May 15, 2013

KO Digest Spotlight on Boxing's Up and Comers - J'Leon Love

Tainted Love?
By Terry Strawson - Controversy is a word  frequently uttered in the sport of boxing. More recent than Tim Bradley's decision over Manny Pacquiao and further back than Muhammad Ali's rematch knockout of Sonny Liston, boxing and its participants, in and out of the ring, have often been at the center of sporting controversies.

The opening bout on the recent May Day PPV card between J'Leon Love (16-0, 8 KOs) and Gabriel Rosado (21-7, 13KOs) should avoid such infamy, however, many felt the judge's split decision in favor of Love was somewhat controversial. It was a close fight that saw Love, an undefeated middleweight prospect fighting out of Las Vegas, get off the canvas to come out victorious with his biggest win to date.

Born on September 25, 1987 in Inkster, MI, Love was raised in and around Detroit until his recent move to Las Vegas. He was troublesome as a youth and not unfamiliar with combat during his childhood. "I've always been fighting, all my life, on the streets. It was just something that I loved to do. When I was about 14 or 15, my Dad and my cousin took me down to the Kronk Boxing Gym in Detroit and it all started from there."

Love got his start at KRONK
During his time in the unpaid ranks, Love racked up over a hundred victories with only a handful of losses in an amateur career that saw him capture more than a few titles. "I don't remember my record but I had a lot of fights," said Love "I represented the United States in different duels and tournaments all over the world. I fought a lot of the top amateurs and Olympians. I had a pretty extensive background in the amateurs and that's what gives me the experience now."

As a pro, Love is a boxer-puncher. Fighting primarily from the outside, Love is capable close-up. His jab is used as a weapon and to disguise the straight right hand he snaps to the head—and sinks into the body of his often helpless opponents. Aided by the jab and hard right hand that follows it, Love looks to get his head into his opponent's chest to fire off hooks, both left and right, before picking an angle from which to exit. He is not considered to possess the most frightening power in the sport but as of now, one in two are put to sleep. Not a bad ratio. His first knockout victory was registered in his very first professional outing.

"In 2010 I had my pro debut against Vince Burkhalter in Connecticut. It was a first round knockout," recalled Love "I think I got him out of there in a minute and some change. When you first start off they kinda ease you in, so the first few guys, I was just running through 'em."

Having disposed of a further three opponents inside the distance, Love was now undefeated in four professional fights with four knockouts when he almost overdosed on confidence. As he readied himself to take on Fernando Calleros (1-1-1), an unknown from Albuquerque, NM, Love failed to apply the hard work and dedication that's required of him today and it almost proved costly. "There was one fight that I didn't really train for, it was my fifth fight, some Mexican guy, I cant really remember his name—Fernando something, and I took him lightly. I was just whatever, you know, all I had to do was make weight. Normally I look at guy's records, see who they have fought, do my research. But I was knocking these guys out and I kinda took this dude lightly. I was like whatever, I'm gonna fight him, beat him, probably knock him out and just go about my day. But he came to fight and he was determined to win. He stayed in my chest for every second of every round and it was a wake-up call," said Love, who escaped with the victory that night.

No more Love for Lou DiBella
Love refocused himself after the fight against Calleros and alongside longtime trainer Angel Caraballo, continued to notch up the victories one way or another. His style of fighting from the outside, choosing spots in which to trade, was proving too much for the opposition and drawing comparisons, from Floyd Mayweather Jr, to ring legend Miguel Cotto.

"I was actually signed with DiBella Entertainment [at the time] and my adviser Greg Leon and I went to camp with Mayweather to help him get ready for Cotto. We put in some great work, some tremendous and very challenging sparring for me and him. We would spar almost every day and do like six, seven or eight minute rounds so Floyd showed me a lot of love and said I could fight," recounted Love.

"Roger [Mayweather] gave me my props and, you know, Roger really liked me, and so did the rest of the camp, then Leonard Ellerbe and Floyd pulled me to the side and said, 'Yo, we wanna sign you!' and they pretty much just reached out to Greg Leon and Lou DiBella and cancelled my deal, and bought me out of my contract and here I am today with Mayweather Promotions. I'm from Michigan, Floyd is from Michigan and that is someone you definitely want to be around and learn from. He's one of the greatest fighters to ever put on gloves. It's a definitely a dream come true. Mayweather Promotions is on the rise and Mayweather is still at the top of the food chain, and beating these guys easily."

Mayweather and Love
Love and 'The Money Team' appear to be a good fit so far. On the undercard of Cornelius Bundrage and Ishe Smith last February, in his hometown of Detroit, Love cruised to victory over the battle tested Derrick Findley. Findley, who had come up short against Andre Ward, Andre Dirrell and Fernando Guerrero amongst others, was coming into the fight with Love on the back of an impressive knockout of Ronald Hearns, son of motor city legend Thomas 'Hitman' Hearns.

