|Interview with Kevin Rooney, Jr, Star Boxing’s Director of Media Relations
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (July 30, 2009)
It was probably at a Bally’s Casino show in Atlantic City last year that I introduced myself to this young man and handed him a picture of myself. You might say “why in the world would he want your picture?” Oh, I forgot to mention, legendary master trainer and advisor Cus D’Amato happened to be in the picture too. The third person in the picture was this young mans father, Kevin Rooney. The date on the picture was September 10th of 1980 in the Scranton, Pennsylvania’s commission office. The satisfaction of the look on young Kevin’s face was my reward.
He joined Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing team as their director of media relations in July of 2008. This was some undertaking for a person coming out of college, but this was not your ordinary kind of a person. Rooney has a smile that makes you feel “it’s good to see you”. Very important in the position he is in. In addition he has the stature to pass for a boxer. He is a good looking kid who obviously has his mother’s looks. I only say that because I have gotten to know his father since the time the picture was taken. I had the pleasure of putting him in a rematch fight in Scranton after a visit to the Catskills. The last time I saw him was probably when Mike Tyson was in Atlantic City for the Tyrell Biggs fight. He is what I call a real down to earth man.
Since meeting the young Rooney we have e-mailed back and forth many times. You do not have to wait long for an answer and he knows the game for one so young. Since I wanted to know more about him I thought a Q&A would be a good way to do that. He was very accommodating when asked. Other words, he probably felt sorry for this old man.
KH: Kevin, when I first saw your name I thought it was about your father. I guess you get that name gets you a lot of attention.
KR: Yeah there is definitely no hiding it. When anyone ever hears the name Kevin Rooney in boxing, they automatically assume it’s my father. I guess he has made a little bit more of a name for himself then I have haha. I always make sure to sign everything Kevin Rooney Jr., hoping people catch the Jr., but most don’t.
KH: I once heard Max Baer, Jr., the with the “Beverly Hillbillies” show say when someone asks if he was Max’s kid, he punched them before he got punched. Seems they wanted to test if the son had it like the father did. Ever get that?
KR: One of the first things people ask me when they find out who I am is if I can fight, or did I ever box. Growing up sometimes kids would say stuff like oh you don’t want to mess with him his father used to train Mike Tyson. I was always a pretty big kid growing up, so the combination of my size and my dad, kept me from getting into more trouble then I did.
KH: Could you tell us a little about where you grew up and how you chose the profession you did?
KR: I spent the first nine years of my life in Catskill, New York. It’s where my father still lives, and where his gym is and everything. When I was almost ten I moved across the Hudson river to a city called Hudson, NY. Hudson is about 40 minutes south of Albany, right between Albany and Kingston basically.
I love the upstate area, its very calm and peaceful up there, it’s a lot different then down here in the city. Don’t get me wrong I love the city, and Westchester County, where I live now, but upstate’s where my heart is. I have had the same best friends since I was in elementary school. It’s one of those small places where everyone knows everyone.
Growing up I knew I always wanted to be involved in boxing. When I got to Fordham, I sat down with my advisor and told him what my aspirations were, and he suggested I follow a degree in marketing. So that’s what I did, I got a degree in Business with a concentration in Marketing. I officially graduated from Fordham in January of 2006. I finished my studies in three and a half years but actually walked and received my degree in the Spring of 2007.
KH: You must have seen your share of boxers come and go in the past year working for Star Boxing. Without hurting others are there any favorites?
KR: Well being how young I am (only 24) I really bond well with the fighters being that I am pretty much the same age as all of them. It’s not like work when it comes to me and the guys. I’m friends with all of them.
Almost everyone on our roster, for one reason or another I have a special bond with. Take for instance, Andrey Tsurkan and Yathomas Riley. They both train at the same gym I work out at, so I see them almost everyday. I went to Germany with Vinny Maddalone for his fight against Boytsov. For two days it was just me and Vinny out there, hanging out, doing some site seeing. I could give you a story about almost everyone on our roster. They are all my favorites to be honest.
