It was unusually quiet as the last of the crowd slowly shuffled out of the 2300 Arena last Friday and into the wind-lashed South Philly night. Many of the faces wore a stunned expression. The boxer they came to see had been knocked unconscious and carried from the ring on a stretcher.
Boxing promoter Michelle Rosado stood ringside, trying to accommodate the cluster of people vying for her attention. She was reassuring and professional, but you could see the worry in her eyes.
"This was my greatest nightmare," Rosado said.
She has come a long way since that first promotion in Phoenix, more than seven years ago. There were five more successful shows in Arizona before Rosado return to her roots and made her Philadelphia debut.
She was fortunate to have undefeated bantamweight Christian Carto fighting in the main event. There was buzz around him, with premature comparisons to outstanding South Philly boxers from the past.
Rosado called the show the "Philly Special," a catchphrase that will live on in Philadelphia vernacular until the end of time, thanks to a memorable Eagles touchdown in the 2017 Super Bowl.
Eventually, it will be used to sell everything from hoagies to oil changes. But the Raging Babe got there first and marketed the hell out of it -- social media, press conferences, media get-togethers, open workouts and a billboard on a major artery that the boxers loved to drive past.
Her hard work and confidence were rewarded with 1,433 paying customers.
Rosado, working with the Carto family, envisioned Christian eventually moving to larger venues and big-money fights. But when Tijuana's Victor Ruiz (23-10-1, 16 KOs) planted a left hook flush on Carto's jaw in the second round, the future suddenly didn't look so sanguine.
Ruiz's punch landed with such force, Carto (17-1, 12 KOs) was out before he landed on his back with an alarming thud that made the ring floor shudder. Referee Eric Dali immediately waved off the fight. The star of the night was unconscious.
"I had a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach," Rosado said.
Carto remained on his back for what seemed like an eternity before he was carried out of the ring. He was taken to a hospital, examined and released, presumably in reasonably good health for a man who had just suffered a concussion.
It was the latest episode in the education Rosado, a bumpy journey of discovery that started when she was a kid watching boxing with her late father, Anibal, at their home in Bristol, Pennsylvania, a town 23 miles northeast of Philadelphia. What was once a fun father-daughter activity is now the foundation upon which she is building her career. Her dad taught her well. Rosado didn't know it at the time, but there would be no turning back. Boxing already had her in its seductive grip.
"I never lost my passion for boxing," she said. "I still watched in college, and when I went to Temple University I would have people come over to my house to watch boxing."
After graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering, Rosado relocated in Phoenix in order to advance her career. She ended up finding her true calling almost by accident.
In one of those serendipitous happenings that seem preordained in hindsight, Rosado agreed to try to help an amateur boxer who wanted to turn pro. With the assistance of local matchmaker Mike Sanchez, the boxer made a successful pro debut on a card held at a small banquet hall. For Rosado, the evening had far-reaching consequences.
"The show was awful," Rosado said. "At that time it was a really bad scene in Arizona. Fights were being canceled, venues relocated the week of the fight, falsified medicals, forged signatures, fighters not getting paid. Everything was so disorganized. Golden Boy pulled out of Arizona. Bob Arum threw in the towel because of the really strict immigration laws that made it difficult to use Mexican boxers.
"I thought there's got to be a better way. I called Mike and told him I wanted to do my own show. He said, 'Oh, you're crazy. You're a nice girl. Stick to engineering.'"
Instead, she did both.
"My first show was in 2011 in a small venue called The Madison," Rosado said. "It was a big hit. All the fights were good. I sold out and broke even, but didn't realize it would turn into what it did."
Spend a little time with Rosado and you quickly discover why she's such an effective saleswoman, who just happens to now be selling boxing instead of HVAC systems.
Rosado is intelligent, enthusiastic and likable, a workaholic who wears her heart on her sleeve but is Philly tough inside. She's a one-womanshow who has stayed true to herself in the most trying of circumstances.
"It was really late. I was starting to plan my second show and we would be up at all hours of the night working. Suddenly, boom, a brick goes through the window of my truck. Shortly after that, my house was vandalized. They tried breaking in the back and tore my screen door... It wasn't a coincidence." Michelle Rosado
Getting established as a promoter in Arizona was a bit like running barefoot through a cactus patch. There's bound to be some ouches along the way.
"I'm Puerto Rican, not Mexican. I'm from Philly, not Phoenix," Rosado said. "There were men, Latinos, who are very machismo, and thought a woman is not supposed to promote boxing."
Some malcontents thought they could scare her off with intimidation tactics, only to discover she has a spine of steel.
"It was really late. I was starting to plan my second show and we would be up at all hours of the night working," Rosado said. "Suddenly, boom, a brick goes through the window of my truck. Shortly after that, my house was vandalized. They tried breaking in the back and tore my screen door.
