The interview takes place at the Olympia Café in downtown Osseo, just blocks from Caleb’s home. He says he eats here all the time, and while we eat the owner comes out to greet him and shoot the breeze. Dimitri says that Caleb isn’t just a customer, he’s part of the family. Truax says he sees himself as a nice guy – and he seems to be both friendly and thoroughly at ease. “I’m approachable, people can talk to me. People who know boxing know that we all aren’t like Mike Tyson. People say to me all the time, ‘you don’t seem like a boxer; you don’t seem angry.'” Truax smiles. He orders the “Big Fat Greek Omelete,” and I order the same. It is delicious. Thank you, Caleb, for introducing me to this restaurant. We talk for an hour over our omelets, and Truax is very open and enthusiastic.
The story of how Caleb “Golden” Truax became a boxer has been told and retold, but it’s worth repeating here. Truax was an exceptional athlete as a child. “I’ve always been an athletic dude ever since I was a little kid…baseball and football were my games.” He also likes to fish: “I’m from Minnesota, what else would I do?” Truax was a very good high school football player despite painful knees, and signed up to play football for Division II Virginia State. Arriving at Virginia State, Truax participated in practices, but the discomfort in his knees became too much. Not wanting to submit to surgery, Truax chose instead to give up his sport. After returning to Minnesota and enrolling at the U of M, Truax happened upon an ad for ACR Gym in City Pages, and walked in. He had always been a casual fan of boxing, but had never imagined fighting – in fact he didn’t even know there were any gyms in Minnesota before finding the ACR ad. His first coaches were John Hoffman (then the proprietor of ACR), Ron Lyke, and Tom Halstad, who is still his coach today.
Truax trained for a couple of months before his first amateur bout, which ended in a surprising knockout win. In his first year as an amateur, Truax beat the odds by participating in the Minneapolis Golden Gloves tournament (in only his fourth fight, a slight breach of the rules), winning the Upper Midwest golden gloves at the 178 pound weight, and making the semifinals in the Ringside international tournament.
Turning pro wasn’t part of Truax’s plans at the time, but just as he was hitting his stride as an amateur, someone notified the state amateur governing body that he had participated in a novice-level amateur toughman competition before his first amateur bout, and he was disqualified from further competition. This disqualification is the cause of some controversy even now, but the issue is dead, as Truax did indeed turn pro in April of 2007.
To date, Truax is flaunting a record of 7-0 (4 kayos), his most recent match being a breakthrough: he was invited to participate in a Goossen-Tutor promoted card at the Taachi Palace Casino in Lemoore, California. Truax virtually glows as he describes the treatment he received: He was picked up at the airport by a limousine, given a $100/day meal allowance, and bunked in his own room with a king-sized bed: “First class all the way.” He didn’t meet Dan Goossen, but he dealt extensively with Dan’s son Craig Goossen. Truax’s final word on Goossen-Tutor: “The whole operation was great.”
In training a couple of weeks before that fight (against then 3-1-2 Thomas Rittenbaugh on June 26) Truax had been sparring with Matt Vanda and Mohamed Kayongo. While sparring with Kayongo, Truax had his nose rearranged a bit by a strong uppercut and the resulting tenderness resulted in some quick bleeding against Rittenbaugh. Nevertheless, Truax decisively beat Rittenbaugh by scores of 60-54, 60-54, and 59-55. His performance must have pleased the out-of-town promoter, as he was offered an opportunity to fight on the July 18 card in southern California that now includes St Paul’s Antonio Johnson. This was an opportunity he had to pass on, to give his nose a chance to heal.
What does the future hold? Truax is unusually forthcoming when asked about his ambitions. First of all, he never planned to turn pro, so this all seems like a bonus to him. He seems thrilled to be undefeated, but he’s getting a grip on his situation and is starting to think big. In the immediate future he’s planning a move down from super middleweight to middleweight, beginning with an incremental move in his next bout (August 29 at Grand Casino Hinckley), which he thinks will be contested at 164. His opponent for that one was initially announced as Butch Hajicek, but now Butch is out and Stephan Pryor (the son of Aaron Pryor) is the tentative opponent. Should Pryor fall through, Kendall Gould and Jorge Alberto Gonzalez have been mentioned.
