BN: Are you 100 per cent retired?

GR: It’s interesting because I’m doing a lot of commentating for DAZN, and I really enjoy that and working the fights and seeing young talent coming up. It’s hard not to get that urge and get back in that ring, especially when your body starts to recover (laughs) and it’s a little easier to jump out of bed in the morning. There are times when I do spar with guys at [the] Wildcard [gym]. I live half the time in Puerto Rico, so I spar with guys out there as well. It’s a lifestyle. I was talking to Bernard Hopkins and Bernard says, “I see you in the gym. It’s a lifestyle, you can’t stop this.” Which is true, it really is a lifestyle. The moment you start throwing those shots or try to stop the shots coming at you it just doesn’t feel right.

BN: You have described Bernard Hopkins as a mentor. How important has he been to you?

GR: I got to see somebody that came from my neighbourhood and make something out of himself from the sport of boxing. He spoke about discipline and dedication to me from the very beginning. I met Bernard when I was 18 and I was actually his sparring partner for the Joe Calzaghe fight. Ever since [then] he always had me under his wing. He took me to camp with him. If the camp was in Miami I’d go to Miami with him, that was for the Kelly Pavlik fight. I pretty much worked with Bernard from the Calzaghe fight up until his last fight. To this day we still keep in touch, we’re always talking with each other on the phone or if we see each other at the shows. He’s a big influence on my life not just with boxing, but how you manage your life, and how you live life. I was very grateful to have Bernard.

I think one of the reasons why my career lasted so long was because I was able to learn tools and tricks that Bernard used that helped him when they said he was too old at 36, when they said he was too old when he fought Kelly Pavlik. He mastered those basics and fundamentals and how to control the pace of a fight. Even though people say Gabe Rosado is always in these war-kinda fights I know when to control the pace, I know when to calm down the pace. For instance, the [Jaime] Munguia fight was a fight [in which] we were going at it from beginning to end but there were moments I was able to use my experience and be a veteran and control the pace and go to the body and do little tricks that I learned from Bernard that help you last in the sport. And even the skill [of] taking a punch, there’s an art to taking a punch. You can get hit flush or brush that shot off at the end where yeah it lands but it doesn’t affect you because it’s not landing flush.

BN: What has life been like since retirement?

GR: It’s been good. I’m learning a lot of new things. I got married. I caught up with my daughters. I have a seven-year-old and a 14-year-old. My 14-year-old spent the summer with me so that was good. And learning the art of commentating, studying these fighters, that’s really fun. And giving these young fighters pointers. Sometimes I feel like Bernard Hopkins (laughs) when I’m talking to these young kids. I’m helping them the way Bernard used to help me. I get excited when I see young talent. For example, the guy that I really like a lot is Diego Pacheco. I’ve worked with him for the last four to five years. I’ve seen his rise; we’ve sparred together, and I think he’s the future. I like to see young guys that don’t get caught up with the limelight because there’s a different era now. You’ve got social media and this and that so it’s easy for fighters to get caught up in the limelight and the fame. They forget to put in the work. And one thing about a guy like Pacheco is he’s in the ring, he’s working and he’s constantly getting better.

BN: You made your debut in Philadelphia the day before your 20th birthday. What are your memories of that time?

GR: My memories from that were I came in at 154lbs because I was a junior middleweight, and he [Phil Hicklin] came in at 166. He was a big dude. Not fat big, he was body builder big. I was so excited, and I had sold so many tickets I was like, I don’t care, let’s fight (laughs). And I remember my dad got so scared that his vision went blurry. I just clipped him [Hicklin] in the first round with an overhand right and I knocked him out. The crowd went crazy.

BN: How do you sum up your career and look back on it?

GR: I look at my career like you box how you live. And for me life has always been a fight. I come from North Philadelphia. It’s a violent, drug-infested neighbourhood but at the same time you get a lot of good things from these neighbourhoods. You got culture like Puerto Rican, and it was a predominantly Puerto Rican neighbourhood. You have all that, but everyone stays in North Philadelphia, no one thinks outside of North Philadelphia. And I had a dream to fight my way out of it. In life you’ve got these challenges, you just gotta fight through it and that’s just how my career’s been. I’ve always been the underdog. When I fought James Moore on ESPN [in 2008], he was the Olympian and I knock him down and win the fight or what happened with Bek the Bully. He’s knocking everybody out. He has many knockouts as an amateur and I knock him out. It’s just defeating the odds. I look at my career like this: Don’t listen to people and what they say you can do; just believe in your dream, be stubborn, do what you gotta do and put the work in and you can make something happen.

BN: What do you think would have happened to you had you not found boxing?

GR: I was definitely going down the wrong path. My environment, like I said, was violent. I learned how to fight because in Philadelphia – to get respect – you have to fight. I was street fighting since I was six years old. If I didn’t find boxing, I think I would have went the wrong route. A lot of my friends got killed or they went to jail. I remember this one time I got myself into some trouble in the streets and it was a big free-for-all fight. It was crazy. The cops got out there and we were running from the cops, and I escaped. I made it to my grandmother’s house. She had a window [that] I knew she would always have open, and I climbed the roof and snuck in through that window (laughs) to stay away from the cops. That was the time for me where I thought I could’ve went to jail. What am I doing? Why am I running these streets like this? I can’t do this no more. That’s when I told myself I’m going to the gym to box. I went to the gym and I never looked back and the gym pretty much saved me. It kept me off the streets, it kept me out of trouble, and it gave me a reason to stay focused and it gave me a dream, a vision.