One guy though who I am really close with is Delvin Rodriguez. My first fight with Star was Delvin’s fight against Oscar Diaz. As you know Diaz collapsed in the 10th round of that fight and went into a coma. It was a very tragic experience. Ever since then me and Delvin have been very tight. I am so happy that Delvin has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Welterweight Championship this Saturday. No one deserves to win a title more then Delvin. As Joe has said so many times before he is a promoters dream.
KH: You look like a young man who could handle himself. Has Joe DeGuardia ever said “if we get stuck at the last minute I may have to have you fill in?”
KR: Haha funny you say that, sometimes when we are doing the shows, people will see me wearing my Star Boxing tee-shirt and come up and ask me which fighter I am.
I boxed when I was a kid, when I still lived in Catskill. I had a few amateur fights, but then when I moved to Hudson with my mother, there was no way for me to go to the gym anymore. She never wanted me to fight and wouldn’t bring me, and I couldn’t just walk there like I had been doing. So my father told me to just concentrate on other sports. My two best sports growing up were baseball and football. I was the captain of both of my varsity teams in HS. I loved all sports but those two were my favorite.
I did actually start boxing again though. I have been training when I can since January. Things are going really well. Not sure what I am going to do with it, but let’s just say you shouldn’t be completely surprised if you see Kevin Rooney Jr. laced up in the ring sometime in the future.
KH: Star has over 20 fighters with Ray Robinson and Ray Serrano both from my area in Philly. Ever get tired of guys like me calling and saying “do the Ray’s have anything coming up?” In your job you probably are at the mercy of the matchmaker. In your case that would be Ron Katz. Has Ron mellowed any over the years?
KR: I love when you guys call. If it weren’t for you guys, I wouldn’t have a job!
Ron Katz is Ron Katz and he will always be Ron Katz haha. Ron makes things interesting in the office there is no questioning that, but when it comes to matchmaking I believe he is second to none. He has been in the game for over thirty years. You can’t teach that kind of experience.
KH: Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson is certainly one of your highly publicized fighters. Please tell me this guy is humble outside the ring since inside he is shall we say not to shy when it comes to expressing how good he feels he is.
KR: The only thing quicker then Kevin’s hands is his mouth. Kevin can talk better then anyone in the game, but as you see by his record he backs up what he says.
Kevin is a very good guy. He is a single father and has raised his daughter since she was just a baby, so I admire that about Kevin more than anything else. Kevin and my father actually have a very good relationship. They have talked for hours and hours on the phone, whether it be about life, or boxing, they have talked about it all. Kevin really wants to go up and spend some time in the gym in Catskill, hopefully for his next fight he will have that opportunity. Kevin is fighting Odlanier Solis on September 26th at Madison Square Garden. It is a huge fight for Kevin and once he beats Solis it will really start to open some doors for him. The problem right now is that no one wants to fight Kevin. He is ranked as #6 in the WBA and WBC and #13 in the IBF. A win against Solis will bump him even higher in the rankings and sooner or later as Kevin has stated, the champions will either be mandated to fight him or they will just have to give up their belts.
KH: Curtis Stevens has really come back with both fists blasting. What’s with him wearing the Palestine wrap in his last fight in Newark?
KR: He certainly has. He is 4-0 since joining the Star Boxing roster, and three of those wins have been spectacular knockouts. He is really positioning himself as a serious contender again. We couldn’t be happier with the way Curtis has performed for us.
The Palestine wrap is just part of Curtis’s outfit. He used to do it when he first was coming up, and now he is back to wearing the handkerchiefs to cover his face. Apparently it’s good luck for him because when he wears them he wins! It isn’t anything to do with his religion or anything like that. He is trying to go for that old school outlaw look.
KH: It looks like Star Boxing has a new world champion coming up in Delvin Rodriguez fighting for the title on August 1st. He must be easy to do PR work for.
KR: As I touched on earlier Delvin is a promoters dream. Anything and everything you ask of Delvin he does without hesitation. Everyone loves Delvin, he is just such a likable guy. August 1st is going to be Delvin’s coming out party and we couldn’t be happier for him.
KH: Vinny Maddalone must be a character when he comes into the office. He is certainly one of the more popular and exciting fighters on the team.
