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Gabriel Rosado, Glen Tapia look to get back into title contention at middleweight

Middleweight Gabriel Rosado is looking for a victory against Glen Tapia to get back into title contention. Tom Hogan/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions

Despite the rampant proliferation of titles, not every boxer can be a champion. Nevertheless, fighters below that category often give far better value for the money than their more prestigious colleagues. Thursday's middleweight match between "King" Gabriel Rosado and Glen "Jersey Boy" Tapia at the Park Theater inside the Monte Carlo Las Vegas (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, 11 p.m. ET) should be one such bout. Win or lose, these two battle-tested veterans always give their all.

Boxers like Rosado (23-11, 1ND, 13 KOs) and Tapia (23-4, 15 KOs) have to have short memories. They can't dwell on past defeats and disappointments. After a while, each bout becomes a new beginning, another chance -- maybe the last chance -- to fulfill their dreams. The money is important, of course, but there's more to it than that.

"I want to entertain. ... This is what I live for," Tapia said. "I love boxing. I love being in that ring more than anything. I want to show people that I'm more than just a prospect, and I'm here to stay."

Rosado put it this way: "I was just a big fan of boxing, and I kind of knew that if I could get into it, I could go somewhere with it. It was just a feeling that I had. ... I got into it strong. I put 100 percent in it."

Tapia, from Passaic, New Jersey, went undefeated in his first 20 pro fights. Sure, he was carefully matched for most of the streak, but that came to an abrupt halt on Dec. 7, 2013, when he found himself swapping punches toe-to-toe with James Kirkland. The action was furious, and both were rocked numerous times, but Kirkland's harder punches proved the difference. A series of blows in the sixth round had Tapia in serious trouble when referee Steve Smoger stopped the fight.

The "Jersey Boy" rebounded with a trio of wins, followed by TKO losses to Michel Soro and top-10 contender David Lemieux, another vicious puncher. In his next and most recent fight, Tapia lost a 12-round decision to Jason Quigley.

The Quigley fight, however, was, to some extent, encouraging. Tapia fell behind early but had some good rallies down the stretch, giving the unbeaten Irishman his toughest test to date.

At one point it looked like Rosado might be one of those Philly dark horses, such as Buster Drayton and Freddie Pendleton, guys with sketchy records who seemingly came out of nowhere to a win world title. After losing a majority decision to Derek Ennis in 2010, Rosado put together a seven-fight win streak that included TKO wins over Sechew Powell and Jesus Soto Karass.

Although Rosado was the IBF's No. 1 contender at 154 pounds, an offer to move up to middleweight to challenge WBA titleholder Gennady Golovkin in January 2013 was too tempting to resist. He fought a courageous fight, and even lumped up GGG's face, but the talent gap was too wide.

By the time the fight was stopped in the seventh round, Rosado was reeling from a series of punches, his face smeared in blood. But his courageous stand against the hottest fighter in the word enhanced his reputation as gutsy tough guy who came to fight.

One would think that after a fight like that, Rosado would rethink his decision to fight as a middleweight. But that was apparently the last thing on his mind. In his second fight after GGG, he challenged WBO 160-pound titleholder Peter Quillin, which resulted in a 10th-round TKO loss.

But that wasn't the end of Rosado's matchmaking nightmare. He lost a unanimous decision to undefeated Jermell Charlo in January 2014 and was stopped by Lemieux in December. He's gone 2-2 since.

"I feel that Glen Tapia is the perfect fight where I can really put on a good performance," said the 31-year-old Rosado. "I'm excited. I think this is one of those fights where a big win would lead to some big middleweight [fights]."

Tapia, 27, also knows how crucial the fight is to his future.

"I just can't wait to fight. I'll let my hands talk," he said. "My fans still support me, but I want to prove to them that I'm still a great fighter and that I belong here. I put my heart on the line for the fans. You're going to see a very entertaining fight."

In the co-feature, KeAndre "The Truth" Gibson takes Alejandro Barrera in a welterweight bout schedule for 10 rounds.

Mexican veteran Barrera (26-3, 17 KOs) took almost two years off after being stopped by Errol Spence Jr. in November 2015, but he returned to action in July with an upset decision over Eddie Gomez. The 31-year-old Barrera had to overcome a seventh-round knockdown but outworked the New York prospect for much of the fight and deserved the verdict.

Gibson, 27, is also on a comeback following his knockout loss to Antonio Orozco on April 1. Orozco took the fight to Gibson, wore him down with body shots and knocked him out with a right hand in the fourth round. The loss certainly didn't humble the St. Louis native, now fighting out of Las Vegas.

"Alejandro Barrera is tough," Gibson said. "That's it."

Maybe. But Eddie Gomez thought the same thing.