Boxing Movies
121715_rosado1_ Tom Casino/Showtime

Philly fighter Gabriel Rosado plays Leo “The Lion” Sporino in “Creed.”

December 17, 2015

Philly fighter Gabriel Rosado punched by acting bug in "Creed"

Gabriel Rosado was in camp mode. That mental barricade that fighters build when preparing for a big fight, pushing away the remnants of the outside world and honing that lunatic fringe they need to step into the ring. So it’s a wonder the Philadelphia super welterweight heard anything that afternoon in a Los Angeles gym a year ago when someone approached him about a movie role.

Rosado, who is fighting Joshua Clottey this Saturday at the Turning Stone Casino, in Verona, N.Y. on HBO, stepped back with a sneer, took a second to visually measure the man, shrugged and said, “Why not.”

“I thought he was blowing smoke,” Rosado recalled. “You’re in Los Angeles, everyone is doing something with movies. But this guy seemed like a nice guy. I didn’t even know who he was. I guess what’s happened to me has involved a little luck. I was in LA and thought about giving acting a try. You have to take a risk. Apparently the guy who approached me that day was someone real.”

Apparently.

"I don’t play games, man. I need to do something after my boxing career ends. I just ran into this guy at the gym one day, and he thought the Leo character was a good role for me."

A week later, Rosado met with writer/director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan about playing an integral role in the movie "Creed." Soon after, without auditioning for the part, Rosado landed the role of undefeated Philly light heavyweight Leo “The Lion” Sporino, who is one of the early antagonists of Adonis Johnson, Jordan’s character and centerpiece in the movie.

“I was out there in Los Angeles and thought about pursuing a movie career and continue boxing,” Rosado said. “Remember, I was 18 when I started boxing. Everyone laughed about it. They told me I was too old at 18 to think about getting into boxing. I told them that I was going to be on HBO one day. I’m just that type of guy that if I put my mind to something and I believe in it, I’ll do it. The next thing you know, I’m fighting for world titles on HBO.

“I’m a firm believer when you go out all, things happen. I moved to Los Angeles with the thought about acting. I even began taking some acting classes. I don’t play games, man. I need to do something after my boxing career ends. I just ran into this guy at the gym one day, and he thought the Leo character was a good role for me. I went to see Coogler and everything worked out well.”

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Leo “The Lion” Sporino, right, fights Adonis Johnson in the movie “Creed.” (Warner Brothers)

In a sense, Rosado is playing a younger version of himself—a rising Philly fighter who is looking to make a big splash on the national scene.

Rosado flew back to Philadelphia, where he was born and raised, to shoot at the Sun Center Studios in Aston, Delaware County, where some of the training and fighting sequences in "Creed" were filmed.

“The fight scene between me and Michael was a 10-hour shoot,” Rosado said. “That by far took the longest. You want to get everything right. The foot work, the fight choreography. I was actually in "Annapolis," with James Franco and Tyrese (Gibson), when they shot at the Blue Horizon in Philly. I didn’t have as big a part as I did in "Creed," but it gave me an idea of what shooting a movie is all about. I got a chance to meet Sylvester Stallone when we were shooting in (Aston). He’s stayed in contact with me. He’s given advice and steers me in the right direction as to who I need to talk to, and his brother, Frank, too. Sly told me to act every scene as if it’s your last because you don’t know what part that they’ll actually use for the film. I’m here exhausted after 10 hours, and he kept on me about shooting every scene like it’s your last.

“Hearing that from him gave me new energy. I made sure I aced every take. Acting in some respects is a lot like fighting. You need to maintain that mental focus when you’re dead tired. People see all the glitz and glamor with movies. But there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. Actors put in long days. It’s been kind of cool, though because I’m starting to get calls about other shows and opportunities. I’m still a fighter first. That’s where all my focus is being placed. I have a new trainer, (former world champion) Fernando Vargas, and all my focus is being placed on Clottey.”

Rosado is 29 and has a great reputation in the boxing world as an action fighter. But he’s also someone who busts up easily. This Saturday poses a looming threat for Rosado, who is 21-9, with 13 KOs, and hasn’t won a fight since 2012. Granted, he’s taken on a row of killers like Gennady Golovkin, Peter Quillin, Jermell Charlo and David Lemieux. The only fight that he was able to go the distance in was against Charlo (Rosado lost to J’Leon Love in May 2013, but that decision was overturned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission when Love tested positive for a banned diuretic).

The scheduled 10-round Clottey fight could serve as Rosado’s personal referendum as to whether or not he’ll continue boxing, or throw all of his attention to acting.

“Fernando is someone who is all business, he’s a former champion and he knows what he’s doing,” Rosado said. “My confidence keeps growing day by day and I’m having a good time training for this fight. I really can’t wait. It’s the same card that Bryant Jennings and Jason Sosa (from Camden) are on, so it will be a Phillyfest. We’ll see what happens. I win, I’ll keep fighting. If I lose, who knows? I like acting and "Creed" has given me a nice start. The movie is as good as the first one, maybe better. I’m enjoying the moment right now. I have the best of both worlds. I’m still able to fight and I’m beginning this new world in acting. I am still a fighter first. That hasn’t changed yet.”


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