Here’s a new tradition: the Happy New Year article. Just like last year, I’m going to outline which Minnesota boxers gained ground, which backslid, and which ones didn’t make a move in 2009.
- Jason Litzau – Some people may have thought that Litzau was toast after being manhandled and kayoed by world champ Robert Guerrero in his only fight of 2008. But in 2009 Litzau shined while moving up from 126# to 135#, and then back down to 130#. It was his fight with Verquan Kimbrough that really put him back on the map, as Litzau battered the 21-1-2 Kimbrough on his way to a 3rd-round win by retirement. That win earned him a date with ESPN, but his win against Johnnie Edwards was less than glamorous.
- Caleb Truax – Truax was on this list last year, too. Everything has come up roses so far for the 14-0 prospect from Osseo, though he had his bell rung by Patrick Perez before coming back to win in his fourth bout of 2009. Truax also looked gassed at the end of his ten-rounder with Kerry Hope in November. Nevertheless, Truax won all five of his bouts in 2009, three of them by KO or TKO.
- Matt Vanda – It’s a bit of a surprise to me to find Vanda on this list at this point in his career, but a 3-1 record in 2009, including wins against 40-6 Tocker Pudwill and 11-1 Phil Williams, got Vanda back on track. Vanda has reached the point in his career where he accepts that he isn’t world-class, but he still loves to fight and he’s pretty good at it. Kind of like a woman who is appealing and desirable despite not being beautiful, a Vanda fight is usually a fun spectacle despite not being a work of art.
- Andy Kolle – People are talking. I have people ask me all the time why Kaos Kolle isn’t fighting more frequently. All I can tell them is that I know he wants to, and his team is trying to make it happen for him. For now, Kolle can look back at his March 28th win against Tony Bonsante and feel good about being Minnesota’s middleweight champion. We’ll see how long he remains satisfied with that.
- Antwan Robertson – How can Robertson go 1-1-1 in three fights and still be on the list of risers? Because he looked so very good in his October 23rd win against then 6-0 Brad Patraw. Robertson started the year as an untested 4-0 prospect whose opponents had only one win between them. He ended the year as Minnesota’s bantamweight champ. That’ll lift you.
- Gary Eyer – For some reason I hesitated before adding Eyer to this list, but he went 3-0 in 2009 and won Minnesota’s fight of the year against previously unbeaten Levi Cortes in December. Eyer, now 7-0-1, is in a pretty good place for a prizefighter: he’s undefeated and he’s exciting to watch.
- Anthony Bonsante lost to Andy Kolle in March and announced his retirement. That was a pretty good move by the Bullet. At the end of the summer rumors were flying that Bonsante would fight again, but he didn’t and that’s a good move too. Here’s hoping that Bonsante finds other ways to keep busy, like working for the boxing commission.
- Zach Walters lost twice in three bouts this year. The loss to Byron Mitchell was a bummer, but not a dealbreaker. The win over 11-12-3 James Morrow really wasn’t meaningful. The first-round loss to smaller opponent Larry Sharpe was the deal-breaker. Well, it was really the 1-3 stretch that started with a loss to Shawn Hammack in ’08 that was the dealbreaker – the loss to Sharpe was merely the final straw. Walters is retired from fighting now, and it’s for the better.
- Allen Litzau lost his only boxing match of 2009, to unbeaten prospect Wilton Hilario. As Litzau is less and less active his stock continues to plunge. We need to see something good from the elder Litzau before he falls off our radar entirely.
- Cory Rodriguez also lost his only boxing match of 2009. Rodriguez is a good fighter – a very good fighter, but he doesn’t fight often and he’s already 30 years old. Something’s got to give in the new year, because a 4-1 prospect on the wrong side of 30 isn’t in a position to be choosey.
- Phil Williams – It’s hard to know what to do with Williams. He had two important results this year: a TKO win against Antwun Echols and a split decision loss to Matt Vanda. I expect to see Williams on the ‘Risers” list next year, but this time all I can do is acknowledge his mixed results for 2009.
- Brad Patraw beat Antwan Robertson handily in March but got knocked down twice and lost to Robertson in October. In between was a make-work fight with tough but limited Javier Segura in August. The two fights with Robertson are what interest me.
- Willshaun Boxley fought six times in 2009, winning two and losing three (one fight ended in a no-contest due to weather). His wins came against pretty good fighters and his losses came against very good fighters.
- Jon Schmidt – It probably seems odd that a 9-1 guy ends up here after going 3-0 in 2009, but Schmidt’s three wins came in the form of a split decision against Joshua Rodriguez (then 4-5, now 4-10) and blowouts against a couple of MMA guys in the boxing debuts. The bottom line is that a guy could do worse, but not doing worse isn’t the goal.
Make a Move!
- Kenny Kost would be a non-factor if he hadn’t recently announced that he was going back to the gym to get ready to fight again. He’s young enough and good enough to keep fighting, and he’s been mentioned as a possible opponent for Andy Kolle, Caleb Truax, and Cerresso Fort.
- Jon Laboda fought just once in 2009, versus Patrick Cape back in April. It’s time for another fight. Does Jon know that Javontae Starks wants to fight him? I’m not sure.
- Antonio Johnson – The Saint Paul Kid still wants to fight, he’s told me so. But he only fought once in 2007, once in 2008, and once in March of this year. I don’t know what the holdup is, but the clock is ticking on this once-promising career.