His most recent outing came against the aforementioned Gabriel Rosado on the undercard of Mayweather Jr against Robert Guerrero just under two weeks ago. Rosado, who arrived at that point after a career filled with tough fights and harsh decisions, was entering the ring after a beating at the hands of WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin earlier this year. A massive opportunity presented itself for both men and things boiled over at the official weigh-in at the MGM Grand.

"That was just two men ready to fight. At the end of the day, he has never done nothing to me and I never done nothing to him, so it was just two guys ready to go at it, you know. It's part of boxing but I respect Rosado and his team and his trainer Billie Briscoe one thousand percent. All his fans, I respect them too. We fought a great fight." 

No love lost between Love and Rosado
They certainly did.

Love got off to a bright start, in front of a respectable crowd at the MGM Grand. On his toes and behind a jab, he was able to take control of the first two rounds. The third stanza was closer and a case could be made for Rosado winning the round. A good fight was unfolding. With the jab, Love was dictating the pace of the fight while Rosado was following, but gaining. In the sixth round, of their scheduled ten-rounder for the vacant NABF middleweight title, Rosado caught Love near the ropes with a hefty right hand that sent the Mayweather Promotions fighter to the canvas.

A real fight was heating up. "I knew I had to turn it up because a knockdown is a knockdown. It's a 10-8 round," said Love "When he caught me coming in, it was a shot I didn't see coming. I wasn't hurt. I jumped my ass right back up. I'm never going to quit, I'm never going to fold, I'm a fighter. It's not in my blood to ever stop or quit, I'm gonna bite down and do what I gotta do. Rosado, excuse my language, is a fucking beast. I can't really knock him for anything. He came to fight. He did a lot of veteran moves, a lot of things in this fight that a veteran is supposed to do and he pulled all his tricks out. I definitely believe that we made a great fight, the things I was doing, and the things he was doing just made it a great fight."

Love and Rosado made a great fight
It was an even, well contested bout that fans should be grateful for and the fight went down to the wire. Love was awarded the official decision by split scores of 95-94 for Rosado and 95-94 and 97-92 in favor of Love. The crowd, for the most part, seemed to show their disapproval as a chorus of 'boos' sounded around the MGM. Rosado certainly did not agree with the decision but like Love, KO Digest felt the winner had done just enough to win.

"The 'boos' come with the territory. Of course you want to perform good and win decisively, but there's two tough, very talented guys fighting. When it comes down to it, it was a very close fight. I can honestly say that he won more than two rounds," said Love in reference to judge Herb Santos' score of 97-92. "I believe I did enough to win though and enough to pull it off because I was winning the rounds. Round by round, I was out-boxing him. He did turn it up after the knockdown, he really did but, I turned it up too and I believe I hurt him in the fight also."

It was a great night for Love. He displayed solid boxing ability throughout the fight and showed a resilience and determination that is required of all those wanting to succeed at the highest level. He left it all in the ring against a proven yet rugged, never-say-die type of fighter like Rosado and he is willing to do it all over again. If a rematch with Rosado does not materialize, like it probably should, there are other options available.

Love, along with his supreme confidence and tremendous ability, has boxing powerhouses Floyd Mayweather Jr, and Al Haymon on his side. His victory, however close or controversial you may have deemed it, demonstrated his worth at middleweight. Love showed quality during the fight and maintained class amidst the boos and interviews that followed. 

World Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez and alphabet titlists Gennady Golovkin and Peter Quillin may be just out of reach in the immediate future but Love is on the right path to an extremely bright future. The next twelve months should provide us with a couple more exciting fights, and Love himself has his sights set upon the division's elite over the course of the year. "I hope to be closer to a world title, if not a world champion, at least right there at the mark to challenge a world champion. I'll fight anybody, the top guys, I want the best."

Written by Terry Strawson ~ exclusively for KO Digest

Look for a new KO Digest Spotlight on Up & Comers on the 15th of every month!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Just hours after we published this spotlight on Love, news broke via Twitter from Dan Rafael at ESPN that according to Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Love tested positive for the banned diueretic hydrochlorothiazide in the aftermath of his win over Gabriel Rosado. Love now faces the possibility of his NABF title win over Rosado being overturned or ruled a no-contest, as well as fines and suspensions.  

KO Digest Update 6/28/13 - A six month suspension, a $10,000 fine, and the result of his NABF middleweight title "win" over Gabe Rosado has been overturned to a No Contest (NC) because J'Leon Love failed a post-Rosado-fight drug test for the banned diuretic hydrochlorothiazide. #Tainted Love