We meet in the relatively spacious office of the ACR Gym in Coon Rapids, a run down little industrial building only a little wider than a boxing ring. The proprietor (Ron Lyke), the weightlifting coach (Jim Maurine), and the face of Seconds Out Promotions (Tony Grygelko) all sit in.
It’s natural that the first thing we talk about is Matt Vanda’s upcoming (November 1) rematch with 37-0 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. “We’ve got something even bigger planned if Matt’s next fight goes well,” says Grygelko. A grinning Maurine adds “That is, if he beats Chavez again, like he did the first time.” Maurine describes the scene at Vanda-Chavez 1: “A tiny ring, the crowd was right up to the apron, we would turn around and yell and swear at the spectators and they would back off a little bit, but then as soon as we turned around they’re right back up on our backs again.” Lyke interjects, “It was so crowded we didn’t have room – it was hard to get in and out of the ring and to get around.” Maurine again: “It was a cockfighting pit, is what it was!” (all laugh) So would you do it again? Maurine becomes animated: “Oh, in a second! On my list of the greatest experiences of my life, that was right up there in my top ten.” Later, Maurine alleges that Lyke stayed dry in the rain of thrown beers only by hiding behind Maurine. “That’s what we keep you around for,” Lyke quips.
Lyke's ACR Boxing Gym
Talk turns to the Genesis of this partnership and Lyke explains how he began training fighters in his garage ten years ago. “Yeah, in the garage with a clothes dryer running with the door open to make the place hotter than Hell,” observes Maurine. Lyke smiles at the memory and allows that Maurine was one of the first to begin working out in the garage. Grygelko goes way back, too.
Later, when the joshing subsides and the conversation becomes more serious, I learn more about the organization and its principals. Grygelko seems a confident person and is proud of what he has accomplished so far: “We didn’t set out to be the premier boxing promoter in Minnesota; you put on one good show and you’re already there,” he asserts without irony. “We want to be a premier boxing promoter in the world, and we’re finishing up our initial two-year plan and we’re right where we want to be. We feel like we’ve revitalized boxing in Minnesota (looks around the room and all three nod) and it’s time for us to broaden our scope.” So Seconds Out is putting on a show in South Dakota in November and there’s also talk of a show in Missouri soon. All indicators are that business is good, including Tony’s say-so: “Business is great!” What’s next? “We want to continue to rebuild the local boxing environment. The club fights feed the midlevel events at the casinos, and the casino shows feed the big Target Center-type shows.”
It’s clear as the conversation progresses that the Seconds Out team is a cohesive unit made up of unique individuals. Grygelko’s earnestness is complemented by Maurine’s wry jollity and Lyke’s reserved confidence. What makes it all work? “We’re honest, and we have the fighters’ best interests at heart,” says Grygelko. “We don’t play games and we take care of our guys.” Bringing together disparate parties from the Minnesota boxing scene is essential, and Grygelko says that when there’s money to be made, that isn’t as difficult as it might sound.
I ask Grygelko about his well-publicized cooperation with Goossen-Tutor in California and he gets excited. “Well we work with not just Goossen-Tutor, but also Golden Boy, Lou DiBella, we’re talking to everybody in this business.” Look for this network to be put to work in the near future as Grygelko seeks to market up-and-coming fighters like light heavyweight Phil Williams, super middleweight Caleb Truax, and amateur standout Jeremy McCulloch.
Finally, we talk about the upcoming November 28 show in Sioux Falls. Grygelko shares his thoughts on the main event: Joey Abell versus Oklahoma heavyweight Jason Nicholson. “Nicholson doesn’t have a great record [17-25 with 10 kayos – ed] but he’s a strong guy with some skills. That’s the kind of guy Joey needs to be fighting at this point in his career.” Then he ticks off the remainder of the tentative undercard: Caleb Truax against 8-8 Nathan Martin, Jon Schmidt against an opponent to be named, maybe Harley Kilfian, too. “We also wanted to have a womens’ fight, so I put Kirstie Davis and Jessica Bednark on the card too. They had a nice fight the first time around, up at Grand Casino, so it should be a good fit.”
Tony Grygelko: High energy, high earnestness, great enthusiasm, more serious than I had anticipated.
Jim Maurine: A big dude, jovial but intense. Maurine was full of wisecracks and pithy comments, and would make a fun interview on his own. Maurine is a weights and fitness guru whose background is not in boxing, but who has picked up enough ring knowledge to accompany Vanda to Montreal for a fight with Sebastien Demers when, as Lyke explains, “Canada didn’t want me.”
Ron Lyke: Quiet, reflective, and cordial. Didn’t say much, but it was worth listening when he did speak up. A friend tells me that in his youth Lyke was a fighter to be avoided; a southpaw with a killer right hook.