"It wasn't a coincidence. I live in a nice, gated community. They were targeting me. Too many people knew where I lived."
Rosado outflanked the troublemakers by playing a significant role in revitalizing Arizona boxing. She gave local fans fun fights between boxers they cared about.
"I told the media that there's more than enough talent here in Phoenix," Rosado said. "I used all homegrown fighters, local guys. I matched them against each other. I didn't actually realize that it was the recipe. I was just doing it because I thought it made sense."
The formula led to five more successful promotions in Arizona, with two more in Phoenix and three in Tucson, including a sellout at the Casino Del Sol.
As time went by, Rosado realized there are far more women involved in boxing than she original thought, and she decided to throw a women's brunch. The announcement attracted quite a bit of attention, and Mayweather Promotions reached out to her on Facebook and offered to sponsor the event. Young, naive and thrilled to be contacted by such a major player, Rosado accepted the offer, something she would come to regret.
"I'm doing this women's brunch, supposedly uplifting them, sharing our stories of triumph and struggles," Rosado said. "It's all about women, and Floyd Mayweather, who is not good to women, has his name all over it."
Mayweather was charged with domestic violence and misdemeanor battery in 2002, 2004 and 2005 and sentenced to serve 90 days in county jail after pleading guilty to misdemeanor battery in 2011.
"A lot of women didn't come because they felt the same way," Rosado said. "I started to feel a little conflicted. That's when I realized that not all money is good money, but I rolled with the punches. The next thing I know, they wanted me to work for them."
As it just so happened that the engineering company for which Rosado worked had just opened a branch in Las Vegas, so she moved there and into an intense workload with very long work hours at Mayweather Promotions.
Besides the women's brunches, Rosado also did marketing, social media and whatever was needed on fight weeks for Mayweather Promotions.
"I saw a lot of good things and a lot of bad things, but I think I learned a lot," Rosado said. "Leonard Ellerbe (CEO of Mayweather Promotions) always treated me well, but there was a lot of tough love from others."
When Mayweather posted a sonogram of his ex-fiancée Shantel Jackson's abortion on social media in May 2014, Rosado knew it was over. She quit both Mayweather Promotions and her engineering job, and headed home to Philly, ready to dive into boxing full-time.
"Our relationship lasted about a year," said Rosado.
Brittany Rogers, a friend and another budding promoter, introduced Rosado to Hall of Fame promoter J Russell Peltz, who eventually became Rosado's mentor.
"When people said, 'I can't believe you left Mayweather Promotions for Russell Peltz,' I tell them I considered it an upgrade," Rosado said.
"Russell is the one who taught me the business for real, how to account for every penny and how this is a business, not a hobby. He tells me a lot of stories to teach me lessons, which I think is cool. He also taught me how to say 'no' and the importance of timing, when certain things should be done."
They are kindred souls in a business that has almost abandoned their old-school promoting style in favor of putting together package deals for television.
Along with Rogers (better known as BAM), Rosado dragged Peltz into the digital age, while Russell taught her the intricacies of the business. He's seen it all during almost 50 years on the job and recalled a night when a calamity similar to the Carto knockout befell one of his boxers.
"It was in April 1988. Philly welterweight Hugh 'Buttons' Kearney was undefeated in 18 fights and a popular attraction at the Blue Horizon," Peltz said. "I matched him with Jorge Maysonet, believing Kearney would win. Twenty seconds into the first round it was all over. Maysonet knocked him cold."
Kearney only fought twice after that, losing the second by knockout and retiring. Every case is different, but Carto needs a long rest and doesn't have to make a hasty decision.
Ultimately, it's up to Carto to decide if he's going to fight on. He's enrolled in Rowan College, so there are options. But boxing runs in the family. His grandfather and two uncles were boxers, and Carto has always honored their legacy. Assuming he's healthy, a comeback is likely.
Rosado spent the two days following Ruiz-Carto in her pajamas trying to recuperate, but got little sleep despite the normal exhaustion that follows fight week. She felt sad, mad and concerned for Carto, but pleased with what she had accomplished. Despite the hero's defeat, nobody asked for their money back. She'd given the ticket buyer a night to remember.
"It was a bittersweet experience," said Rosado, who has no intention of going back to engineering. She already has two Philly gigs scheduled, working with DAZN and Top Rank.
"I have sacrificed everything, my social life, love life, having kids," Rosado said. "The last eight years I've been married to boxing, but I know it will get me to where I want to be. I know it's going to pay off."
"She's going to be bigger than U.S. Steel," Peltz keeps telling people, paraphrasing a line from "Godfather II." It's unclear whether that's a joke, part of his needling style, or a true representation of what he thinks. Probably both.
In Peltz's formative years, he stapled fight posters to utility poles and sold tickets out of the trunk of his car. Things are different today, but a good fight is still a good fight, and that's all that really matters.