Tag Archives: Jason Litzau

The Best of Minnesota Boxing: 2010

It’s almost time to close the door on 2010, but before we do, let’s talk about the Best, worst, and most remarkable moments of the last year.  I don’t know whether anyone – fan, media, or official – has been to all the pro boxing shows in Minnesota in 2010.  The most likely candidate for that achievement would be Jesse Kelley of Minnesotaboxing.com.  But I’ve been fortunate to attend many of them.  This year’s “Best Of” awards are based partly on media reports and partly on word of mouth, but mostly on my own eyes.

Rules:  A fighter is eligible for consideration if he’s from Minnesota, regardless of where his fights have taken place or who he was fighting.  A fight is eligible if it took place in Minnesota or if one or both of the combatants was a Minnesotan.

Knockout of the Year

Javontae Starks TKO1 Alexander Tousignant on May 22nd at Shooting Star Casino – Starks displayed his preternatural punching power in this springtime bout in Mahnomen.  For not the first time in his career, Starks started slowly, allowing his opponent to take some free shots while Starks leaned back on the ropes.  I have no idea why he does that.  But then Starks let his left hand fly and sent Tousignant reeling.  Taking advantage of Tousignant’s vulnerable state, Starks flattened him with one more punch, and though Tousignant did somehow make it back to his feet before he could be counted out, referee Mark Nelson had no choice but to stop the fight.

Honorable mention: Andy Kolle TKO1 Darryl Salmon, Joey Abell TKO2 Josh Gutcher, Andy Kolle KO1 Francisco Ruben Osorio

Fight of the Year

Tony Lee UD4 David Laque on December 18th at Target Center in Minneapolis – Lee dominated the early going and looked to have Laque outclassed after two rounds.  But Laque refused to be worn down, and after scoring with a nice combination in the third, managed to bloody Lee’s nose before the round ended.  The fourth and final round showcased each man’s best attributes: Lee’s volumes of crisp and accurate punching versus Laque’s grit and determination.  This one turned into a real crowd-pleaser.

Honorable mention:  Caleb Truax SD10 Phil Williams, Corey Rodriguez and Charles Meier 6-round draw in which each man is knocked down once,  Ismail Muwendo RTD5 David Laque

Worst Moment of the Year

Matt Vanda’s suspension revealed in the morning on the day of his scheduled main event bout with Phil Williams – This episode hurt everyone involved.  Vanda looks unprofessional for failing to apprise the state commission of his true status, Williams is cheated out of a bout that he both wanted and needed, the commission looks inept for not knowing that Vanda had been suspended in New Jersey and was ineligible to fight in Minnesota, and both the promoter and the venue failed to notify the fans that the Main Event was no longer an officially sanctioned bout until the fans were in the building.  Some of these criticisms may turn out to be unfounded, but the appearance of wrongdoing can be as damaging as the reality.

Dishonorable mention:  Jon Schmidt and Josh Crouch are forced into a No-Contest due to a nasty cut caused by a clash of heads in round 4 of 6 scheduled.

Best Moment of the Year

If you were smart enough and lucky enough to buy a ticket while they were available, you saw the remarkable fruit of a remarkable labor when the brand new Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame honored its first class of inductees at Jax Cafe in northeast Minneapolis on October 12th.  This event, and the effort that it signifies, will have a more significant and lasting impact on the boxing scene in Minnesota than any boxing match or fight card we’ve seen in the last year.  The event was granted more coverage by the local media than they would ever give to an actual fight – even an important one – but maybe in the spirit of the moment we should be thankful for the attention given rather than resentful of perceived slights.

Honorable mention: Jason Litzau’s big win – read the next item!

Upset of the Year

Jason Litzau SD10 Celestino Caballero on November 27th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas – Though it’s true that some local fans were predicting a Litzau victory based on a variety of factors (styles, weight classes, body types, Litzau’s commitment to the sport), the underlying factor is undeniably homerism.  Anyway, it’s the Vegas odds that count, and by various accounts Litzau was a 12-1 or 15-1 underdog when he stepped into the ring.

