For a while in 2008 it looked like the Minnesota boxing scene had gone stale.
Sure, we had Minnesota fighters getting cracks at prospects, Matt Vanda had two spirited contests with JCC2, and we even had Jason Litzau go eight rounds (or 7.85 rounds) with world featherweight titlist Robert Guerrero with a belt on the line. But the intra-Minnesota wars weren’t happening, and everybody seemed to feel the void.
Matchups that people were talking about in Minnesota were getting not made in spades; matches like Zach Walters -vs- Phil Williams, Anthony Bonsante -vs- Andy Kolle or Kenny Kost, Allen Litzau -vs- Wilton Hilario, Joey Abell -vs- Raphael Butler, or seemingly any two fighters at or under 130#.
Now early in 2009 it looks like the opposite dynamic is at work. Three bouts of particular note deserve the attention of Minnesota fight fans:
Brad Patraw -vs- Antwan Robertson: A source of exasperation for Minnesotans has been the apparent unwillingness of Minnesota’s small men to meet in the ring. There are just too many good young fighters at or below 130# who could be matched if they were willing. In addition to Patraw and Robertson, who are both 4-0, we also have Willshaun Boxley at 4-0, Wilton Hilario at 10-0, Allen Litzau at 13-3, Jeremy McLaurin at 2-0, and Gary Eyer at 4-0 . Each name could potentially be matched with at least two others from the list, but none have been. Now Patraw and Robertson are set to disrupt the frustrating trend with their meeting scheduled for March 28 at Grand Casino Hinckley. Neither has made a big splash on the pro scene, but both are undefeated, so whoever wins will have enhanced their resume considerably. And whoever loses can say his only loss was to an undefeated prospect!
Anthony Bonsante -vs- Andy Kolle: This fight, also on March 28 at Grand Casino Hinckley, will be Bonsante’s first defense of the Minnesota middleweight title since winning it against Matt Vanda 25 months ago. It comes against a very deserving opponent. The younger boxer from Fergus Falls by way of Duluth has a record of 17-2 with the two losses coming to contender Andre Ward and world champion Paul Williams, while his two best wins came against Matt Vanda and Jonathan Reid, a couple of 30+ win veterans. Bonsante, for his part, brings a long and varied history to the ring with him, including wins against such accomplished fighters as Tony Ayala Jr, Troy Lowry, and the aforementioned Vanda. Ringsiders can expect to see a competitive affair featuring skilled combatants, a special treat for the dedicated local fight fan.
Allen Litzau -vs- Wilton Hilario: This fight pits 13-3 Litzau against 10-0 Hilario in a super featherweight bout, and this one has it all: history (as an amateur Hilario fought from COD gym in Minneapolis, Litzau from Glancey’s Gym in St Paul), nationalism (Dominican Republic -vs- USA), race (Latino -vs- White), civic competition (Minneapolis -vs- St Paul), and bad blood (see http://www.minnesotaboxing.com/Interviews/Hilario/2_5_07.html for more on that). A couple of skilled young men in tremendous shape fighting for in-state bragging rights can only be good for the local game – the only thing better would have been for this fight to happen sooner.
These fights are either signed or nearly so. What else is brewing, I couldn’t say – there’s more than one good promoter operating in Minnesota, and the good ones are good at keeping secrets. But for the local fight fan there is hope for the future, and we can be thankful for that.