By Thomas Hauser
There was a time when New York City was a breeding ground for elite fighters. Those days are long gone, but prospects still surface in the Big Apple. Will Rosinsky is one of them.
Rosinsky is the youngest of three sons and has spent his entire life in Queens (one of New York’s five boroughs). His father was an automotive mechanic, who repaired large vehicles (think fire engines and eighteen-wheel trucks). In the early 1990s, Bill Rosinsky suffered crippling injuries from a fall off a scaffold and has been on disability ever since. Will’s mother, now retired, was a customer representative for Verizon. His oldest brother is a tattoo artist. His other brother does janitorial work and hopes to become a New York City corrections officer.
At age 24, Will still lives with his parents. “I’m the baby in the family,” he says. “And I’ve lived in the same house for almost my whole life. I guess that’s why it’s hard for me to leave.”
Rosinsky transitioned into boxing after practicing karate in junior high school. Thereafter, he won four New York Golden Gloves championships and a USA Amateur national crown; all at 178 pounds.
“I don’t know my exact amateur record,” he says. “It was something like 85 wins and twelve losses with a handful of knockouts.” He was twenty-pointed once in a tournament in Russia (a stoppage based on points), but has never been knocked out.
Still, despite his accomplishments, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Rosinsky would turn pro. As an amateur, he’d trained at the Starrett City Gym with Jaidon Codrington; a super-middleweight from Connecticut, who was once considered a "can’t-miss" prospect.
On November 4, 2005, Codrington (then 9-and-0 with 9 knockouts) journeyed to Oklahoma to fight Allan Green. Seconds into the bout, Green landed a left hook to the temple. The blow landed in a freakish way that left Jaidon senseless but still standing with his arms frozen upright. Then Green landed several more blows and Codrington pitched forward face-first into the ropes where he was entangled on the bottom two strands. Several spectators pushed him back into the ring. His body looked lifeless and his neck was twisted grotesquely so that his head was tucked beneath his torso. He was carried from the ring on a stretcher.
"I thought he was dead," Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood who was at ringside later admitted.
“Coming up behind Jaidon and sparring with him in the gym,” Rosinsky recalls, “I’d put him on a pedestal. I was in China at an amateur tournament when he got knocked out, so I heard about it before I saw the tape. Then Jaidon got knocked out again [by Sakio Bika in 2007]. Knowing how good he was, I questioned my own ability and had second thoughts about turning pro.”
Rosinsky entered the ranks of professional fighters in August 2008. Since then, he has lost weight and plans to compete at 168 pounds. His record stands at 6-and-0 with six knockouts. But he acknowledges, “So far, we’ve been able to pick the opponents, so I’ve gone from fighting the best amateurs in the country to fighting guys who aren’t so good. The first six guys I fought; three came to win, the other three just came for the paycheck. But I think we’re doing it the right way. I started fighting guys who had losing records. Now I’m looking for guys who are at .500. Next, it will be guys with winning records.”
Rosinsky is self-managed. His business advisors when it comes to boxing are the father-and-son team of Pat and Keith Connolly. Felipe Gomez (a New York City cop) is his trainer. “I keep a pretty tight circle,” Will says. “Trust is important to me. I trust my family. I trust Felipe, Keith, and Pat. I don’t need a lot of people hanging on.”
As for his skills, Rosinsky says, “I’m not a good gym fighter. In the gym, I get hit with way too many stupid punches. But on the big stage, I rise to the occasion. My best punch is the hook to the body. I don’t have one-punch knockout power. I’m more of a volume puncher, but I do have the power to hurt you. I’ve got good footwork and a good chin. I see myself making some noise as a fighter and being good enough to get a title shot. Will I win that night? Realistically, I know that all my hard work and skills and dedication might be matched by the other guy. So when that time comes, we’ll see.”
