NEW YORK — When rising Philadelphia junior middleweight Gabriel Rosado enters the ring opposite Kazakhstan-born WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, it will be with his father, Encarnacion, as part of his entourage, the multitude of tattoos adorning his upper torso, and his mother, Bonnie Ortiz, praying for his well-being from ringside.
“Before coming out here, our church prayed for him, and we’re believing that he’s coming back with the belt,” said Ortiz, 48, who calls her son a “God-fearing young man” who “prays and attends church faithfully.”
Rosado (21-5, 13 knockouts), who turned 27 on Jan. 14, has won seven straight fights, five of those by knockout. The hammer-fisted Golovkin (24-0, 21 KOs) will be after his 12th straight stoppage victory.
During an open workout on Wednesday at The Kingsway Gym, Rosado said it doesn’t matter that he’s rising in weight, nor does he concern himself with the fact that Golovkin was a 2003 world amateur champ and 2004 Olympic silver medalist
“I congratulate him on what he did in the amaeurs, but this is the pro game now. This is a whole different system. You can drop a guy in the amateurs, and it’s only on point. In the pro game, it’s two points,” said Rosado.
“So I think that as a professional, I have more experience, and I’ve fought the better competition. I predict that I’ll win by a ninth-round knockout.”
But the Reverend Dr. Bonnie Jean Ortiz has not always sanctioned boxing for Rosado, whom she said was “always good at sports.”
“If he ran, he did well. He did basketball, karate, baseball and football. Very athletic and always involved in sports and always excelling. I always knew that there was greatness in this young man, because he always did well in everything,” said Ortiz of Rosado, whose father assists head trainer Billy Briscoe.
“I just don’t know why he always got into trouble though. Always in trouble in school. Always fighting, and he would win most of the time. It was something that came naturally to him. Then one day, he left home with a basketball and returned with a bag and a pair of boxing gloves.”
Rosado began boxing at the age of 18, and after just 11 amateur fights, turned professional, this, long after Ortiz, an ordained minister with a doctorate degree in theology, had expressed her dislike for his chosen direction.
“When he was around 14, he said, ‘Mom, I’m going to be a boxer,’ and I said, ‘No you’re not, you’re going to be a minister.’ And he said, ‘No mom, I’m going to be a boxer.’ I would pray. I would say, ‘God, he’s in your hands,'” said Ortiz, a resident of Philadelphia’s Roxboro section.
“I would say, ‘I gave him to you since before he was born, and I dedicated him to you.’ Even before I knew that I was going to have a son, I would say, ‘God, thank you for the son that you’re going to give me, and I’m going to call him Gabriel, because he’s going to be a messenger.'”
But dishing out pugilistic pain and punishment may have been the thing that saved Rosado’s life, this, after his brush with death occurred at party, when a “guy had a gun.”
“I was the type who didn’t mess with weapons. He reached and I charged him and gave him a couple of shots. He was disoriented, and I went running,” said Rosado.
“At the time, I didn’t feel like my life flashed before my eyes. I ran after I hit him. But I will say this, from then on, it hit me that night that I almost was killed. I had to make a change. That’s when I thought about boxing.”
Boxing eventually grew on Ortiz, much like her son’s tattoos, the first of which she allowed him to receive when he was 18.
“He’s always looking at where else he’s going to get a tattoo,” said Ortiz, “and I’m like, ‘You don’t have a theme. You’ve got a fish, and what does that mean?'”
Among the tattoos Ortiz favors is that on his left arm, which reads, in part, “Father Forgive Me.”
“That’s his way of remembering that he’s got to go before the Lord each day and ask for God’s grace. He recognizes that he is an individual with flaws of a simple nature,” said Ortiz.
“That’s important to me. He said that he recognizes that he will always be before God. I don’t want him to get any more, but what can I do? He’s of age.”
Nowadays, Ortiz and Rosado have a different perspective on his given birth name.
“He laughs and says, ‘I’m another kind of messenger mom.’ But I’m thankful for boxing in that it provided the discipline that Gabriel has needed,” said Ortiz.
“I think that in the past, Gabriel was taking a path that could have led him down a really bad road. I’m thankful that God has used boxing as a way to save Gabriel. It requires dedication and focus, and Gabriel’s very committed to this.”
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]