BN: What would you say was the career highlight for you?

GR: There’s two times that stand out for me. One was when I beat Charles Whittaker in 2012 and it ranked me number one at 154. I went on the road that year on NBC Sports, I was knocking everybody out. I remember like, wow, I put myself in the number one ranking, the mandatory for the title. The second time would be when I reset and went with Freddie Roach and the gameplan with Freddie was I wanted to get back on that big stage, get a big fight, and a shot at the title. I had a goal and a vision and that’s when we went on that run where we beat Jacobs – whatever they say (Jacobs won a split decision against Rosado in 2020). And we did that in the pandemic in an empty arena. Then we got the knockout of Bek. Then there was that sold-out crowd when we fought Munguia, and it was Fight of the Year. I did come up short, but it was one of those where I put my mind to this and I really did it, we’re here and the fight was everything we could wish for as a fight fan.

BN: When you look at your own career you fought Kassim Ouma, Alfredo Angulo, Jesus Soto-Karass, Sechew Powell, Gennadiy Golovkin, Jaime Munguia, Martin Murray, Willie Monroe Jr, Joshua Clottey, Bek Melikuziev twice, Jermell Charlo, Peter Quillin….

GR: Curtis Stevens, Brian Vera, David Lemieux.

BN: Glen Tapia, Luis Arias, J’Leon Love, Fernando Guerrero… it reads like a who’s who. I counted 22 fights from your record when the opponent was a tough one. You must feel enormous self-respect that you fought so many times against these fighters.

GR: It’s probably what’s defined me and set me apart from a lot of different fighters and I think it’s the reason why it made me a fan-friendly fighter. I was always coming into a fight where it was like what is Gabe gonna bring to the table. Is this gonna be an upset? At the same time, it was a gift and a curse. There’s an art in how you move a fighter. So, for instance, when Canelo was coming up you couldn’t put Canelo in with [Miguel] Cotto. Cotto would have stopped that train fast. It’s the experience. You might not have a Canelo Alvarez now because Cotto could have ended that. It goes on with other fighters. When I beat Charles Whittaker and was mandatory for K-9 (Cornelius Bundrage, who held the IBF 154lbs strap). I would have beat K-9. He was about 40 something years old. I was a better fighter than K-9. But the team I had at the time thought that a fight with Golovkin on HBO at Madison Square Garden, moving up in weight, was the better move. Me being the young killer fighter, “Oh, we’re fighting Madison Square Garden on HBO. Alright, we’ll fight for the middleweight title of the world. Let’s do this!” You can’t talk me out of it, but I feel like that was a fumble with my team where they should’ve been smart and said, he’s not a middleweight yet. You gotta fully grow and develop into a weight. Golovkin was 30 at the time so he has his man strength and fully developed into the weight class. I was doing great at ’54. Like I said we could’ve won that title against K-9. I think that would’ve changed the course of things but when we got that fight with Golovkin – and even though it was brave, and the fans were like, wow! – I got beat and it got stopped on cuts. But that kept me stuck at middleweight because the ’54-pounders didn’t want to fight me no more and what happened was it took away my number one ranking because I moved up in weight and I no longer had a title fight. I was kinda obligated to stay at ’60 and then it was me trying to grow into the weight class. Everything’s about timing but the thing is that could’ve broken me, and it could’ve ended at that time for me. I figured it out, got myself back, and fought for another world title with Peter Quillin.

BN: So, that would be one of your regrets.

GR: My team should’ve handled that differently, but I don’t have regrets. At the end of the day, you gotta take responsibility on your own actions. Outside of that I think what’s important for young fighters to understand is one of the mistakes is when I did fight Golovkin and I kept on fighting these big fights; you get a different kind of recognition and the fight purses are more. You’re used to having nothing. Now you got some money and some fame, your ego gets in the way, you get a little distracted. Instead of putting the work in you want to go have fun, you want to go spend some money. And that affects you in a fight. You box how you live. A lot of guys think you only have to train when you have a fight. You have to stay in the gym. It’s a lifestyle. There was a lifestyle change as far as money and some fame which kinda distracted me. It took me some time to (clicks fingers) get back on course. That would be my advice to young fighters: When that money comes in don’t get excited just put it away, maybe invest it, and stay on course and keep the same lifestyle and the same focus. It’s a young man’s sport. You’re lucky to have eight to 10 years in the sport. Anything past that is a blessing.

BN: What does the future hold for you?

GR: Right now, I’m enjoying the commentating and staying busy with that. It’s not the same as fighting but it keeps me involved and it’s a reason to go back in the gym and keep working on my craft. I can’t be sitting down ringside talking about what this fighter’s doing wrong and I can’t throw a right hand anymore (laughs). I gotta make sure I’m on point, too. Maybe I’ll become a trainer one day and work with fighters but for right now I’m enjoying the commentating.