KR: Vinny is great. He is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, but when he gets in that ring he has one thing in mind and one thing in mind only and that is to seek and destroy. He gives it his all every time out, and always makes for exciting fights, and you just don’t get that in many fighters anymore. Vinny truly is the real
life Rocky. He even owns a Restaurant and Bar in Queens and he has pictures from his fights all over the place. He is there almost every night and there isn’t a
customer in there that he doesn’t go up and personally greet, himself. I went to visit him one night, and I swear I was watching a scene out of the latest Rocky movie, it was great.
KH: The latest hot prospect is Demetrius Andrade from the 2008 Olympic team.
Are you told to handle a boxer like this a little more special?
KR: Given Demetrius’s amateur background we do have to handle him a bit more special when it comes to the media. He has already made a name for himself, and on the national level, so people are constantly looking to talk to him and do interviews from all over the world. Demetrius has it all. He definitely has the talent, and you couple that with his good looks, and charismatic personality, we really feel that Demetrius is going to be boxing’s next superstar.
KH: Let’s get to a more serious question. The girls must be beating down your door. Is there anyone special in your life?
KR: Haha wow you really put me on the spot with that one. I guess you could say I do ok with the girls.
I had a very serious girlfriend for a few years, but we are at different places right now in our lives. I still care about her a lot, and I always will. She is very special to me. I’d be open to getting back together with her down the road, and it’s definitely something we have talked about, so we will see. In the meantime though I am enjoying being single.
I must say though that there is one girl in my life that can never ever be replaced and I love her more than anything, and that is my mother Bonnie. They don’t come much better then her.
KH: Do you find yourself studying other languages? With boxers like Ali Oubaali, once a French Olympian, Elvir Muriqi, the Kosovo kid, Mike Arnaoutis, from Greece and Alfredo Escalera, Jr. from Puerto Rico.
KR: I studied Spanish growing up so I am ok with that. By no means am I fluent, but I can usually get my point across when I have to. Other then that, I don’t know any other languages, unfortunately.
KH: Speaking of Escalera, his father would bring a snake into the ring if I recall. I hope he doesn’t follow true and drop one off and say “Kevin, watch my pet”. He was on the Contender Show. Did you get involved with that at all?
KR: You and me both! I hate snakes with a passion. We actually didn’t really do much at all with the Contender. They do their own publicity for the show. We would obviously let people know when Alfredo was fighting and the result of each fight, but that was really the extent of it.
KH: At the risk of risking your job, what is Joe DeGuardia really like? He seems so cool, calm and collective with the boxers.
KR: Joe definitely has some swagger to his step. But he is also very smart and he knows what it takes to make a business successful.
KH: I want to take the time to thank you not only for doing this interview but being so thoughtful in your job. I know it’s your job but you do it well.
KR: I appreciate you wanting to interview me, it means a lot. I can brag a little bit now to my dad haha.
Coming from you, that mean’s a lot. You have been involved in boxing before I was even born. So hearing that come from you definitely is something special.
KH: In closing is there anyone out there you would like to say hello to like Tyson?
Before you answer, I have to say, Mike was one of the nicest guys when Cus was still alive at the house in Catskill. Ever get to meet Mike?
KR: Sure I will give a shout out to Mike. My ex-girlfriend, the girl I talked about before, actually was in Las Vegas about a year and a half ago, and she ran into Tyson. She told him who she was and Mike welcomed her with open arms. Her and her friends hung out with him and his friends for a few hours actually. They tried calling me, but I was in bed sleeping.
Some people have the wrong idea about my father and Mike and just assume because of what happened my father hated him, and therefore made me hate him. My father always has and always will love Mike. He was always pulling for Mike, even when he wasn’t in his corner anymore. Unfortunately it’s sad what happened, they really had something good going together. It would have been interesting to see how things would have turned out had they stayed together.
KH: Now, seriously, if there is anything you want to say in closing, please do.
KR: Again I want to thank you for doing this interview. I also want to encourage any and all fight fans to join us at our upcoming show August 1st at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Uncasville, CT. Delvin Rodriguez vs. Isaac Hlatshwayo is going to be a tremendous fight and on the undercard you have some of our top prospects on the Star Roster, with Demetrius Andrade, Raymond Serrano, and Yathomas Riley all fighting in separate bouts. Look forward to talking to you soon, thanks again Ken.
e-mail Ken at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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