Honorable mention: Hector Orozco UD6 Jeremy McLaurin, Bobby Kliewer SD8 Anthony Bonsante, Christopher Martin SD10 Chris Avalos

Best Performance on the Road

Jason Litzau SD10 Celestino Caballero on November 27th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas – It’s been reported by enough sources just how Litzau did it, but what’s most important for boxing fans in Minnesota – in the Upper Midwest as a whole – is that one of our own went out on the road and won the big one.  This win was the biggest road triumph for an Upper Midwest boxer since Will Grigsby beat Victor Burgos for the IBF Light Flyweight title in 2005.  That contest, interestingly, was also hosted by the MGM Grand.  Keep an eye on that venue, fight fans.

Honorable mention: Jason Litzau TD7 Rocky Juarez

Prospect of the Year

Ismail Muwendo (7-0 with 6 kayos) – The lithe young Ugandan billed as the “Sharp Shooter” has his sights set on the big time.  He has already come a long way, but his destiny as a prizefighter is only partly in his hands – like any fighter, his career will be influenced by outside forces including (but not limited to) frequency of boxing shows in the local market, the performance of manager and trainer Scott Tolzmann, his own health, cash flow within the industry, and other factors.  Based on the part of the equation that Muwendo can control – his performance in the ring – his future looks very, very promising.

Honorable mention: Tony Lee, Jamal James, Gary Eyer

Boxer of the Year

Jason Litzau (28-2 with 21 kayos) – Litzau’s metamorphosis from an irrepressible brawler with untapped potential into a legitimate contender at the worldwide level is the biggest and best news in Minnesota boxing in 2010, though it didn’t all happen just in the last twelve months.  One attestation of Litzau’s transformation is the fact that the man who started his career with 14 straight KO or TKO wins and once sported a record of 20-0 with 18 kayos has now gone four bouts without putting away an opponent.  Litzau has embraced the virtue of winning his fights by any possible means, even if that means substance over style.

Honorable mention: Andy Kolle

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Minnesota Boxing: 2010 Year-End Pound-for-Pound List

The sport of boxing doesn’t often reward its devotees’ loyalty and emotional investment by producing yearned-for matches.  As a result, the greater part of being a boxing fan is speculating whether, all things being equal, one fighter could best another fighter in the ring.  That’s where pound-for-pound lists come in.

Here are the Fistic Mystic’s rankings of Minnesota’s best fighters regardless of weight class.  Last year’s ranking for each ranked fighter is in parenthesis following his record.  Unranked fighters are listed in alphabetical order.

