There’s nothing new or different about brothers in boxing. There are many examples of brothers who have found success in the ring – in fact, Minnesota can boast some of the most illustrious fistic families in the history of the combat sports. The Gibbons brothers, the Flanagans, and the Bobicks represent the cream of the crop, and today Jason and Allen Litzau are upholding the tradition of sibling pugilism.
There’s a pair of Minnesota boys in Devils Lake, North Dakota who have no gym, no ring, and no punching bags, yet they are some of the most accomplished amateur boxers in the US. Meet the Masons, Dustin (18) and Dylan (15).
“We’re from Duluth, we actually started out up there in Duluth,” explains dad Ric Mason. “Dustin sparred with Craig Butler every day for a year, and I give CJ a lot of credit for his development. So we started out up there and Dylan went to nationals his very first year. He’s gone for six straight years. We moved to the Cities in 2005 so I could get the kids more fights, so we could be on the fight circuit and so I could learn more about the game. You see, I’ve pushed them to achieve, but I have no real boxing skills myself, and just a little bit of knowledge. They’ve really trained each other.”
Dustin and Dylan have literally had to train each other for the last eight months. “I got in trouble with some drugs,” explains Ric. I had a drug addiction that I’ve been battling. I stayed sober for eight years but then I had an accident and I ended up back in the pills, but I’ve been sober again for the last two years…I’m not playing a big part in their lives right now like I’d like to.” So the boys have been living with their grandparents for the last eight months, in a town (Devils Lake) that has no boxing gym or boxing club. “Right now we’re playing basketball and stuff, and working out together,” says Dustin. “It’s just hand mitts and stuff, it’s not like we have bags or spar or anything. Other than that, we take trips to Grand Forks (90 miles away) and they open up the gym for us.”
Surprisingly, the lack of access to conventional training doesn’t seem to have hindered the development of the Mason boys.
Dylan, whose estimated record is 60-16, recently won the 2010 Silver Gloves national title for 14-15 year old boys in the 147# division after tallying runner-up finishes the last two years. Ric explains that for winners of this title, “They get to go to Russia. Now they’re not sure they’ll go this year because the US program is broke. But at this point they don’t know so it’s on standby. But the fifteen-year old Silver Gloves champs, they get automatic seeding in the 2010 Junior Olympics.”
For his part, Dustin expects to enter the US Army’s World Class Athlete program, which will allow him to pursue amateur boxing on a full-time basis while getting a free education and drawing a sergeant’s pay. “Most likely, yeah. That’s pretty much my goal. I’d be going there this fall and it goes for three years, so I’d be there till 2013. It’s going to be hard training and it’s going to keep me focused on boxing, and they’re going to try to get me ready to go to the Olympics. At the same time they’re going to send me to college.” Father Ric is thrilled with Dustin’s plan: “The deal is he goes to basic training, and as soon as he gets out of that he’s promoted to sergeant. It’s the most wonderful way for him to go, because if you win the armed forces tournament you get an automatic invitation to the Olympic trials. And that’s what it’s all about, is getting to the Olympics.” The precondition that Dustin fulfilled to gain entry into this prestigious program is to place in the top 8 in his weight class in a major US amateur boxing tournament. “Dusty would have been ranked higher, but he ended up losing to eventual champion Kevin Rivers in the US Nationals,” says Ric. “I had a bad draw in that one,” Dustin laughs. “Yeah, he went on to win the whole thing. Then I’ve fought Michael Finney, lost a split decision. Tony Lee, too. I don’t know, I enjoy the travel. I quit everything just to box. I quit basketball to box. I used to live in the gym.”
The Mason boys have encountered more than their share of challenges in their time in boxing. They’ve been exposed to the highest levels of competition and held their own, and they’ve shown the ability to overcome emotional, psychological, and logistical challenges forced on them by their father’s absence. Nobody knows what the future holds, but these kids are putting themselves in a good position to capitalize on the opportunities that have come their way.