The Horton’s Gym crew from Duluth came out of tonight’s boxing event at Grand Casino in Hinckley riding a tremendous wave of momentum. Here’s why:
Andy Kolle performed terrifically, walking away from the ring with a (well-earned) lopsided decision. The consensus at ringside was that the rounds could be scored anywhere from 7-3 to 9-1 in Kolle’s favor. The judges all gave Kolle seven to nine rounds, and though I didn’t score the fight, that sure sounds right to me. Now don’t get me wrong; it isn’t that Vanda performed poorly; he won a lot of moments and a few half-rounds, but they don’t score moments or half-rounds. What’s next for the slim southpaw from Fergus Falls? Kolle reiterated his desire to campaign at 154# instead of the 160# class in which he has contested most of his bouts, but Kolle also acknowledged that opportunities are slim for tall lefthanders. I would amend that: tall lefthanders who can crack.
The other half of Horton’s delight has got to be the way that Gary Eyer blew Brad Patraw away after dropping 20# to take the fight at the featherweight limit of 126#. It was an audacious decision for Eyer to come so far down in weight, but given his performance at lightweight against Levi Cortes and at featherweight against Patraw, maybe it’s the right move. Eyer was sensational tonight. He keeps his hair longer than most fighters, and that makes his opponents’ punches look more effective than they are. Some bystanders were fooled into thinking that Patraw was getting back into the fight when they saw him fluff up Eyer’s hair a couple of times, but it was a false hope; Patraw was badly beaten. For his part, Johnny Johnson (in Patraw’s corner) was furious at the stoppage, but it was the only thing the referee could do – Patraw lost his legs in the first round, and he didn’t look good at all before the visiting referee from Chicago pulled the plug on him. Patraw isn’t a big bantamweight; he’s a true bantamweight who’s better off fighting at 120-122#, and his speed and power are quite good at that weight. Patraw, unfortunately, has tasted the mat in his last two bouts, both of them losses. Let’s hope that those who should be looking out for Patraw’s well-being will keep a close eye on his reflexes and coordination, and will make sure that he doesn’t enter the ring with diminished abilities.
Making the night more torturous yet for large contingent of fans from Saint Paul was the exposure of Jeremy McLaurin. After his last win, a controversial three-and-a-half round technical decision against Hector Orozco, McLaurin and his team knew that he had to prove that he deserved to win. Thus tonight’s rematch. The expectation of most in the crowd tonight was that McLaurin would box more crisply than last time and use his longer reach and greater speed to keep Orozco in his place, leaving no question of who would deserve the win in the rematch. The painful reality is that McLaurin doesn’t seem to have what it takes to compete at a high level. I saw it when he was nearly taken out by Felix Martinez in his professional debut, and others have spoken of it privately; the deficiency of innate punch resistance and the lack of confidence are real. McLaurin is a guy who keeps in good shape and has good skills, but he isn’t the complete package. He may string together another nice winning streak and then cash in on a glossy record, but don’t waste your time hoping for more than that.
Dan Copp and Don Tierney fought tonight, but most of the folks who took in that bout will try to forget what they saw. It was a boring dog of a fight, with a game but slow and soft-hitting Copp losing the decision to Tierney, who has better skills but no more power than Copp and either motivational or conditioning issues. Tierney tried to do what his corner told him to, but for the most part, execution was a problem. I did think that Tierney deserved the win more than Copp did, but a friend whose opinion I value and respect disagreed heartily.
The opening bout of the night (Tyler Hultin -vs- Tim Taggart) was much more exciting and entertaining, but gave us a most unexpected result. I think that most in the auditorium would have given the decision to Hultin based on a demonstration of superior skills and crisper punching – I would certainly have done so – but the judges somehow found a way to turn a five-round bout into a draw. It’s like this: one judge would have awarded the win to Hultin, another one to Taggart, and one scored it a draw. I’ll try to find the exact scoring and add it to this article later, but I can only assume that the third judge scored two rounds for each man and one even at 10-10. In any case, I thought it was plain that Hultin was faster and a more accurate puncher, but Taggart is a bigger man and he also had his moments. Hopefully neither man takes the draw too hard; it can be a crushing disappointment to train for weeks for a fight and be left with essentially no result. For Taggart it’s the second draw in a row (the first was against Sam Morales here at Grand Casino Hinckley back in November).
And here’s what most fans will remember most vividly about tonight: we were all treated to the spectacle of a collapsing boxing ring. For most of us it was the first time, though I spoke with a few who had been through it before. One was referee Mark Nelson, who explained that the same thing had happened in March of 1999 at a Don King-promoted event in Saint Paul. Nelson recalled that King and a contingent of about 60 of his best friends had crowded that ring before the Will Grigsby-Carmelo Caceres main event, causing the ring to collapse with everyone in it. This occurrence wasn’t nearly so dramatic, but it provided a few moments of bewilderment for this writer: between the third and fourth rounds of the Copp-Tierney bout I noticed that my press table was halfway under the ring, and I wondered to myself who had pushed it in so far and when they had done it. I pulled the table out from under the ring and went back to my writing. After the fight was over but before the result was announced, I noticed that the ring was overhanging the table again. I looked to my left, down the leading edge of the ring, and realized that it moving – just barely perceptibly. Before I could yell, the ring lurched toward me, then stopped with a loud crash. Then the mat dropped straight down with the fighters still in it. Thank God that no one was hurt. There was a lengthy delay while the ring was straightened up and the canvas was raised and bolstered from beneath, then the fights resumed. I look forward to seeing photographs – there were three photographers working almost directly across the ring from me, so I imagine that at least a couple of snaps will include my astonished countenance.