“The best thing about being a fighter,” Will continues, “is feeling you’re being rewarded for all the hard work you’ve put in. When I put my mind to something, I give it one hundred percent. That’s the kind of person I am. I can’t stop until it’s perfect, and you need that in boxing. If you don’t put in the work, you’re disrespecting the sport. And if you disrespect boxing, it will disrespect you. I know I can be good. I don’t know if I can become great. Time will tell.”
As for the dangers in boxing, Rosinsky says, “It sucks to get hit. The punches hurt; I promise you that. I can take a punch. But I don’t care how good your chin is, you don’t want to get hit. And you can have a fight where the winner’s brain gets hit just as much and just as hard as the loser’s. You can win and walk out of the ring just as messed up as if you’d lost. I get hit too much, especially in the gym. I like boxing, but I don’t want to do it forever. That’s for sure.”
Many fighters think that way. Will is simply more open about it than most. And unlike most young fighters, he has a career option that might be more attractive to him than boxing.
Rosinsky is a graduate of Queens College. As part of his bachelors degree program, he worked as a student teacher at St. Francis Prep and PS 207 (both in Queens). He’s now certified by the New York State Board of Regents to teach in the New York City school system.
Teaching requires a blend of qualities that Rosinsky feels he has in abundance. Confidence, creativity, compassion, enthusiasm, and common sense. “It’s a rewarding job,” he says. “You get attached to the kids, and they get attached to you. Whatever happens to me in boxing, whether I’m a world champion or never get beyond eight-round fights, I’m going to teach when I’m done.”
“St. Francis was very strict,” Rosinsky recalls, reflecting on his time as a student teacher. “If you told the kids to be quiet, they were quiet. If you told them to get in line, they got in line. The public school kids were less disciplined and you’ve got fifty kids in a class. All you need is one clown, and the others follow. At one point, I would have said I want to teach high school. Now I’d go with elementary school. That’s where you can see the most change and make the biggest difference in a child’s life. It’s easier to teach in the Catholic schools and there’s less stress. The pay in the public schools is better. Probably, my boxing background would get me some respect up front from the kids in public school where other teachers might have to work harder to earn it. But at the end of the day, either you’re a good teacher or you’re not. I think I’d be good.”
How will the pieces of Rosinsky’s career fit together?
Promoter Lou DiBella has developed a number of New York City fighters. Rosinsky has fought on two of his “Broadway Boxing” cards and is likely to do so again in the future.
“I’d love to sign Will,” DiBella says. “First of all, I like him. He’s a smart kid, somewhat circumspect, very aware of the dark side of boxing and the dangers that go with it. He has good boxing skills, probably better than he realizes. And he’s a ticket seller with a good local following that will get bigger as his career progresses.”
Then DiBella sounds a note of caution.
“Sometimes, I think that a lack of belief in himself as a fighter might hold Will back. But the biggest potential limitation in terms of his career is that the hunger might not be there. Most guys who are where he is right now in boxing are fighting to eat. Will has other options, and those options are attractive to him. At some point in his life, he wants to be a teacher. That shows character and a lot of other good things. But it also means that he might wake up one morning after a tough fight, maybe even a tough fight that he wins, and say, ‘Screw this. I’d rather teach. No one will be hitting me in the head; the pay is good; and I’ll be changing the lives of children.’ I think he’s a good guy. I have no idea what he’ll do. But whatever he does, as long as he follows his heart, more power to him.”
Rosinsky’s father would like him to stop boxing. “He supports me in what I want to do,” Will says. “But he’s in my ear from time to time, saying, ‘Just be a teacher.’”
Meanwhile, his mother would like him to keep fighting. “She loves it, which is pretty weird,” Will observes. “After each fight, she asks me, ‘When’s the next one?’”
So how long will Rosinsky keep fighting?
The question is put to him as he’s eating a salad while those gathered around him in a restaurant are devouring pizza.
“I don’t know,” Will answers. “If you’re a teacher, you don’t have to make weight.”
Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at email@example.com. His most recent book (“The Boxing Scene”) was published earlier this year by Temple University Press.