BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- There is a formula for molding stars in boxing: Swell a prospect's record early with careful matchmaking, ease them into the mainstream against a faded former star and hope by the time their marketability peaks they are ready for a formidable challenge. Two examples were front and center in Las Vegas last weekend, where Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. lost in his first major test against Sergio Martinez and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez -- who routed Shane Mosley in his last fight -- set up a potential showdown with Floyd Mayweather or Miguel Cotto next spring with a resounding knockout win over Josesito Lopez.
Occasionally, stars take a different path. Junior middleweight Gabriel Rosado lost his sixth professional fight. He lost his eighth, 13th, 16th and 19th fights, too. But on Friday night Rosado (20-5) moves one step closer to a world title bout when he takes on Charles Whittaker (38-12-2) at the Sands Casino Resort (9 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network). The winner becomes the mandatory challenger to IBF titleholder Cornelius "K9" Bundrage.
Rosado, 26, attributes his early failures to bad luck -- he had the flu when he fought Fernando Guerrero in 2009; he was going through a divorce when he lost to Derek Ennis in '10 -- and lack of opportunity. Lately, he has seized them. He picked up his biggest win last January when he knocked out hard hitting Jesus Soto Karass and followed it up with a knockout of former title challenger Sekou Powell in June.
Rosado understands how much his early losses set him back, how close he was to becoming a gatekeeper opponent. Yet now, he sees public opinion turning.
"People are focused more on what is happening now as opposed to what happened in the past," Rosado said. "I'm a completely different fighter. When experience kicks in, the confidence level goes sky high. I truly feel like I'm not going to lose."
While a win sets up a showdown with Bundrage, Rosado has a bigger name in mind: Alvarez. Should Mayweather pass and if Cotto loses his tune-up fight against Austin Trout in December, Rosado believes his status and ferocious, crowd-pleasing style should position him as a realistic alternative.
"Fans, they want to be entertained," Rosado said. "K9 is a world champion but he gets no recognition because he is not entertaining. I want to be the type of fighter that fans get their money's worth watching. I don't force myself to be that way. I like to fight. I don't want to dance. I want to bang. I've never been in a boring fight."
A few days ago a rematch with Chavez Jr. was a mortal lock, Brian. But the news of Chavez's failed drug test -- which will likely sideline him with a suspension for around a year -- puts Martinez back in play. At 37, Martinez is after the biggest paydays. To me, Mayweather, Bradley and Pacquiao are unrealistic; I don't think any of those aforementioned fighters would be willing to fight him.
Martinez has chased Cotto for years, offering to drop to 154 or put his middleweight title on the line at a 155-pound catchweight. If Cotto doesn't get an Alvarez fight next spring, I could see a Martinez fight happening. Similarly, if Cotto loses to Trout, Martinez would definitely be in the mix for a fight with Canelo. The way he beat Chavez and the success of the pay-per-view makes him infinitely more appealing.
What did you think about the way Chavez Jr. was treated and talked about after the fight? Martinez put on a masterful performance and gave Chavez Jr. a boxing lesson for 11 rounds. Yet at the end of the fight, HBO was acting as if Chavez had won. There was more focus on the 12th round for Chavez than there was for Martinez's great boxing exhibition for the first 11 rounds. Yes, Chavez hurt Martinez in the last round and knocked him down, but he didn't finish him. That somehow seemed to erase the entire 11 rounds that preceded it and I don't think that was fair to Martinez. HBO should have talked about how Martinez dominated almost the entire fight and was still tough enough to survive to the 12th round badly hurt, but instead they treated Chavez as if he had just fought the Fight of the Year.
I think we all got swept up in the excitement of the 12th round, Nelson. It was probably the Round of the Year, especially when you consider Martinez chose to stand toe-to-toe in the final minute with a torn up knee and a broken hand. We probably gave Chavez too much credit, but I doubt Martinez is complaining. If he had won the 12th round like he won the previous 11, there would be no talk of a rematch -- and no multi-million dollar payday that comes with it.
If Pacquiao is willing to give Mayweather a 55-45 split -- as he suggested in television interviews yesterday -- than it should remove a key obstacle in negotiations. But I've believed for years that Mayweather never really wanted this fight. First it was drug testing, then it was money; it seems there is always an issue for Mayweather to raise. I don't absolve Pacquiao or Bob Arum from the blame; they have definitely been part of the problem. But I'll always go back to 2010, when Arum, Mayweather advisor Al Haymon and HBO's Ross Greenburg appeared to agree to the framework of a deal. And Mayweather was the one who walked away.
I like Arce too, Pete. He's a warrior and rarely in a dull fight. But his skills don't match his heart --p ut him in with a top boxer and he gets wiped out -- and he definitely ducks people. Arce had a great offer to fight Nonito Donaire this fall, and he passed. Let Arce beat Donaire. Then we can have a pound-for-pound discussion.