"When I saw Camacho the first time I knew he had incredible talent and presence. Sure, Rosario could change, he's young. But I have the feeling it's like the leopard with his spots."
Jacobs, who purchased Rosario's contract from Siaca three years ago for $80,000, likes his spots. "I think he'll turn out to be a better investment than Benitez," says Jacobs, who, along with a partner, bought Benitez' contract for $75,000 in 1978. Benitez, the former junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight champion, has made about $6.5 million in purses since then.
Till now, the undefeated Rosario has been primarily a puncher with a cannon in either hand. Only one of his 17 pro fights has gone the distance, and in that, a decision over James Martinez on the Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns undercard in Las Vegas on Sept. 16, 1981, he won all 10 rounds according to two ring officials and nine according to the third. A sampling of what he has done:
He knocked out Refugio Rojas on June 25, 1981 with a right to the chin, followed by a left cross. A smashing left to the nose took out Roberto Garcia five months later. In his next fight he flattened Ernesto Herrera with one punch to the body. He unleashed a barrage of rights and lefts to chop down the latter-day Ezzard Charles in the third round of his next fight. Impressive, yes, but hardly a championship strain of opponents.
Most observers thought Edwin Viruet, a tough, experienced pro who had gone 25 rounds in two losses to Roberto Duran (one of them a split decision) and 15 rounds in another loss to Esteban DeJesus, Rosario's personal hero, would be a tough match for Rosario when they met in Las Vegas in May of 1982. But Rosario stunned Viruet with a straight right in the second round and nearly finished him off. In the third, Rosario was against the ropes when Viruet hit him with a left to the head. Rosario quickly spun off and threw a bomb of a right to the head that knocked Viruet out.
Rosario may appear to be less skilled as a boxer than he is because the style taught him by Siaca calls for him to stay close to his opponent. He slips punches primarily by bobbing and weaving, rarely by stepping back or ducking his head, and he does very little dancing. Though he's not a Joe Frazier type—take three punches to give one good one—he's usually in a position to strike. The big test for him, then, will come when a heavy hitter like Camacho stuns him and forces him to alter his close-range attack. It hasn't happened yet. In 30 amateur bouts—Rosario lost only two—and 17 as a pro, he has never been in real trouble.
Certainly, Rosario would like to score a knockout Sunday, in his first bout before the home folks in more than three years. But he may have to rely on his boxing skills more than his punching power because last June he broke the scaphoid bone in his right wrist on the head of sparring partner Blaine Dixon. Only time, and Ramirez, will tell if the injury has affected his punching power.
The boxing genes in the Rosario family were passed down from Pastor Rosario, Edwin's paternal grandfather. Pastor was a handsome man with smooth mocha, or trigueño, coloring like Edwin's, but he was tough and he liked to fight in the streets. "He would fight anywhere, anytime," says Antonio Rosario, Pastor's son and Edwin's father. "He hit someone and they could not get up."
Pastor and his wife, Juanita Montes, had 19 children, of whom Antonio is the oldest. All except one of the children were born in Puerto Rico, but Antonio's parents spent much of their life in Allentown, Pa. Antonio liked it better in his native land and stayed in Santurce, a suburb of San Juan. At age 19 he took a civil service job and later married Elizabeth Rivera. Shortly after the last of their five children was born, the Rosarios bought a lot in Ingenio, a suburb of Toa Baja, where they live today in a small house.
When Luis, Edwin's 29-year-old brother, was a teen-ager, a neighbor brought him to Siaca's gym in Levittown, about 10 miles from Ingenio. One of Luis' nicknames was "Chapotin," after the dolphin Flipper. Luis was an excellent boxer, and almost anyone who saw both brothers in action says Luis was better than Edwin. "He was as good a boxer and puncher as you'll see," Siaca says. "He would've been a champion, I'm sure of it. I saw him put Wilfredo Gomez down in the gym. He had a straight right hand like nobody's you ever saw."