Andre Rozier’s Team Havoc has established itself at the forefront of professional boxing for close to two decades, with the Brooklyn-born trainer having guided eight different fighters from their amateur days to world title glory.
With the likes of Danny Jacobs, Luis Collazo, Sadam Ali and Curtis Stevens having been forged from their youth by Rozier, it was natural for boxing’s managers and promoters to be drawn to his training services.
This has led to more elite talents walking through the door, with the likes of Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Ivan Golub, Edgar Berlanga, Joe Williams, Marco Huck, Richard Commey and Duke Micah all being based with the man known to many as ‘Uncle Dre’.
From his roots in Brownsville to his stature in boxing today, Rozier recalled his journey from amateur hopeful to trainer of champions.
“I had an amateur record of 54-2 and was set to box in the Golden Gloves, but I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, so that was me done with fighting,” Rozier told Boxing Social. “For years, I never really wanted to be involved in boxing, I was busy making clothes as my grandmother was a highly acclaimed seamstress in her native Panama. Aside from that, I was making mixes as I used to DJ.
“I originally got into boxing by watching the likes of Muhammad Ali on TV. He was my favourite of all-time. I’d go to what is now the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden to watch fights at every possible opportunity. I fell in love with the sport at a young age, but when I wasn’t allowed to fight anymore I did lose passion for it for a brief moment.
“It took one of the boys from the neighbourhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a place home to the likes of Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Zab Judah, to ask me to take him to the gym to work out so I did, and it just spiralled from there really.
“My nephews Curtis [Stevens] and Anthony [Irons] were a massive factor in my life in boxing,” he continued. “Naturally, I’m a protector, I care about my family and those close to me, so when it was time for Curtis and Anthony to box I had to make sure that they were looked after and trained correctly. We got Curtis to the No.2 ranked amateur in the USA at light-heavyweight, with the No.1 at the time being Andre Ward. Curtis was knocking everyone out, even as a heavyweight, and that’s where the chin checkers came from. Anthony won Golden Gloves titles and went to four national tournaments. He was undefeated as a professional and he will one day make a great trainer.
“Alongside Curtis and Anthony, I worked with Terrence Simpson, who is now one of the trainers in the Havoc Camp, with his nephew Joe Greene Jr. Joe was a tremendous talent and Terrence is a fantastic coach, and to have Terrence back in the gym now close to 20 years later is a blessing. I also worked and to this day still work closely with Gary Stark Sr. Gary has been an integral part of many tremendous fighters’ careers with his latest notable talent being Marcus Browne.”
After being part of the USA coaching set-up, which has seen trainers such as Gary Stark Sr, Virgil Hunter and Manny Robles amongst other elite names ply their trade over the years, Rozier gained his first world champion in the form of WBA 147lbs king Luis Collazo. Collazo had been with Rozier from the very beginning and the Brownsville native reminisced fondly about their story.
“It was a bit surreal, but I knew Luis had the class in him to become a world champion, so I have to say I did expect it to come one day and, when it did, it was a great journey that had come full circle,” said Rozier. “After the initial shock, I was like ‘okay, back to the gym’. We had so many guys, like we do today, that I didn’t have time to revel in the moment, it was always straight back to work.
“Dave ‘Scooter’ Honig was an integral part of the success of Luis Collazo and he deserves a lot of credit for the great preparations Luis had over the years. Luis has always been a top class fighter and he deserved all the plaudits he ever received in his career. He was one of the most talented fighters I’ve ever had.”
Rozier hails from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York. Despite many parts of Brooklyn, including the ‘Bed-Stuy’ neighborhood, being gentrified over the last decade, Brownsville is still a place that personified what Brooklyn meant to many – fighting spirit. The area defined Rozier’s path in boxing.
“Being from Brownsville and being successful in the boxing world is one of the greatest feelings in the world,” he said. “I owe everything to Brooklyn as Brooklyn is everything to me. Brooklyn has shaped me as the person I am today. I try and see the best in every situation and, if you do that in the neighbourhoods like the one I come from, you can really find inspiration to create something special within your own life.
