SMOGER REFLECTS ON ROSADO-WHITTAKER
By Steve Smoger as told to Doveed Linder
Last weekend, Gabriel Rosado earned a shot at the IBF junior middleweight title with a tenth-round stoppage of Charles Whittaker at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, PA. Rosado knocked Whittaker down four times, once in the fifth, once in the seventh and twice in the tenth, before referee Steve Smoger stopped the fight at 1:50 of round ten. In this article, Smoger discusses his experience as the third man in the ring. Smoger, who has worked Rosado’s last three fights, also talks about how Rosado’s recent run of success reminds him of Kelly Pavlik’s career five years ago.
STEVE SMOGER writes: As luck would have it, I was the third man in the ring for Gabriel Rosado’s last three fights. It’s very rare that I work with a fighter twice in a row, let alone three times. For the most part, I’m pretty spread out. However, there have been a few exceptions over the years. Back in ‘88 and ‘90, I worked Simon Brown-Tyrone Trice I & II. In the mid 2000’s, by pure coincidence, I worked with James Toney when he fought for the cruiserweight and heavyweight title. Just recently, I worked Andre Ward’s last two fights. In a way, my recent “trilogy” with Gabe Rosado reminds me of when I worked two back-to-back fights with Kelly Pavlik back in 2007.
In 2006, I received a call asking me to work Kelly’s fight with Bronco McKart. I was already committed to working a world title fight overseas and I remember being very disappointed that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with this young prospect, who I was hearing so much about. Kelly ended up stopping Bronco in the sixth round, which opened a lot of eyes in the boxing world. In January of the following year, Kelly knocked out Jose Luis Zertuche in the eighth round. A few months later, surprisingly, I received a call from the Tennessee Athletic Commission requesting that I referee a WBC title eliminator between Kelly and Edison Miranda. Miranda was fighting out of Florida and Kelly was from Ohio, so they selected a referee from the northeast to keep it neutral.
Pavlik-Miranda took place at the FedEx Forum in Memphis on the undercard of Jermain Taylor-Cory Spinks. There was a BBQ in Memphis that weekend. They had the streets blocked off and it was a big affair. During the pre-fight press conference, Miranda declared that he was going to “barbeque” Kelly Pavlik and that Jermain Taylor would be next. I remember Kelly sat quietly as Miranda went on and on about what he was going to do. As you know, Kelly did his talking in the ring. He wound up stopping Miranda in the seventh round and he put himself in position to fight for Jermain Taylor’s [world middleweight championship]. In September of that year, lo and behold, I got the call to work Pavlik-Taylor, which took place in Atlantic City. It was a tremendous fight. Kelly went down in the second round, but he came back to stop Jermain in the seventh.
Being in the ring with Kelly during his fight with Edison Miranda, at the time, he seemed to be a fighter who was on a true mission. In the forth round, I saw him get hit with some hard right hands. He absorbed the punches well and kept coming forward. Sometimes there comes a time in a fighter’s career where he won’t be denied. He finds a certain “zone”, if you will. Kelly’s zone was McKart, Zertuche, Miranda, and Taylor. Right now, I think Gabriel Rosado has found a zone of his own.
Five years after Kelly Pavlik’s magnificent run, I was assigned Gabriel Rosado-Jesus Soto Karass at the Asylum Arena in Philadelphia, which was the start of a series of fights on NBC. There was a packed house in Philly and it was great exposure for the fighters. If you recall, Karass gave Philadelphia’s Mike Jones a fit in the first fight they had. Gabe, however, walked through Karass’ punches and dispatched of him in the fifth round.
My feeling at the time was that Gabe Rosado was a young man who had just turned a corner. Gabe was always tough, but against Karass, he was more focused and controlled than when I had seen him in the past. He suffered some early losses in his career, but the losses came against good fighters, so he was never out of the picture. In my view, Gabe showed glimpses of his potential when he fought Derek Ennis. He lost a majority decision, but it was Philadelphia’s “Fight Of The Year” in 2010 and it was a fight where both guys looked like winners. After the Karass fight, I worked Gabe’s fight with Sechew “Iron Horse” Powell at the Sands Casino in Pennsylvania. Powell has been a top contender for a number of years, so this was supposed to be a good test for Gabe. Early on in the fight, I saw Gabe adjusting to Sechew’s southpaw stance. In the middle rounds, Gabe started to wear Sechew down with educated pressure and he wound up stopping him in the ninth round.
By virtue of two back to back knockouts against respectable opposition, Gabe became ranked number three by the IBF and he found himself in an eliminator with the winner to face the champion, Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage. This eliminator was last Friday and his opponent was Charles Whitaker, who was ranked number two. Whitaker, himself, was a man on a mission, as he hadn’t lost a fight in over eight years. Aside from the obvious parallels between Gabe Rosado and Kelly Pavlik, both in their string of knockouts and the fact that I happened to work with them in back to back fights, I saw reflections of Kelly once again in the Charles Whitaker fight. After Gabe scored his second knockdown, Charles got up and hit him with a beautiful right hand-left hook combo. It reminded me of the time Kelly took Edison Miranda’s right hand five years previously. Gabe recovered in an instant and went on to finish Whitaker off in the tenth.
Since day one, Gabe has been trained by a young man named Billy Briscoe, who comes from an old school Philadelphia background. That means he’s being trained like an old school Philliy fighter – fighters like Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Willie “The Worm” Monroe, Bennie Briscoe, and George Benton, among others. Philadelphia enjoys a reputation as a big time boxing town and Gabriel Rosado is endeavoring to continue the legacy. It has been an honor to work with Gabe these past three fights and I wish him all the best in his quest to capture a world title.”
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