Asked who he would like to face, Truax doesn’t beat around the bush. “Right now I’d love to get two or three more fights and then get in with Kenny Kost. He’s an interesting guy, and he’s been around the block. He’s a little smaller than me, but I can get down to his weight without too much trouble. Hopefully he’ll think the same way…and maybe it’ll happen this fall at the U of M or in Maple Grove.” That’s pretty interesting, considering that right now Truax is walking around at 185#, and Kost has lately been fighting as a middleweight. “My coach, Tom Hall, is always getting on my case, wants me to stay around 180, but all through high school I was a solid 190. (laughs) “I just can’t drink too much beer, and no candy, and stuff like that.”
The big picture is less clear, but Truax does offer this: “I love what I’m doing – it’s really coming at me fast, but I’m learning a lot. I never thought I was gonna be a pro…I had always said, ‘that’s not something I’m gonna do, getting beat up for a little money,’ I never thought I was gonna be a pro, but I’m loving it more and more as I’m getting deeper and deeper into it….it’s been awesome so far, the first year in.” Truax is proud to be a Minnesota boxer and says that fighting on the Minnesota scene is okay, but “within the next year I’d definitely like to get a TV fight. I like that I’ve started out right, here in Minnesota. But I’d like to get on TV a bit and develop a little bit of a national following…you’ve got to let other people see you…I see myself getting to about 12-0 and then starting to take the bigger fights, traveling a lot and fighting on TV.”
On the topic of boxing in Minnesota, Truax speaks of his pride in the current crop of very good professionals. “We’ve got a lot of good fighters [in Minnesota] right now. Vanda, Jungle Boy and Andy Kolle, the boys from up north, lots of other guys, too. Phil Williams, I’m excited to see what he’ll do. Jonny Schmidt, Wilton Hilario, I love to watch him fight. And Anthony Bonsante.” This leads us to a discussion of Bonsante. Truax disagrees with his friend Corey Rodriguez, who said that Bonsante goes easy in sparring. “That’s because Rodriguez is a little guy! I’m bigger, so he’s pretty hard on me.” Truax laughs heartily, and then speaks of Bonsante with some seriousness. “When I first turned pro Bonsante was a good guy to me. He taught me some stuff, some veteran tricks. He was very cool.”
One gets the idea, talking to Truax, that he’s a natural born networker, and he confirms that. He’s friendly with other fighters, he says, but “I won’t even talk to guys I’m going to fight. I’ll say ‘hi,’ but that’s all.” This led to an awkward moment before his last fight, when Rittenbaugh tried to be friendly and Truax wouldn’t engage. He tried to make up for it after the fight, though, buying Rittenbaugh a beer and chatting him up a little bit.
I asked Truax about his management team, and he spoke highly of four men: “Tony G [promoter Tony Grygelko], he’s a good guy, a bubbly personality. He’s always talking and joking, and…he took me under his wing when I was just starting as an amateur and he was still a pro fighter. He gave me advice and tips, and we were friends before he became a promoter. When I turned pro I could trust him and he was my friend – that’s a big thing. And he’s a hard worker and is keeping me busy, [so] we’re going nowhere but up. Ron Lyke is a great manager and also a coach. He’s got a ton of experience, he’s an old-timer who gives me the right tips. Jim Maurine, my cut man/coach/punching bag, spends a lot of time working with me. And Tom Halstad is an innovator, an awesome coach. He’s taught me a lot and he has me in awesome shape.” Bottom line: “I’m really happy with my team and where I’m at right now.”
Editor’s note: Truax made a point of mentioning some amateur boxers from the area who he likes, and I can’t let this pass without making a mention: “Tony Lee is good, everybody knows Javontae Starks. Jamal James…also keep an eye on Bruce Butler, and there a bunch more of them, man…and David Colon. He’s amazing to watch, he’s only eleven years old but he fights like he’s 18, his comfort and the way he moves.” Truax chuckles. “He’s one to watch, man.”