Andre Rozier is one of my faves within the boxing sphere.
The Brownsville, Brooklyn trainer is best known for cornering and mentoring Danny Jacobs, another Brownsville guy, who has had immense success in the game.
Rozier had another client who was gaining career momentum, but hit the skids for his actions outside the ring. In 2017, Avtandil Khurtsidze looked forward to a battle with then WBO middleweight champion BJ Saunders. That scrap didn’t occur, because Khurtsidze got busted for involvement with a Russian crime ring.
Many particulars were laid out in court. Click here to get up to speed on that matter.
Rozier, at the time of the bust, expressed amazement. THAT wasn’t the guy he knew.
Ah, but we all show different sides of ourselves at different times, right?
Fighter and Coach Hook Back Up
Fast forward six years—Khurtsidze did a prison stint, and got released. He’s 43 now.
The odds are long that he would be able to compete like he did “before.” But he wants to—and Andre Rozier confirmed to me that he will be once again training Khurtsidze.
The ultra amiable tutor calls many of his charges “nephew,” signaling that he sees all this as a family affair. That in mind, he confirmed to me about re-upping as co-trainer, with Gary Stark Sr, to Khurtsidze, the man who got labeled “chief enforcer” to a badass crime boss.
“I wanna fight again,” Khurtsidze told Rozier at the Cops n Kids gym last week. “I can do it, coach,” the fighter declared.
Rozier did not take pause, he said, because of what he learned Khurtsidze did as a side hustle.
“Everybody has something, very rarely they don’t,” Rozier explained to me. “With us, he was that guy!”
Meaning, he worked hard, acted upbeat and respectful. He is likable, Andre Rozier told me. I told him that I found him to be likable too, I sat next to him at a holiday party years ago, and he was cool.
Andre Rozier Comes From A Rugged Place
“Big Mike, I come from Brownsville, Brooklyn,” Rozier continued. “I know the worst of the worst. I have friends, they’re drug dealers, hustlers, etc…but they don’t reflect that on me. They know how I live my life, and they don’t bring that other side around me. I am not a product of my environment, I’m an element of it.” It's a pattern, Brownsville guys do stick together. Rozier and Jacobs have quarreled like family does, and then they re-unite.
Of the Georgian with the felony on his record, Rozier said, “People make mistakes,” he said. “It wasn’t like Khurtsidze was the kingpin. He is getting a fresh start. I think everyone deserves that.”
We talked about how many folks in boxing pick and choose their causes, and their principles, depending on the situation. We all do that, I think.
“I’m not gonna take a holier than though attitude,” Rozier said. “This is the boxing world. Don King turned his life around, Bernard Hopkins did and became a Hall of Famer. Anybody deserves another shot.”
Rozier actually spoke on behalf of Khurtsidze at his trial. He told the court that the version of the man he knew bore no resemblance to the man as portrayed by prosecutors.
“I’m vested,” he said. “When I am with him, he’s straitlaced. His heart is good! He has a goofball nature. But, in the ring, he’s a monster.”
He was indeed that in 2017. Now? It remains to be seen.
Can Khurtsidze Approximate His 2017 Self?
Khurtsidze didn’t get roly poly in prison. He weighed 173 the other day, Andre Rozier told me. He could be ready to fight at super middleweight soon, and in two months, he could be at 160, Rozier estimates.
“I think his muscle memory is intact. Albeit with some changes,” he allowed. “We’ll see what version of the monster is left.”
The trainer wants Khurtsidze to take plenty of time working on sharpening back up. No sparring, instead there will be lots of calisthenics.
Andre Rozier wants to spend about six weeks getting the fighters’ body into fighting form. Then, there will be a comeback bout.
“We are looking for new representation,” Rozier confirmed to me. Lou DiBella promoted Khurtsidze at the time of the shocking disclosure about organized crime activity.
“And if he’s looking good, no injuries, feeling good, I’m gonna support him.”