February 24th kicks off the Golden Gloves at New York City’s Copacabana. In honor of that, we’re featuring Michael Kozlowski, a trainer known for turning out sensational international champions – many of whom go on to become highly rated professionals
Training For The Next Level
Michael Kozlowski Looks To Build champions In The Pro Ranks by Ronald L. Zaslow (www.wbcboxing.com)
For Michael Kozlowski, it’s all about the sweet science. The Brooklyn, New York-based trainer, who works out of the legendary Gleason’s Gym, is a veritable fountain of knowledge and experience. The sport is his passion and what drives him. Sharing his expertise with fighters is what he does best.
He has compiled an impressive track record in the amateur ranks. For over two decades, the former Soviet amateur has trained champions around the world. Now he is looking to build winners at the professional level.
If the past helps determine the future, Kozlowski should succeed in his quest.
Kozlowski’s work in the ring began almost thirty years ago as a fighter. “I started boxing at the age of sixteen,” he recalls. “This was very late because most of my friends began at the age of twelve. I was only about 106 pounds and did not always win because I was very small. But, I wound up being about third or fourth on the national team. In fact, I had over 149 fights in my amateur career.”
The Russian native soon realized that training provided an opportunity to make a name for himself in the fight game. He got his first break in 1985, when he landed a coaching spot at The Olympic Boxing School of Moscow. In fact, Mike believes the Soviet university system was a key to his early success. “I am very lucky in the sense that I have a university degree,” he says. “I could not become a coach in Russia without one. You had to know the psychology of the kids and the degree helped.”
He made a name for himself in his homeland. One of his fighters, Andre Nosov won became a Russian National Junior Olympic Champion at 119 pounds in 1986. In 1991, Kozlowski led Sergei Grigoriev to a Russian National Championship.
But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kozlowski moved on to other endeavors. In 1995, he went to Israel. After two years he became the coach of the national team. One of his prized pupils, current professional Yuri Foreman, was a three-time Israeli National Champion. In 1997, under his tutelage, Roman Greenberg won a silver medal at the Cadet European Championships.
After his stay in Israel, Kozlowski came to the United States and settled in Brooklyn. Early on, he realized amateurs were his ticket into the fight game. “When I came to America, I decided that the amateur ranks were the best way to show people what I can do,” he says. “I forgot about what I achieved in Russia and Israel and focused on developing boxers here.”
Kozlowski began training fighters at Gleason’s. He achieved success with Foreman, who won a New York State Golden Gloves title and a bronze medal in the National Golden Gloves. He also led Daniel and Gabriel Castillo to Panamanian Championships.
Last year was one of his finest. In fact, under his tutelage, five of Kozlowski’s boxers, including Yelina Binder and Raven Royblatt, became New York Golden Glove Champions.
But for all of his amateur glory, the rise of veteran Jill Emery could be Kozlowski’s most impressive accomplishment.
In 1999, Emery, who had several amateur bouts to her credit, asked Kozlowski to train her. At first, he was hesitant. “Years ago, if somebody told me I would train female fighters, I would have said ‘no thank you,’” Kozlowski recalls. “She saw me training Yuri and came to me and said ‘I want to be like him.’ I told her I’ll take her if she wants to be a champion. The next day she came by and said she wanted to work with me. Soon she became a national champion.”
“This was prior to the 2000 Olympics,” recalls Emery. “It was the first time I really saw the Olympic style. It was weird-looking. But, I saw Yuri systematically destroy his opponents. I knew I had no future in boxing and figured I might as well try Mike’s style since it would either make or break me.
“At first we could not communicate. Mike’s only two languages at the time were Russian and Hebrew. But, somehow we were able to get it together and I won something like my next forty to fifty fights with him. It worked for me.”
Under Kozlowski, Emery won several titles including a gold medal at 138 pounds in the 2004 Women’s World Boxing Tournament. That same year she was named USA Boxing’s Athlete of the Year along with Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward. She has since turned pro and compiled an impressive 7-1 record.
She credits much of her success to her trainer. “The thing about Mike is that he is really intense,” she says. “He really has a vested interest in what he is doing because if you look bad he takes it personally. In a sport like boxing, you want someone like that in your corner.”
Kozlowski believes he is set to engulf himself in the pro ranks and produce champions. “I think I am ready to be a successful professional coach,” he says. He thinks he can take his vast amateur background and use it to make any fighter a winner provided they possess one crucial component. “I need to see only one thing,” he says. “Desire.”
The Mike Kozlowski story is one of change, a willingness to move forward and dedication to teaching others. He has lived around the world and trained fighters of all backgrounds. But there is one constant; he knows how to build champions.
Time will tell if this pattern continues in the professional ranks. But don’t doubt this motivated Russian. He’s done it before.
His record suggests he can do it again.