The local Brooklyn and boxing communities visited Frank Bell’s Funeral Home (536 Sterling Pl., Brooklyn) Feb. 23 to honor the life of native Brooklynite, Mitchell “Big Un” Rose, 51, who succumbed to the effects of COVID-19 on Feb. 12. The recently slacked social-distancing protocols allowed several hundred to pack inside and share their memories. Mention was made about his closeness with family and love for his children.
Born in Brooklyn Feb. 28, 1969, he grew up in Bed-Stuy’s Lafayette Gardens Houses and attended local public schools prior to enrolling at Clara Barton H.S., then transferring and graduating from Sarah J. Hale H.S. in 1987. He then attended Medgar Evers College. He came under the teachings of The Five Percenters as a teen, taking on the attribute of “Understanding,” “Big Un” for short, and it was most appropriate for his character.
He began boxing as a teenager, training at Bed Stuy Boxing Club, as well as Gleason’s Gym. He made it to the 1988 N.Y. Golden Gloves finals, prior to turning pro during spring 1991. His career highlight came at Madison Square Garden on the undercard of Oscar de la Hoya vs. Jess James Leija: on Dec. 15, 1995, Rose knocked out the heavily favored Eric “Butterbean” Esch (15-0 12 KOs) in the second round.
“When it was first offered, I told him you better take that fight,” recalled childhood friend and two-time NY Golden Gloves Champ Irving Pierre-Louis. “You can beat him.”
The upset win earned him many stripes. He would also spar with Brooklyn-bred World Heavyweight Champions Riddick Bowe and Shannon Briggs.
“Beating Butterbean at the Garden was my version of the Thrilla in Manila,” Rose said in a later interview. “It’s been almost 10 years and I still get a lot of respect for that fight. That is one of the few times I had time to train, about five weeks, and I surprised a lot of people. It was fun to piss a lot of people off and spoil the show. It was me everyone was usually laughing at. For a guy who was always walking around down and out, that was a triumphant moment for me.”
During late 2001, at Bed-Stuy’s Sugar Hill Night Club, Rose and boxing legend Iron Mike Tyson got into a scuffle after having several drinks. Rose would go on to sue Tyson and wrote a book detailing the incident, “Mike Tyson Tried to Kill My Daddy.”
“I wasn’t in a boxing state of mind and he was very, very strong,” Rose recounted. “I slipped backwards on the concrete, but I wasn’t scared. I should have been, but I wasn’t. I think Mike expected me to fold and surrender. Either way, I can say I got to fight Mike Tyson. It wasn’t in the ring where I would have liked to get the payday. It was the Brooklyn way, in the street.”
Rose wrote several rap records such as “Pull Up Your Pants,” and sued Jay Z, claiming he stole some of his lyrics. In 2008, his entrepreneurial spirit led to the popular “Obama Sneaker.”
Big Un concluded: “I never made a lot of money in the ring. My biggest paydays were $2,500 for the Nobles fight and $1,500 for Butterbean, but I got a lot of experiences that I measure as wealth. I’ve been up, I’ve been down, but I’m still here kicking—and hopefully punching again. Life works in funny ways. You never know what’s around the corner. Some people don’t want to know. Me, I can’t wait to find out.”