Brian Rose - The Comeback KidWritten by Stuart Law
Brian 'The Lion' Rose, British Light-Middleweight champion. A dream fulfilled. But Rose's bumpy ride to the top of his domestic division has seen injury, tragedy and a devastating knockout defeat thrown at the engaging 27 year old from the Lancashire seaside town of Blackpool.
Currently in training, Rose 18-1-1 (5 KO's) lives with his trainer Bobby Rimmer (former cornerman and assistant trainer to Ricky Hatton) for about ten weeks before the fight. "I've got a son (Oscar - named after Rose's idol De La Hoya) who is nine months old so every Saturday night I go home, see my son and come back on the Sunday. It keeps you right, emotionally. It would be horrible not seeing him for ten weeks at a time."
Rose had a successful amateur career, winning 78 of 90 fights in the unpaid ranks. National and European honours were also achieved. But the switch to the pros in 2005 immediately brought about mixed fortunes.
"A lot of people don't know that after my first pro fight (a points victory in a six rounder in his home town of Blackpool) I got hit by my armpit and it caused a damaged nerve and a trapped nerve and the muscles in my shoulder blade stopped working so I needed it operated on" explains Rose. "It all went to plan and a year later I was able to fight again. So I didn't get off to the best start."
By 2007 Rose was back in action and the winning run continued, six bouts successfully negotiated in the calendar year. 2008 saw a draw followed by three points wins. In 2009 Rose scored a second round TKO victory and followed that up with two more successes on points. Then in October of the same year came the opportunity Rose had been waiting for - a Central Area Light Middleweight title bout against Jason Rushton. The fight would have a huge and lasting impact on both men. In the moments after the fight, a TKO victory for Rose in the tenth round, Rushton collapsed. He was rushed to hospital and put into an induced coma for bleeding on the brain before undergoing an emergency operation. Jason continues to battle back from his injuries today.
"It nearly ended my career if I'm honest," Rose says candidly. "That fight was the first title I ever won so I went from winning my first title to, in the space of five minutes, seeing Jason collapse on the way to the dressing room. So it was mixed emotions, horrible. A couple of days later I went to see him in hospital and I think I went too soon because he had all his family around his bed and he couldn't feed himself properly. I ran out of the hospital in tears."
"I'm not like most boxers, who would see this as a job, just business and something they've got to do. But me, I'm not like that. I felt like I'd done something wrong. But obviously now I have realised, after seeing the phsycholgist, that it wasn't my fault, it's just what it is, you know it could have happened to me."
That pshychologist is Emma James. "She's brilliant." says Rose. "I'd suggest any boxer that's got any mental issues or mental problems to go and see a pshycholgist. Especially Emma James. I can honestly say she saved my career, she really did. It wasn't until after I got beat by Max Maxwell I realised I that had these problems. I went from my best performance against Jason Rushton to my worst against Max Maxwell where I felt like every time he threw a punch I was basically scared of getting hit. I was backing onto the ropes, protecting myself and not taking a risk. It wasn't until after the fight that we realised I was still affected by the Jason Rushton fight."
The defeat to Maxwell, the only loss on Rose's pro record was a stunning sixth round TKO loss, having been sent face first to the canvas by a flush right hand. Rose considers the mitigating factors for that defeat. "I always train the same, Bobby always gets me super-fit." explains the Lancastrian. "We're never not fit. There might have been things I was doing wrong in the gym because I was thinking about Jason. I might not have been fully committed to the sport. I wasn't as interested as I am now - I absolutely love training. I can remember a time in the gym leading up to the Maxwell fight when I thought 'I don't really want to be here.' I really wasn't ready for that fight mentally and maybe physically."
The relationship with Rimmer is the cornerstone of Rose' success. Rose describes Rimmer as simply "Brilliant." Rose continues, "I don't think the things I've done, I could have done without Bobby. We've got such a strong relationship and that's why I'm made up to live with him. Most boxers would get underneath their trainers feet and they'd end up probably killing each other (laughs) but me and Bobby get on great. I'm in a very lucky position. Most boxers can't live with their trainer because they [the trainers] have families and other commitments but Bobby puts himself out for me and sacrifices a lot for me to come and live and train with him."
Rose goes on, "Living with Bobby, he's like my second Dad you know, when we train there's no missing a run or having a chocolate bar because we don't have that stuff in the house and if he caught me with a chocolate bar he'd slap me around the head! It just doesn't happen. It would be hard living at home with my girlfriend and my baby. She'd be in the cookie jar and I'd be at it with her so it's good I can come away to camp."
"The only thing I don't like is the dieting. I don't have to diet that hard, I've never struggled with my weight so I can imagine for some people it's worse than for me so I'm just moaning (laughs again). But it's just part of the sport, something you've got to do. I walk around at 11 st 8/9 then get down to 11 st."
Rimmer also takes charge in the gym. "At the moment Bobby does everything. I'm starting to working with a strength and conditioning trainer twice just to make me that little bit stronger. We want to try something new. But that's it, Bobby does everything else. You see people walk into a room with a big entourage but we don't need that, we just crack on with it."
