Juan Roman makes his pro boxing debut in Hollywood

By Igor Frank

Ever wonder what it would feel like to get in the ring as a professional prize fighter for the first time?

“Just another day in the office, “said Juan Roman who will be making his professional debut as a bantamweight this Thursday, October 30th at the famed Hollywood night club, Florentine Gardens against Gabriel Braxton (1-5). “I don’t feel no nerves. I just feel that I am going to do what I’ve been doing for years already.”

Roman who grew up in Brooklyn, NY, said that he was introduced to the sweet science by his barber, a former professional boxer. “His name is Ariel Espinar and he knows me from the streets from Brooklyn,” Roman said. “He told me, just let me take you to the gym. Let me show you some boxing and see if you like it. And from there on I just took it.”

 Juan started boxing competitively in 2005 and won New York Golden Gloves tournament twice in 2011 and 2012.  This year Juan Roman and his coach Mike Kozlowski decided to turn professional. Considering his age, 28, and weight division, his window of opportunity is short, but the fighter of Puerto Rican descent doesn’t seem perturbed.

“First of all I work really hard,” replied Roman when I asked him how he knows that he could be successful in the professional ranks. “I have a good boxing style. I have power and most important, I see myself winning. I imagine it every day that I am going to be great.” 

Juan Roman’s goal is to walk in the footsteps of ring great, Oscar De La Hoya. 

“Definitely become a world champion, “he said. “Win a few titles and get involved in the promotion too.”

Observing Juan Roman in the ring I was impressed with his fluid movement and lightning fast purposeful combinations. Walking around the ring as if he owned it, Juan reminds me of a young Timothy Bradley with power.

“I haven’t compared myself to anybody at all,” said Roman. “All I can say is that I am a boxer puncher depending on how I feel that day.”

Guillermo Rigondeaux is Juan’s favorite fighter. Considering that they are in the same weight division, I asked Roman if he has ever imagined facing his idol in the ring. “I have imagined it a few times,” said Roman. “He is a hard guy to figure out. I haven’t come up with a tactic.” 

Good luck with that one.

To be successful in the professional boxing ranks one has to have a good team around him. Juan has a team worthy of note. His trainer Mike Kozlowski brings a wealth of amateur experience from Kazakhstan, a republic of the former Soviet Union that has been in boxing news due to rising popularity of a knock out artist, Gennady Golovkin. Kozlowski who is responsible for the early success of former world champion, Yuri Foreman, is waiting to be discovered as a pro coach. He believes Juan Roman is his ticket.

“He’s got power and he’s got balls,” said Kozlowski about his charge. “We’ll see about his chin.”

In the gym coach Mike is an ultimate dictator. He rules his empire with an iron fist. It’s his way or the highway or as he so eloquently puts it himself. “Win or die!”

“Discipline!” exclaims Roman when I asked him to give me his coaches strong points: “Very big part on discipline and conditioning; he is a great conditioning coach.”

Roman’s manager is a relative newcomer to sweet science, the lovely Anna Dragost.  Anna came to Southern California from Russia three years ago. She instantly knew Los Angeles would be her home. Her energy and passion for the sweet science is infectious.

“Juan is like my baby,” she said. “He is going to be my first champion.” 

In close knit Southern California boxing circles Anna is rumored to be the next First Lady of Boxing. Imagine, Jackie Kallen and James Toney or Anna Dragost and Juan Roman. Anything is possible. Stay tuned or better yet come down to Florentine Gardens on Thursday and see Juan Roman’s debut live.