Rooney has ex-fighter dad in his corner

In boxing, the Rooney name was once associated with one of the most exciting heavyweights in prizefighting history: Mike Tyson.

Nowadays, it belongs to an upcoming light middleweight whose namesake father trained Tyson. Kevin Rooney Jr., who has roots in Catskill, N.Y. -- the upstate community put on the boxing map by the pulverizing Tyson back in the late 80s - is following in his dad's footsteps as a professional fighter.

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He's 2-0 since and hopes to make it three wins in a row Aug. 27 when he meets debutant Carlos Perez at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. The fight is scheduled for four rounds.

"I've heard he's a tough kid, that he's aggressive and comes forward, which is good for me," Rooney said last week. "I feel confident."

The younger Rooney's confidence is understandable. Being the son of trainer Kevin Rooney, there's more than a hint of that exciting, explosive peek-a-boo style exhibited by Tyson in his prime under Rooney, Sr.

"I definitely use the style - it's a great defensive style if you get into the habit of moving your head," Rooney remarked. "I've altered it a bit. It's not completely peek-a-boo [since] I'm 6-foot tall."The rapid combination punching remains unaltered.

A publicist by day for Bronx promoter Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing, Rooney trains in Morris Park most evenings. Weekends are spent in upstate Catskill, under the watchful eye of his dad at the legendary Cus D'Amato Gym where Tyson honed his skills.

Needless to say, Rooney Sr., a 1975 New York Daily News Golden Gloves titlist before he embarked on a respectable pro career, serves as his son's head trainer and de facto manager. He's assisted by Alberto Santiago, Willie Soto and Ryan O'Leary.

The veteran coach with County Clare lineage likes what he sees in his son.

"His prospects are good and that's from my boxing brain," Rooney, Sr., said. "I'm a little impressed. He has a lot of ability."

"I want K.C. to have a good run. What I see out there is nothing special so if he gives it his all he could be in line," Rooney, Sr. added.

Young Rooney, who lives in Westchester, likes working with his vastly experienced father. "We have a good father and son relationship," he said.

Rooney said: "He definitely has expectations of me which is fine since I also have high expectations of myself."

Rooney's pro debut - a four round unanimous points nod over one David Navarro in Connecticut last April - came at the relatively advanced age of 26 and after two bitterly frustrating campaigns in the Golden Gloves.

"He came to me a couple of years ago and said I want to become a fighter," Rooney Sr. recounted. "I said go to every gym in New York and spar with professionals and he did."

With his dad in his corner, Rooney made his Golden Gloves debut last year and reached the quarterfinals in the 165-pound division. "They robbed him," Rooney Sr. claimed. "Then he entered this year and first fight they robbed him again!"

That was the cue for Rooney Jr. to jump into the paid ranks.

Although he may appear to be a late starter in the fight game, his boxing fundamentals were established long before his amateur bow.

Born at the tail end of his father's 21-4-1 [7 KOs] career that ended in 1985, Kevin was a regular in the Cus D'Amato gym from his toddler days when the biggest attraction in the Catskill facility was the precocious Tyson.

"I started really young at [age] five and stopped at nine," he recalled.

From a long time of athletes on his father's side, he was a standout baseball and football player in high school.

The Hudson High School alumnus earned first team All-Conference honors in gridiron but now has his eyes on boxing honors.


Andy Lee says he won't underestimate Bryan Vera this time when they finally meet in their long anticipated rematch, October 1 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Vera [19-5, 12 KOs] stunned Lee with a seventh round TKO three years ago and is the only man to have defeated the 26-1 Limerick southpaw in the pro ranks.

"The first time around, I was young, immature and blowing guys away. I was overconfident going in there and underestimated him," Lee said last week. "I've made changes since; I'm preparing better and won't underestimate him this time."

"I see myself boxing and moving and if I have to go to war, I will go to war," he added.


Heavyweight Thomas "The Hitman" Hardwick [2-0, 2 KOs] is scheduled for his third professional fight September 23 at The Cordon Bleu in Woodhaven, Queens.

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