In Praise of Matt Vanda

A couple of thoughts to preface this column:  First of all, this blog has never had a lot to say about Matt Vanda before, other than to cover his fights.  That’s about to change.  Secondly, I don’t usually like to write about a fighter without getting some comments from the subject first.  But today I’m going to dispense with that practice because, frankly, there’s nothing for Vanda to add to this article.  I’m going to do his bragging for him.

For the last few years Vanda (41-9 with 23 knockouts) has been the beating heart of Minnesota boxing.  Win or lose – and he has lost sometimes to local rivals – The Predator remains the most recognizable and charismatic character on the Minnesota fight scene.

Though Vanda first fought as a welterweight and in his second bout dropped down to junior welter, he has made most of his noise at middleweight and junior middle.

He has fought many of the leading lights of these divisions, with uneven results.  Significant wins against Jonathan Corn, Sam Garr, and Tocker Pudwill didn’t reap the desired publicity because some (many) onlookers thought that the wins were tainted – Corn by an early stoppage and Garr and Pudwill by bogus split decisions.  On the other hand, losses to Anthony Bonsante, Kenny Kost, Andy Kolle, Sebastien Demers, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, and John Duddy didn’t hurt him as much as they might have, either because he showed himself to be a tough gamer or because he performed unexpectedly well.  And wins against Troy Lowry, Yory Boy Campas, and most recently super middleweight Teddy Muller showed that despite shortcomings, Vanda has both heart and talent.

Minnesota boxing fans watch and wait to see someone else pick up the standard for Minnesota boxing.  We watch for someone else – anyone else – to put together the trifecta of exciting fights, frequent fights, and televised fights that Vanda has managed to bring us, and it doesn’t happen.  Tony Bonsante came closest, but his fights just weren’t as dramatic as Vanda’s.

Now Vanda headlines what is perhaps the most successful boxing event in Minnesota since…Vanda -vs- Bonsante back in January of 2007.  Twenty-two hundred tickets were sold out two weeks ahead of Vanda’s scheduled super middleweight bout with Phil “The Drill” Williams (11-1 with 10 knockouts) on November 13th.  Not only that, but this event will be televised on Fox Sports North, and that’s almost unheard-of.

Say what you want about Vanda’s career trajectory, the sometimes friendly hometown scoring from which he has benefitted, and his uncouth public persona.  If you know nothing else about the man, remember this: Matt Vanda has carried the image of Minnesota boxing on his back for years with little help.  Whatever develops in the future, you can thank Matt Vanda for keeping the spark of local pride alive.


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