After the Licata loss, Jimmy DePiano hired Slim Jim Robinson, his old fighter and a close friend, as Rossman's new trainer. It was a perfect match.
"When I got Mike, he was a counterpuncher," says Robinson. He says it with obvious distaste. "He'd sit back all night just waiting for the other guy to start something. I had to teach him to go forward, be aggressive, to take the lead."
In effect, Robinson made Rossman into an aggressive body puncher and a hooker who likes to mix it. With Robinson in his corner, Rossman won seven of his next eight fights, five by knockout; the other bout ended in a draw.
But his last knockout proved costly. In July of 1977 Rossman hit Marcel Clay so hard in the first round of their fight at Miami Beach that he tore ligaments in his right hand. He fought once more, winning a one-handed decision over Gary Summerhays at Madison Square Garden. Then he was forced to lay off for five months to give the hand time to heal.
While mending, Rossman discovered the good life. Signed to fight tough Yaqui Lopez last March, he was less than dedicated when he resumed training.
"It wasn't anything you could yell at him for," says DePiano. "He'd train. But he wasn't putting anything into it. And he wasn't getting anything out of it."
For five rounds against Lopez, Rossman was Rossman—and then he ran out of gas. In the corner after the sixth round, DePiano looked at his exhausted son and shook his head. "That's all," he said, waving his arms at Referee Pete Della.
"Dad was right in stopping it," Rossman says. "I just didn't train for the guy. I guess I thought I was so good I didn't have to. But for five rounds I beat the hell out of him. He was some winner: after the fight they took him to the hospital and put 23 stitches in his face. My punches chop people up. For five rounds I beat him good. But in the sixth round I could hardly stand up. I learned a lesson. Since then I haven't spent more than two weeks away from the gym after any fight. And I don't intend to."
His head once more reduced to normal size, Rossman began to train and fight with a vengeance. He knocked out both Lonnie Bennett and Matty Ross in two. Then he signed to fight Galindez for the championship.
Galindez is a short and powerful man, a brawler who fights well inside; he brawled so well that he had held the WBA light heavyweight title since 1974. The mean-looking Argentinian didn't expect many problems from his challenger, in spite of the fact that Rossman hadn't been knocked down or cut either as an amateur or professional.