside he throws short, punishing hooks that thud sickeningly even when they are blocked, and that turn human heads to even more sickening angles when they land.
In the third round, Lemieux smacked Rosado into the corner with a left hook that staggered him, and then smacked him out of the corner with another hook that caused him to take two stumbling steps and then sink to his knees, pawing his eye. His left eye almost immediately swelled closed. Rosado said that he was “seeing three of him” after that point; still, he fought on.
His offense slowed. He began retreating, trying to cover up, but never losing his spirit. In the fourth round, he staged a bit of a Rocky-style comeback, sending sweat flying off Lemieux’s head with a few uppercuts. But it would be short lived. Rosado has fair power, but Lemieux has the sort of power that hurts you even if you block it, punches that sound like a basketball being struck by a baseball bat. Lemieux is not particularly tricky, but he presses forward always, and his strength makes it impossible to face him down for long. Round after round, Rosado’s eye grew more swollen, and he was chased from corner to corner by Lemieux, receiving vicious shots at every stop. By the tenth round, the referee was visibly wincing every time Lemieux landed a punch; about a minute into the round, the ring doctor called timeout and stopped it. It was a humanitarian decision.
It is somewhat clear now exactly what kind of fighter Rosado is. The more interesting question is: just how good is David Lemieux? He TKOed Rosado in the tenth round--the very same result that Peter Quillin got when he fought Rosado. With his superlative power and top tier strength, Lemieux would make a very interesting opponent for Gennady Golovkin, who has probaby never faced someone with quite that level of slugging energy. Golovkin would almost certainly beat him, as he would anyone, but it would be a thrilling fight. It might even give Lemieux a taste of what Gabriel Rosado has been going through for several years now.