For most of this time, Ziggy Rozalski is a very busy and successful businessman. He owns a burgeoning auto body shop in downtown Jersey City and also has a variety of real estate holdings, including the World Fitness Center and Gym on Division Street.
But there’s another sidelight to Rozalski’s life, namely one of being a professional boxing promoter.
Rozalski is the mastermind behind the career of Jersey City resident Tomasz Adamek’s career. Along with Main Events, Rozalski’s Ziggy Promotions has watched Adamek skyrocket to becoming the first native of Poland to ever win a world championship, namely the IBF cruiserweight title Adamek currently holds.
Adamek’s career has blossomed since he arrived in the United States, especially since last December, when Adamek defeated Steve Cunningham to win the IBF world cruiserweight championship at the Prudential Center in Newark.
Since then, Adamek has successfully defended his title twice, both at “The Rock,” which has become Adamek’s home arena. Polish natives have flocked to the Rock to cheer on their native son.
Rozalski’s Ziggy Promotions has been a co-promoter with Main Events on each of those cards, each drawing in excess of 6,000 fans to the Prudential Center.
“He’s the first Polish world champion,” Rozalski said of Adamek. “Tomasz appreciates all you do for him and it’s been a thrill for me to have Poland’s first world champion. He trusts me and if I tell him to jump off the Empire State Building, he’d say, ‘Let’s go.’ That’s how he is. It’s great for Poland and it’s great for the area, because there’s a big Polish population in the area.”
There are an estimated 3 million people in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. Places like Wallington, Clifton, Passaic and even Jersey City have huge Polish populations. So Adamek is in the right place.
Rozalski has been busy lining up possible opponents for his prized champ. There have been negotiations for a nationally televised fight with Roy Jones, Jr. Even more heated discussions have been in the works with HBO and former famed champ Bernard Hopkins, a fight that could take place in January in the Prudential Center.
But for now, Rozalski has Adamek’s next fight lined up. It will be a heavyweight fight Oct. 24 in his native Poland – against none other than Andrew Golota.
The 41-year-old Golota will come out of semi-retirement to take on the current Polish champ, a classic match of two Polish boxing titans.
“We’re getting a special exception from the IBF to hold the fight,” said Rozalski, who is headed to Poland for the press conference announcing the fight this week. “It’s going to be a heavyweight fight. Eventually, Tomasz wants to go to heavyweight. It’s a fight that everyone in Poland wants to see.”
But Rozalski won’t take sides in the fight.
“Andrew is my friend and Tomasz is my friend,” Rozalski said. “I’m just going to be a spectator. It’s going to be a fun night.”
Rozalski takes no money whatsoever for being a promoter.
“I do it as a friend,” Rozalski said. “I just line up the commitments, the sponsors, the TV. I don’t do it for the money.”
And here’s the funniest part of the whole thing.
“I don’t like boxing,” Rozalski said. “I pray that the other guy doesn’t get hurt. People get hurt in boxing. I don’t like people getting hurt. It’s a business I never wanted to get into.”
Rozalski got into the boxing game because of his association with Golota, which happened by accident more than 10 years ago.
“He was a nobody when he came to the gym,” Rozalski said. “Lou Duva brought him to my gym. He knew me and knew that I was Polish. He knew that I could help Andrew with some paperwork, because he was having some difficulty back in Poland. So I helped him with his paperwork and his boxing and we became friends.”
And eventually, the Polish immigrant, who became an auto body wizard, was the promoter for many of Golota’s heavyweight title bouts.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” Rozalski said. “I was just a businessman. I was handling the business side.”
Rozalski worked with Main Events to promote some of Golota’s fights, including the first-ever professional fight televised in Poland, a battle between Golota and former WBA world heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon in 1998.
“Polstat TV televised the fight and 83 percent of Poland watched it on television, which was even bigger than the Pope going to Poland,” Rozalski said. “It was all strictly business. I did it because I liked Andrew. He’s the godfather to one of my daughters. It was to help him in business.”
Golota would eventually fight for the heavyweight title five times – and lost all five. He also fought former heavyweight champs Riddick Bowe and Mike Tyson. Golota had a 41-7 record as a pro.
“I was very happy working with Andrew,” Rozalski said. “We were just not successful in giving Poland its first world champion. But Andrew is a Polish legend.”
Rozalski figured that he was done promoting fighters, until he received a phone call five years ago from another budding Polish boxing star named Tomasz Adamek.
“Tomasz called me and said that he knew that I helped Andrew become a star in America,” Rozalski said. “He said that he wanted to make it in America, the greatest country in the world. He kept calling and calling and I told him I wasn’t interested in helping another fighter. I told him with my body shop and my real estate, I didn’t have the time to help him. He said that he knew I was busy and he said he couldn’t pay me to help me.”
But then Adamek made a plea to Rozalski that changed everything.
“He said that he would pray for me to help him,” Rozalski said. “When he said that, what else could I do? I said, `OK, when do you want to come to America?’ He said he wanted to come right away.”
Rozalski then set Adamek up in an apartment in Jersey City and helped him become accustomed to his new surroundings. He allowed Adamek to train in his gym with famed Polish boxing trainer Andrew Gmitruk.
“Once I started working with Adamek, I knew he was a pleasure to work with,” Rozalski said. “He’s so grateful for everything. He’s a family man, a good man who is religious and has two kids. I’m very happy working with Adamek. But this is my last venture. Adamek is the last. I’m done when he’s done.”
And now, Rozalski is going back to his native Poland to give the Polish people what they truly want, a clash of the Polish titans…
Two local legends will earn the honor of being inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in October. The late Tony Nicodemo and John Wendelken have both been selected to join a Hall of Fame that already has such local legends as Tommy Heinsohn, Togo Palazzi and George Blaney as inductees. We’ll have more about the date and event when it draws closer, but it’s a great way to remember two great men, Wendelken and the near and dear “Tony the Tiger,” who passed away a few years ago…
The high school football season will begin Sept. 11 and beginning next week, we’ll begin our in-depth previews of each local team, filled with names, numbers, statistics and what have you. Make sure to secure your editions of The Hudson Reporter for the coming weeks… -- Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.