Angel Alejandro: Boxing’s Versace
By: Sean Crose
It’s late at night in New York City, around two am. A product of the mean streets of the Big Apple, one who has risen above and beyond the pitfalls of youth, is hard at work. A long married father of two, the professional toils away at his craft, knowing full well that timeliness is imperative. Indeed, he pushes along until the sun comes up. Then he races to send his work off, post haste. The man’s name is Angel Alejandro, and he has just designed and delivered a pair of custom made boxing trunks that will appear in the highly successful and acclaimed movie, Creed.
Now fifty, Alejandro is the most unique of boxing’s success stories. A troubled youth, he found salvation in the gym. He might not have reached Olympian heights in the ring, but his love of the sweet science, combined with a unique fashion sense, have proven to have paid off handsomely. “I was in and out of trouble as a kid,” says Alejandro. Boxing, though, proved his salvation. The sport, however, isn’t generally the most lucrative endeavor. Moving on from a fighter to the owner of a local gym was no easy task.
“Gyms don’t pay the bills,” he says frankly. Yet the New Yorker also adds that he’s “always been business minded.” On top of that, Alejandro says he was “always into designing.” Hence, an idea occurred. “Six years ago, seven years ago maybe,” Alejandro started making outfits for fighters. “All of the sudden,” Alejandro explains, “it became a business.” Needless to say, business is booming right now. “I can’t take any more orders until the end of June,” he tells me during our conversation in early May.
A quick note about Alejandro – he’s an exceedingly interesting guy to talk to. A classic New Yorker, the man can tell enough interesting true life anecdotes to fill a book, much less an article, making it difficult for a fight writer to know which stories to employ. There’s his recent experience, for instance, of making a custom made suit for Native American Kali Reis, in which he enlisted the services of the premiere Native American designer in the country. He ended up using authentic fabric from Reis’ tribe. “We got online and stared calling Native American dressmakers,” he says.
Then, of course, there’s the story behind Alejandro’s Roberto Clemente jacket, which was made exclusively for Cindy Serrano (“You open up the sleeves and the gloves come out”) Then there’s the work he’s done for Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller. And Heather “The Heat” Hardy. And Hank Lundy. Perhaps the most interesting of the stories Alejandro has to recall, however, is the one involving “King” Gabe Rosado.
“King Gabe Rosado got us into the Creed movie,” he says. ” I’m fighting Lemiuex,’” Alejandro recalls Rosado telling him. “’I want to do Apollo Creed because they’re thinking of doing the movie Creed.” Alejandro obliged, offering his own take on the red, white, and blue trunks made famous in the Rocky films. Rosado ended up acting in Creed…and he did at least some of it wearing trunks made by Alejandro’s company, Double A Boxing. Alejandro was floored. “Rocky made me want to get into boxing,” he recalls.
There was one strange condition for Alejandro before he fully went Hollywood, though – Rosado’s suit in the film couldn’t outshine the star’s. “I thought it was nice,” Alejandro recalls of his finished product that appeared onscreen, “but it’s not what we do.” Not that the man isn’t grateful for being a part of the Rocky universe. “That was unbelievable,” he says fondly.
Beneath Alejandro’s colorful conversationalist is a serious artist. One doesn’t achieve what the guy has without knowing one’s business. And Alejandro knows fashion as well as the next high end designer. He speaks expertly of things like varieties of fabric and leather and rhinestones and sequin the way a master painter speaks of things like oil, canvas, lighting, and watercolors. In short, the man is a master craftsman who wants his imagination to match his artistic ambition. “You’re always trying to outdo yourself,” he tells me. It’s the sort of thing a musician or a literary novelist might say.
Yet Alejandro is also a businessman, and as such knows how important it is to please the customer. Alejandro claims that timeliness is of extreme importance with fighters, that the clothing must be delivered before the week of the fight. Understanding that fighters tend to be good people, Alejandro notes that “a good fighter has to turn something on in himself to make him mean.”
That transition tends to come just before a match. The last thing a fighter needs at that time is to wonder where his or her trunks are. “They’ll get a box in the door the week before the fight,” he says. Overall, Alejandro wants to make the entire process as pleasurable as possible for his clients. “It’s like getting a custom suit somewhere,” he states. “We try to make it an experience,” he says, speaking of the fitting process. Such dedication to craft has earned Alejandro and his employees the title of “The boxing Vercases.”
Alejandro isn’t interested in leaving the past behind, however. He still operates his gym, not because it earns him a ton of money, but because he remembers what boxing did for him. “I remember what the gym did for me growing up,” he states. “I don’t know where I’d be,” without it. As for Double A Boxing, it’s had to move to a more accommodating location for clients, Harlem’s famous 125th Street.
“It’s shocking,” the designer says of his success. “When you love what you do, you do it well.”