Rose won his comeback fight in 2010 and was rewarded with a fight for the vacant English title, which he won by UD. A TKO defence followed and then came The Lion's big break - a British title fight last December. The opponent and belt holder was the awkward a Prince Arron who stands at 6' 3". Despite Arron going into the fight on the back of three impressive stoppages, Rose remained upbeat.
"I've never been so confident about a fight in my life." he explains. "Obviously when I started off fighting journeyman I was very confident of beating them of course, but for the British title and for the odds to be stacked against me, I was very confident and you could see how relaxed I was going into the ring. Leading up to the fight, Bobby convinced me. Everything we said during camp, we did on the night. We knew the fight would go like that, that I'd be in control of the fight. I knew I was better technically, I knew I was the better boxer. I've got a good pedigree as an amateur and I knew that would count on the night."
As the Fight went on, Rose grew further in confidence – "Price Arron can punch, he'd knocked out his last three opponents. He did catch me flush a couple of times but as the fight went on I knew I could take his best shots. That's why I was taking more of a risk. There were times I could have thrown more punches and taken it to him but we had a game plan and I just stuck to it. Bobby kept calming me down in the corner and that's what I needed. He stopped the lid coming off."
Rose got the SD victory but the performance suggested a UD would have been more appropriate. The victory brought Rose not only the cherished British belt, but also the 2011 'Comeback Of The Year' award from the British Boxing Board of Control.
"It meant a lot because it's good to know people recognise me for not just winning a British title but for what I've come through to win the British title. The tragedy with Jason Rushton and then getting knocked out by Max Maxwell. At one point I didn't even see a way back so God knows how anyone else could see me coming back. So to win an English title, defend it, then win a British title, it's good to be recognised by the BBBoC. Most people would say it's not a great award to win, because it's a comeback, but for me it's good to be recognised for that."
Immediately after securing the British title Rose's focus switched to righting the wrong on his record.
On March 31 Rose makes the first defence of his title against the one man to beat him as a pro. "I've not picked who I fight, I've never been in a position where I can say 'I want to fight him' but now it's my voluntary defence, I'm allowed to pick who I want to fight and I want to fight Max Maxwell to put things right and I don't think I can move on until I do put things right. On the night they'll be people saying Max Maxwell doesn't deserve a shot at the British title but for me it's all about putting things right." the champion explains with convition.
Would he give Prince Arron a rematch? "No. I've got a voluntary defence and I've chosen Max Maxwell, then I've got to fight whoever is mandatory so it's not up to me. If Prince Arron got himself into a mandatory position I'd have to fight him but there's nothing for me in that fight. If it had been a thriller, you know he put me down then I put him down then yeah, everyone would be asking for the rematch but I don't think anyone would want to see the rematch because the same thing would happen."
'The Lion' then considers his immediate and long term targets. "Realistically I want 3 defences of my British title. I want to own the belt outright because It's the best belt in the world, for me. Then I want to move on to maybe Commonwealth, then European level. Then who knows? Stranger things have happened. We could fight at world level."
Switching to boxing in general, Rose talks through his thoughts on the general boxing scene "I saw the Kirkland-Angulo fight. I was in bed and Bobby shouted 'you've got to watch this fight' and he made me get up and watch it. It was brilliant. Just two heavy handed guys that wouldn't take a backwards step."
On the fight the world wants to see, Rose only sees one winner. "I definitely fancy Mayweather. I've said that for three or four years while it's being going on. Floyd Mayweather is too good technically and his defence would be too good for Pacqiauo.". Rose is also confident in who he sees taking on the mantle of p4p champ when Mayweather and Pacquiao hang them up. "I think Andre Ward is going to be the next p4p champ. I think the performance against Carl Froch was just outstanding."
Rose believes British boxing is in a healthy state with a number of fighters looking to reach world level this year. "Kell Brook is the one to watch out for this year, but there are loads. Matthew Macklin, Stephen Smith, Anthony Crolla. Loads who could crack it this year. But Kell is a real talent and I've been saying for a couple of years that he will make it."
Rose describes the Light-Middleweight division in Britain, which also contains Ryan Rhodes, Sam Webb, Matthew Hall and unbeaten starlets Joe Selkirk and Jamie Cox as "Red hot." Rose continues, "The British title keeps changing hands so it shows how good the competition is. You've got Erick Ochieng who looked good winning the English title. Steve O'Meara, he's knocked out his last two opponents so he's flying as well. You can't take anyone for granted. I've just go to get as fit as I can. I want to keep hold of my title and everyone wants to win my title so it's harder to keep it than win it."
Outside of the UK, Rose believes the division is also very strong. "It's red hot at world level too. You've got Alvarez, Cotto, world class fighters. Hopefully they'll move on or retire maybe, especially Cotto! (laughs). I'd have a go at that Alvarez though. Yeah, I would fancy that. Maybe not at the moment, I've got things to do domestically and at European level before I could even think about a world title. It seems daft at the moment even thinking about that. I've looked past fighters before and I'll never do it again. But Alvarez could be one for the future, he's only young himself."
One senses the lows have made the highs that little bit more special for Rose, but his feet are firmly on the ground. The title may be round his waist and the award on the bookshelf, but the comeback is not yet quite complete. On March 31, Rose can make it so.
Website - www.roseboxing.com
Twitter - @Brian_Lion_Rose