Wreaking Havoc: Andre Rozier Keeps Cranking Out Champions

Interview with Andre Rozier by Paul Zanon. See more Hannibal Boxing interviews >>

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Born and raised in Brooklyn, Andre Rozier has quite an impressive résumé of fighters who have trained under his expert tutelage. However, what you might not know is that he was also once a budding amateur who competed in the junior Olympic category of boxing. “I started to box when I was twelve. I was having a really good time in the sport, and when I was seventeen I was at the Golden Gloves tournament in New York and was told that I had high blood pressure. I was like, ‘What do you mean I got high blood pressure?’ They [the boxing commission] said, ‘Go outside, take a walk and let’s see what we get.’ I did that, came back and it was still high. After the third attempt, I was suspended because of the blood pressure and they took my amateur boxing passport book, so I wouldn’t try and participate on my own.

“At that point, I was like, ‘I’m done with boxing.’ But at the time, the kids in the neighborhood knew I boxed and would say, ‘Can you take me to the gym and train me?’ and I’d say, ‘Nah. Get outta here.’ Then this one kid named Pedro kept asking and asking and asking, so I said, ‘You know what? Let me just take this kid to the gym and get it out the way.’ So I took him down the Starrett City Boxing Club and he had a penchant for it. Also, because my sisters would be at work at night and I was the babysitter, I started taking my nephews to the gym. That’s where it really started and the rest is pretty much history.”

Endearingly known by many as “Uncle Andre,” Rozier reflected proudly on what he’s witnessed over the years and the fundamental difference the sport has made in society. “At the time, as like now, we had an eclectic mix. Black kids, white kids, Russian kids, Jewish kids. You name it, we had it. It was like a melting pot of nationalities, religions, and everything else. Everyone was welcome. We had a good time with those kids and kept many of them out of trouble. It was and still is very important to become parental figures, because a lot of the kids who came and still come to the gyms now didn’t and don’t have father figures, so they naturally align themselves with us, the trainers, and we have to make sure we are there for them and not disappoint them.

“Sometimes we’ve had to visit schools to check on them, to make sure they were doing all right and stop them from slipping through the cracks. Unfortunately, over the years, not everyone stayed the course, and we might have lost a few of them to the streets, but our success level with the people and trainers I’ve worked with was very high and we’re very proud of that. Now, these are well spoken, goal-achieving individuals in society. Pretty much, most of them went on to have professional careers, like police officers, lawyers, doctors, you name it. It was exactly what we wanted to achieve. Making people the best they could be.”

Despite all the loving care and attention poured into the delivery of boxing, it was while teaching at Coney Island Boxing Club that Rozier gave the establishment the nickname of “House of Pain.” “It got that name because we work very, very hard. There was not a time when I didn’t give 150 percent in my training, and I only expected the best from the kids. They had to work hard; and if they didn’t, they would get a pop, from what I called the ‘Black Jesus’. It’s a training mechanism. They wouldn’t call it that, but I do. It’s a pool noodle and I’d wrapped it with tape. I wrapped it so many times it felt like a baton. So, when you didn’t work in the gym, you got a swat and that got you going real quick!”

Rozier entered the professional boxing training scene in 1996. “My first pro fighter I trained was Vinnie Posa. He was a kickboxer who turned pro. An Italian kid and I love him to death, even to this day.”

Rozier would have to wait almost a decade before taking one of his pupils all the way to a world title. “Luis Collazo was the first world champion I ever trained. That night [April 2, 2005 versus Jose Antonio Rivera for the WBA world welterweight crown], my heart, my spirit, my soul were on another level. I love Luis to death. Even though we don’t work together now, the fact that he was in our crew and we brought him up was a very, very special thing for us.”

Rozier was quick to point out that each fighter he’s worked with at the world level brought his respective merits to the table. “I appreciate my fighters from different aspects. Danny [Jacobs] and Demetrius [Andrade], aka ‘Boo Boo’ are special. My heartfelt nephew, Curtis Stevens, possesses incredible power, and Sadam Ali is very slick and has great rhythm. Richard Commey has a great work ethic, and the intelligence and consistency of Chris Algieri is right up there. Let’s not forget my nephew, Anthony Irons, possibly the most talented fighter I’ve known. The list goes on and on, and that’s not even mentioning the new kids. There’s been some incredible talent and more to come.

“Also, my newest acquisition, the former cruiserweight champion of the world, Marco Huck. We’re making that ascent into the heavyweight division. I’ve got a lot of work cut out for me with Marco, because he does swing for the hills and try to take your head off, which is a bit reckless, whereas I’m a bit more refined, so we’re going to drive it down the middle and make it work for both of us.”

The most famous boxer associated with Rozier though is fellow Brooklynite and two-time middleweight world champion, Daniel Jacobs. “Danny was trained by our dearly departed brother, Victor Roundtree. Victor and I then started to work together with Danny when he was fourteen and I’ve been with him ever since.”

After making his debut on December 8, 2007, Jacobs built a 21-1 record and was on track for world-title honors. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a nasty form of bone cancer. The tumor, which was growing on his spine, required surgery, and consequently left him paralyzed. The doctors told him he would never walk again, never mind box. Rozier recalled the episode. “When I first heard Danny had cancer, he was on the way to the hospital to have surgery. That’s how fast it was all happening. I was like, ‘My God. What do we have going on here?’ The only thing at that point in time I was concerned about was him surviving the operation because there was a chance he might not, and then secondly being able to function as a normal human being because we’d been told the paralysis might be permanent.”

