Minnesota’s boxing scene – though very much alive – is in a state of transition today. In the last few years the old promoters who dominated the scene for years with old tried-and-true formulas have been replaced by dynamic younger men with new ideas and a better feel for the needs and desires of the modern combat sports crowd. At the same time, we’ve seen a number of local boxers either announce their retirement or enter retirement by default due to inactivity. Only a few of the old guard remain, and these not for much longer.
The Minnesota prizefighting fan of 2010 is treated to a troop of entertaining tusslers with an abundance of ability, but few (if any) of this group is considered elite by the wider boxing world. Truth be told, only Jason Litzau is anything more than a blip on the national radar right now, and even at 27-2 Litzau isn’t taken seriously by a significant portion of the boxing establishment.
Sometimes good news comes when you need it most.
Minnesota’s amateur boxing universe might look a bit depleted at the moment, with a number of young men having turned pro in the year past or not competing in the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves tournament this spring for various reasons of their own. Worse, the Upper Midwest team nearly bombed out of the national Golden Gloves tournament last week. Of ten weight-class champions, two didn’t compete at nationals and six of the remaining eight lost in the first round. One of the two who advanced made it no farther than the second round, and that left just one young man to represent our region. But what a week that one remaining standout had! Phenom Robert Brant added to his stellar (and growing) resumé by taking the national championship at 178#.
“Being a champion…it’s a lot of pressure, not only to win, but to win impressively, because people hold you to a certain standard,” says Brant. “But it’s great being the champion!” In years past we may have expected Brant to take a signing bonus from a major promoter and run to the pros, but this youngster has his eyes fixed on the pinnacle of amateur accomplishment. “Yes, I’m going to stick around in the amateurs,” Brant confirms. “The thought of being a professional world champion is definitely a big deal, but the idea of representing your country is even bigger. Olympic qualifying begins next winter. Everybody steps their game up around Olympic qualifying time – it’s going to be a hard one.”
So Brant says he won’t be turning pro for a while yet, and if all goes according to plan, not until after the 2012 Olympics in London. Still, fans of the professional game owe it to themselves to keep an eye on this youngster. What other local amateurs does young Brant think we should be keeping an eye on?
“Definitely the Mason brothers. Also Jonathan Perez, he’s a very good boxer. He was the Upper Midwest champion this year, but he didn’t compete in nationals because he had pulled a hamstring just a few days before the tournament began. He’s going to do great things at the Nationals [in Colorado Springs July 12-17]. Oh, and there’s a 123-pounder from Circle of Discipline, Francisco [Noyola]. He’s a very quiet 17-year old kid, but when he’s competing in the ring he develops a totally different personality.”
Boxing fans in the Upper Midwest know too well that an amateur pedigree is no guarantee of professional success – we’ve seen more than one promising young caterpillar transform not into a beautiful butterfly, but instead to a drab and disappointing moth. Historians tell you that if you want to know the future you must study the past, but sports fans know that hope springs eternal, regardless of history. For that reason we never need to doubt that the next golden age of Minnesota boxing is just around the corner. The talent is in the bank.