“I go back to Brownsville today as I still have family there. It hasn’t changed much, but I haven’t changed much either. One thing about how I am as a trainer is I am real, I don’t BS anyone and you get what you see from me. That is what real Brooklyn is, it’s the working-class capital of the world, where you have to be real to survive. In the 80s and 90s, you had to be real or you would get swallowed up in the madness of the ghetto. Having a strong direction in life can help you make the most of it, and it’s that knowledge I try to pass on to my nephews today.”
Of all Rozier’s prospects turned world champions, the most talked about is fellow Brownsville native Danny Jacobs. However, Rozier sees things differently when discussing his biggest accomplishment as a trainer.
“Danny [Jacobs] was always going to be a world champion, we saw that in him from a kid. Differences aside, I will always love Danny and I believe we could have done more, but that’s a story for another day,” he said.
“Whom I consider my biggest success, however, is Sadam Ali. I love that kid so much. We’ve had Sadam since he was a kid up at the Starrett City Boxing Club where he would go on to represent America at the 2008 Olympic Games. Lenny Wilson was a massive part of getting Sadam to being a world champion and Lenny is still a big part of our set-up to this day.
“From the Olympics to the professionals, leading Sadam to becoming world champion and retiring a legend in Miguel Cotto at the Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden, is a night that I will cherish forever. Sadam is a wonderful human being and he’s very happy with his life and that is what means the most to me, all in all.”
The boxing world is enduring an unwanted transition with the sport forced to adapt to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. Yet Rozier has a vibrant stable, with fighters from all over the world descending on Brooklyn to work with the famed trainer. But his business has a reach beyond training with a management and advisory element now part of the Havoc umbrella.
“Team Havoc is still in business in a major way. We’ve got ‘The Technician’ Sergiy Derevyanchenko at the forefront of our stable and he hopes to launch an assault on the middleweight division again this year,” said Rozier. “I truly believe this man will be a world champion sooner rather than later. Sergiy Koncheskyy Jr has been a massive help with Sergiy, too, and he is an integral part of our team especially with the international talents.
“Of course, we have the big-hitting Edgar Berlanga Jr who is becoming a sensation all over the world. He is getting better and better and I’m really excited about the future for him along with another unbelievable talent in Joe ‘Mack’ Williams. Joe was an alternate for the 2012 Olympics and anyone within Brooklyn boxing can tell you this kid is the real deal.
“We have a whole host of talent that may become world champions and I believe they all have the possibilities of doing so. Hurshidabek Normatov, Peter Dobson, Duke Micah, Ivan Golub and Richardson Hitchins all have world titles in them and I believe Richard Commey can become a two-time world champion when he returns from Ghana.
“Away from the actual fighting, myself and one of nephews have established Havoc Sports Agency, which is focused on developing fighters from an advisory basis,” he continued. “Right now we have former world champion Mickey Bey; Irish standouts Feargal McCrory and Jimmy Kelly Jr; Marvin Cordova Jr [who] beat Danny Jacobs in the amateurs and has got a run in him at 154 and a four-time national champion Jose David Nieves who is set to turn pro. Giovanni Scuderi and Alex Vargas are working with us, too, and they have four Golden Gloves titles between them so they are undoubtedly talented. We will be adding to this stable soon as well.
“Havoc Athletics is still growing and creating some of the hottest attire in not just boxing but sports. I’m still making shorts, which all started when I ripped Monte Barrett’s shorts and had to make him a new pair overnight. Thirty years late, I’m still making those shorts by hand!
“The future is bright, in the ring and out of the ring. I’m happy and I have youth still in me. I still have a buzz for boxing and the business and I still want to continue to achieve. Having this mentality, I feel will only rub off on the athletes in a positive way and will continue to breed years and years of success for Team Havoc.”
Featured image: Ed Mulholland [Matchroom Boxing]