Jacobs responded to the operation and subsequent radiation and chemotherapy in the only way he knew how. By hitting it head-on, like every opponent he’s ever faced. Rozier explained. “I was so happy after the surgery was done and he’d survived that. He was sitting in a wheelchair and said, ‘Don’t be upset about me being sat in a wheelchair. I’m going to get out of it and come to the gym and start boxing again, and I’m going to become a world champion.’ I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. I was just relieved that he’d survived the operation and said, ‘Don’t worry, Danny. Everything’s going to be okay.’

“But, Danny being Danny, he persevered, worked really, really hard every single day and he got himself back together. He wasn’t thinking about anything other than overcoming cancer. When he did get the all clear, we resumed his career and he just got stronger and stronger.”

A little over three years from the time of his cancer diagnosis, Jacobs beat Aussie Jarrod Fletcher on August 9, 2014, to become WBA middleweight champion. “That was the culmination of Danny defeating lots of his demons. It was a wonderful moment, a wonderful place to be in and his future looked extremely bright at that point. He proved everyone wrong.”

Jacobs’s return to boxing and his subsequent rise to world champion certainly surprised many people. Something else that has raised a few eyebrows over the years is Rozier’s talent as an accomplished tailor. “The story began just about the same time when I started boxing at the age of twelve. Back in those days, the kids were wearing custom-made clothing from tailor shops. They were very elaborate, very expensive and everyone was dressing up like they were going to a special event. I wanted to be a part of that club.

“My grandmother was an accomplished seamstress from Panama, and I thought, ‘I’m going to ask Ma, which is what I called her, if she can make me some tailor-mades.’ She asked what it was and I explained. She says, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ She said, ‘I’m not going to make any, but I’ll show you to make your own tailor-mades.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to sew; that’s for girls!’ She said, ‘Apparently, you don’t want tailor-mades then!’ I thought, let me try to be slick about this and said, ‘Okay. I’ll learn how to sew. You show me how.’ She said, ‘No. You’re going to do it and I’ll tell you how.’

“She had a bunch of sewing machines, and she gave me my own one. I went in her basement and I used to sew every single day. Eventually, I started getting really good at it and in the first year, I started to make clothing for not just myself, but for customers. I got better and better and voilà, here we are.”

Despite possessing the talent to weave the threads, Rozier’s skill set didn’t translate into a business idea until one of his heavyweights had a clothes crisis in 1994. “Monte Barrett was an amateur at the time. He had some shorts that his aunt made for him, and after the fights I’d take them home with me and get them cleaned up. I had them in a closet, but the shelf in the closet fell and ripped the trunks. I was panicking like, ‘Oh my God. This kid’s gonna have a heart attack when I tell him.’ My first thought was, ‘I’m gonna have to make him some shorts.’

“I called him up and said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news.’ He said, ‘Tell me the bad news first.’ I said, ‘Well, your boxing trunks were in the closet, and the shelf fell on them and ripped them.’ He said, ‘Ah, man! Not my shorts, man!’ I said, ‘Hold it, hold it, hold it. It’s okay. I’m gonna make you a new set of trunks tomorrow night.’ He started laughing like it was the funniest joke ever been told in history. I said, ‘What you laughing for?’ He said, ‘You can’t sew!’ I said, ‘Yeah, I can.’ He hung up the phone.

“I thought, time to stop talking about them and get the trunks made. I pulled out the sewing machine which had been in the basement a long time. It’s an oldie-but-goodie, so they last forever. I oiled it up, ran it for about an hour, cleaned it up and then started sewing. I made these trunks and Monte couldn’t believe it. People were asking Monte, ‘Where do you get those trunks, man?’ He would boastfully say, ‘My trainer made these!’ From there on, we got bigger and better.

That’s when it all started.

“Havoc is a moniker that I came up with when I used to do DJ work. Anything I used to do had Havoc in some form. Havoc Management, Havoc Records when I was working with music artists—you name it, it was Havoc. So of course, it had to be Havoc Boxing when I started making boxing apparel.”

Since Barrett, Rozier hasn’t been short of requests to make clothing. “The list is extensive. The late, great Diego Corrales, one of my dear favorites. Zab Judah, ‘Winky’ Wright, my beloved Danny Garcia who’s represented Havoc so, so well. I love him to death. All of my guys, Sadam Ali, Luis Collazo, Curtis Stevens, Danny Jacobs, Richard Commey, Chris Algieri, Jameel ‘Big Time’ McCline, the list goes on and on.”

Rozier was keen to add, “The clothing is something I love and have a gift for, but my heart is in boxing. That’s where my passion really lies. I guess I’m lucky to be able to do both.”

He’s created world champions, helped wayward kids and makes some of the best-known apparel within boxing and beyond. How happy is Andre Rozier with what he’s achieved? “You’re never content because there are always things to do, but I’m very happy with what has happened so far in my boxing career, and I’m here to achieve more and more and show the world why Team Havoc is going to keep rising to the top. We’re like the new Kronk. We’re going to keep new champions coming and growing. It won’t stop until it stops.”

 

About Paul Zanon 15 Articles
Paul Zanon has written eight books, with almost all of them reaching the number-one bestselling spot in their respective categories on Amazon. He has co-hosted boxing shows on Talk Sport and has been a pundit on London Live Boxnation.  He is a regular contributor to Boxing Monthly and a number of other publications. Paul is member of the British Boxing Writers Club.