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January 24, 2013

By Steve Smoger as told to Doveed Linder

Referee Steve Smoger discusses his experience as the third man in the ring for Gennady Golovkin's successful WBA/IBO middleweight championship defense against Gabriel Rosado last Saturday in New York City. Golovkin won via an extremely bloody seventh-round technical knockout, and Smoger now shares his observations with Boxingtalk's Doveed Linder.

I was very surprised when I was informed that I would be working Golovkin-Rosado.  It was ironic enough that I had worked Gabe Rosado’s last three fights, when he faced and defeated Jesus Soto-Karass, Sechew Powell and Charles Whitaker, all by way of stoppage.  I figured there was no chance that we’d be together for four in a row, but that’s exactly what happened.  These recent fights I’ve had with Gabe Rosado reminded me of the two fights I worked with Kelly Pavlik in 2007.  First, I was there in May of that year when Pavlik stopped Edison Miranda in an eliminator.  Then we followed that up in September when he knocked out Jermain Taylor for the middleweight championship of the world.  That was the first time I had worked with a high profile fighter in two back-to-back fights.  I often draw comparisons between Gabe Rosado’s recent run and the two fights I worked with Pavlik in 2007, not just because of my involvement, but because of where they were in their careers.  Both fighters were in a certain “zone”, if you will.  They were at the height of their powers and they were destroying everything in their path.  Since that comparison was on my mind, I also found it ironic that Kelly Pavlik announced his retirement just a few hours before the Gennady Golovkin-Gabriel Rosado bout.  For some reason, certain events just have a way of coinciding.
On Saturday evening, I reported to Madison Square Garden at 4:30pm.  This was a dual [sanctioning body] world title fight, so I checked in with Miguel Prado, who was the supervisor for the WBA, and Milton Whitaker III, who was the supervisor for the IBO.  Before the fight, the three of us, along with Melvina Lathan, the chairwoman of the New York State Athletic Commission, went into the fighters’ dressing rooms to go over the rules.  In recent years, I have heard a lot about Gennady Golovkin and I was really looking forward to working with him.  He was very respectful, very pleasant.  I could see by his tone that there was going to be no BS whatsoever.  He had a job to do and he was there to do it.  The same thing can be said about Gabe Rosado.  Both guys were ready to walk the walk.  They had no questions or concerns.  We shook hands and that was it.  As referee Mills Lane used to say, it was a “tough, clean fight.”  They were very professional.  In seven rounds, there may have been two breaks.
The early rounds were fairly close, but I could see that Gennady had what I would describe as a quiet control over the situation.  I was very impressed with his movement.  He showed a total command of the ring.  Gabe was throwing a beautiful jab.  As they say in the gyms, he was “touching” him.  However, Gabe seemed to be, not necessarily hesitant, but somewhat respectful.  Gennady has a reputation as one of the hardest puncher’s in boxing and it appeared that Gabe was mindful of that.  When he faced Karass, Powell, and Whitaker, he walked through their punches, but against Gennady, he seemed a little cautious.  He was reacting to Gennady’s feints and he wasn’t quite as eager to jump in as he normally is.  In the fourth round, Gennady landed a tremendous shot and it was at this moment when I believe that Gabe realized the true depth of his power.
After each round, Gabe would come back to his corner with a new injury.  First he had a cut over his eye, then his nose was bleeding, then it was his lip…  I called the doctor in after the fourth round and Gabe made it clear that his vision was fine and that he wanted to keep going.  I let him go, but I grew increasingly concerned as Gennady continued to land clean punches.  In the sixth round, Gabe threw a left uppercut-right hand combination that really earned Gennady’s respect.  I saw Gennady step back and regroup for a moment, but by that point, he had already taken over.  He went back to applying the pressure and I could see that Gabe was weakening.  After the seventh round, I went over to his corner to get the doctor.  Before I could call him in, I heard, “Steve!”  I looked over and Gabe’s trainer, Billy Briscoe, was holding a towel in his hand to punctuate his desire to stop the fight.
Afterwards, Golovkin acknowledged that Gabe was a tough, game opponent, but Golovkin said that he wasn’t at his best, because he was sick before the fight.  This fact was confirmed by Gennady’s trainer Abel Sanchez.  When I heard that, I thought, “If that’s how he looked when he’s sick, what’s this kid gonna do when he’s at his best?!”  Without question, Gennady lived up to all the hype that has been surrounding him.  When I was leaving Madison Square Garden, I ran into the Rosado camp.  I embraced Gabe and I said, “Great job, young man!”  He said, “Well, Steve, we’re 3-1 together.”  I said, “Yeah, but we’re 3-0 at junior middleweight.”  

Gabe acknowledged at that time that intends to go back down to 154, which I thought was a good idea.  He’s come a long way and I think he has a bright future.

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