Big Knockout Boxing is back for a second show as middleweights Gabriel Rosado and Curtis Stevens are set to do battle in the pit.
Last August, BKB made its debut with Rosado winning the promotion's middleweight title by sixth-round knockout of Bryan Vera. He will defend the belt against Stevens in the main event of a five-fight broadcast on Saturday (PPV, 10 p.m. ET) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
"The first one was a bang with Bryan Vera. It was exciting for the fans and exciting for me, so I'm just looking forward to the opportunity of putting another show," Rosado said.
Said Stevens, "BKB, I like it because it's like you can't run, nowhere to hide in general and [I'm] facing Gabe Rosado. So, it should be fireworks."
BKB follows the same rules as boxing, but with a twist. While the results do not count on a fighter's official boxing record, they use the same gloves and the fights are still regulated by the Nevada State Athletic Commission with the same 10-point-must system in judging and medical safety standards as official boxing matches
The big differences are that fights consist of two-minute rounds instead of three (title bouts are seven rounds and nontitle bouts are five), and the fighting surface is not a 20-by-20-foot boxing ring with ropes and corners. Instead, they fight in BKB's 17-foot "pit," which has no ropes or corners. Penalties are assessed to a fighter who intentionally steps out of the pit into a padded safety zone. In other words, step out of the pit on purpose and the referee will administer an eight-count as though it was a knockdown.
BKB hopes that by having shorter fights and rounds, and having them take place in a smaller area with little room to maneuver, they will generate more offense and, therefore, result in more explosive action -- resulting in big knockouts.
Defensive-minded boxers who like to dance, move and run need not apply, which is why fighters such as Rosado and Stevens, both with fan-friendly styles, seem made for the type of fight BKB hopes to generate.
"The sport of BKB is about finding the most aggressive, offensive-minded fighters to go toe-to-toe in the pit," said Bruce Binkow, executive director of BKB.
The fighters should have additional motivation to score a knockout because BKB will award a $30,000 bonus to Rosado or Stevens on top of their purse if they win by stoppage.
"I'm not afraid of anyone and when I enter the pit. I'll be ready to implement my training and experience in this format to knock Stevens out," Rosado said.
Said Stevens, "The $30,000 bonus is just more incentive for me to knock out Rosado and become BKB middleweight champion. Make sure you have the check written out to Curtis 'Showtime' Stevens."
Saturday's card will also include an innovation that has been in the works for about two years. Fighters will have dime-sized microchips (approved by the commission) implanted in the wrist of their gloves that will, for the television audience, measure the velocity and the force of punches in real time, although the crowd in the arena and the judges will not have access to those statistics.
When Rosado fought on the August BKB card he was coming off a four-fight winless streak, going 0-3 with a no decision, including losing two world title bouts to Gennady Golovkin and Peter Quillin. The win against Vera was impressive enough that Rosado parlayed into an HBO fight against rising contender David Lemieux in December. Rosado lost by 10th-round knockout because of an eye injury.
So Rosado (21-9, 13 KOs in official boxing), 29, of Philadelphia, is in a similar position as last time -- still in a losing rut in official fights and hoping a victory over Stevens will earn him another notable bout. Stevens (27-5, 20 KOs), 30, of New York, is also in a similar situation. He is 2-2 in his last four boxing matches, including a knockout loss to Golovkin in a world title bout, as well as a decision loss in his last fight to Hassan N'Dam in an October title eliminator.
Stevens thinks the format should suit his aggressive style, as does his new trainer, former three-division world champion Shane Mosley, who has begun to train fighters since retiring in late 2013.
"There's no ropes within the BKB format, so it should fit myself very well," Stevens said. "But I'm a fighter in general. So you can put me in any area. I'm going to fight regardless. So it doesn't really matter with ropes or no ropes. I'm going to fight. I'm going to fight whether it's a circle, square or triangle, octagon."
Mosley, who has taken over training Stevens from Stevens' uncle, Andre Rosier, has known Stevens for many years. He attended Stevens' loss to N'Dam and visited him in the dressing room after the fight.
"I wasn't trying to train him but I saw him at the fight he lost and I was explaining some things to him," Mosley said. "Jolene [Mizzone of Main Events, Stevens' promoter] was like, 'Wow, you're a teacher.' Later, Jolene gave me a call and asked me to show him some things. I think Curtis had just gotten away from some things he was doing.
"I noticed he wasn't cutting off the ring and it was like a mental glitch. He could do it but he got away from it. I had to remind him and I've shown him other things in the gym. I think I've already made a big difference. I think he punches harder than anyone in the 160-pound division. I never felt anyone punch so hard through the mitts."
Said Stevens, "After my last fight, he came in the back and just was telling me where I was having problems and he offered a helping hand. So I'd be a fool not take on a helping hand from a future Hall of Famer and Sugar Shane Mosley."
Mosley said Stevens has been an excellent student, which has him excited.
"I love to train to the fighters, especially the ones that are really excited about working hard and training hard," Mosley said. "It's real easy to help a fighter who really wants it. On the training side of things I still get in the ring and throw punches. It's like you're fighting yourself. I'm getting ready to fight with him. I just don't have to take the punishment.
"I know Curtis is listening to me. Whether he will do it in the fight, I don't know but the people around him say he looks a lot better since we've been working together. But his uncle taught him. The house was already built. All I'm doing is tweaking a couple of things, but those little tweaks will make a difference in the fight."
Stevens left New York for training camp and went away to Mosley's compound in Big Bear Lake, California, where he trained for so many of his big fights.
Stevens had nothing but good things to say about his new trainer.
"Oh, Sugar Shane, it's cool. It's great," Stevens said. "He's showing me different aspects, different things that I stopped doing and bringing it back. He's a fighter. He has been in the ring. So things that my uncle [should] have showed me, Shane has shown me because he has been in the ring for numerous years and been fighting as a pro. So it's just different that he has been in there."
One thing Mosley did to try to simulate the pit was not even on purpose. Mosley always trained in a smallish ring -- the same one he had Stevens training in.
"The pit is around the same size as the ring I have in Big Bear," Mosley said. "He's used to that size ring or pit, if you will. Curtis is more of a puncher and he wants to go forward. He's not really on the ropes anyway. I noticed that sometimes Curtis would let rounds slip away and not move his hands until the end of the round. But we are ready to go fast for two minutes."
Rosado said his experience in the pit will work to his advantage.
"You can definitely put the experience factor on my side, performing in BKB already," he said. "I'm familiar with the ring. But, at the end of the day, being a true fighter, once the bell rings, you kind of lose yourself in the fight. You don't think too much of it; at least I didn't."
Said Mosley, "It could be an advantage for Rosado because he has been in the pit but Curtis hits a lot harder and is a lot faster than that other guy [Vera] he fought. Curtis is a totally different fighter."