  1. Jason Litzau – 28-2 with 21 kayos (1) – This spot was occupied by Litzau a year ago, and this year Litzau has widened the margin between number one and everyone else.  Since the 2009 rankings Litzau has added two more good wins to his ledger: a technical decision win against Rocky Juarez and a split decision (which should have been a wide unanimous decision) over Celestino Caballero.  No other Minnesota boxer can claim one so prestigious a win in 2010, much less two.
  2. Andy Kolle – 23-2 with 17 kayos (2) – Kolle maintains his position in the P4P rankings this year by virtue of style, rather than substance.  Though Kolle went 4-0 this year with two first-round TKOs, none of his wins came against substantial opponents.  The best of the four wins was a lopsided decision win against Matt Vanda in April, but Kolle had already defeated Vanda (albeit in less decisive fashion) back in 2007.  Kolle gets to keep his spot, but like all of Andy Kolle’s admirers, I’m hoping for something bigger and better in 2011.
  3. Caleb Truax – 16-0-1 with 10 kayos (6) – After fighting five times in 2008 and another five times in 2009, Truax began to experience the typical deceleration of career progress that many prospects encounter when they become known; it becomes more difficult to get them fights that are winnable, useful, and profitable.  So management has to be more selective, and fights become less frequent.  Since last spring it’s been well known that Minnesota boxing mainstay Matt Vanda would like a shot at Truax, and that would be one of the biggest events that the Upper Midwest boxing scene could produce in the next year.
  4. Joey Abell – 27-4 with 26 kayos (7) – The fighter called “Minnesota Ice” benefits from some shuffling in the rankings this year.  Abell didn’t do anything wrong in 2010, but he didn’t fight very much.  The fights he did have went according to plan; Abell dispatched overweight journeyman Josh Gutcher in the 2nd round in April and then avenged a loss by punishing Arron Lyons for four rounds in July.  Abell’s fans look forward to a career-defining moment on January 28th, when he’s schedued to meet former world title contender Chris Arreola in Temecula, CA.  With a win Abell could find himself finally making waves at the national level.
  5. Phil Williams – 11-3-1 with 10 kayos (5) – The banger from North Minneapolis didn’t have a great year, fighting only twice and going 0-1-1 in 2010.  Williams’ performance against 18-0-1 Donovan George in January was disappointing, but his April performance against Caleb Truax was more encouraging.  Truax piled up the early rounds but Williams came on late, scoring with heavy shots and looking like the stronger man in the last two rounds of the bout.  In a development that must have been hard for Williams to swallow, he had a third fight scheduled for December 18th but it fell out at the last possible moment when his opponent, Matt Vanda, was found to be under suspension in New Jersey, hence ineligible to fight in Minnesota.  The bout was changed from a prizefight to an exhibition, and reduced from ten rounds to six.
  6. Matt Vanda – 43-12 with 23 kayos (4) – Some fight fans think that Vanda is slipping.  I’ll reserve judgement for now, but I will point out that Vanda was only 1-3 this year, and that one win didn’t come against a great fighter.  If it turns out that Vanda’s career really is winding down, that’ll be too bad for local fight fans.  Few professional boxers exude more joy for the sport of boxing than Vanda – the pleasure that Vanda demonstrates in plying his craft reminds me of Johnny Tapia in terms of being a guy who just seems to love to fight.  On the other hand, one local boxing authority has privately expressed to me a fear that Vanda will “end up tragic.”  Whether Vanda’s failure to disclose his true professional status to the promoters of the December 18th show at Target Center is a step in that direction or merely an instance of profoundly poor judgement remains to be seen.
  7. Wilton Hilario – 12-2-1 with 9 kayos (3) – Hilario’s career trajectory illustrates just how difficult it is to rise and how easy it is to fall in the boxing world.  After going 0-2 in 2010 Hilario has seen his stock fall precipitously.  Hilario’s loss to Martin Honorio exposed some serious flaws in Hilario’s game, and his subsequent loss to Cuban prospect Luis Franco showed that Hilario is a slow (or reluctant) learner.  The good news for Hilario: nope, there is no good news yet.  If he’s serious about his boxing career Hilario needs to do some fast learning and get a couple of rebuilding wins.  If not, there are some nice paydays out there for a fighter with a record like his.  Now I don’t want to be unfair to a good fighter, so I will point out that Hilario’s two losses came to very tough competition – Luis Franco in particular is looking very good right now.
  8. Ismail Muwendo – 7-0 with 6 kayos (-) In hindsight, Muwendo should have been on this list a year ago.  My bad.  The “Sharp Shooter” is a real talent, a young man who has impressed in the prizefighting ring and earned the respect of other fighters in the sparring ring.  Muwendo reportedly sparred with Jason Litzau three or four times before Litzau’s defeat of Celestino Caballero, to the benefit of both men.  Expect to see Muwendo fight at the Hyatt on January 7th, provided an opponent can be located.
  9. Gary Eyer – 8-0-1 with 6 kayos (14) – Are you surprised to see Eyer rise so far in this year’s rankings?  To be perfectly honest, so am I. Eyer only fought once in 2010, but it was a dazzling 2nd-round win against Brad Patraw, who has since reclaimed the Minnesota bantamweight strap that he had previously lost to Antwan Robertson.  In that lone bout this year Eyer battered Patraw unmercifully, to the point that the only people in attendance who protested the stoppage were Patraw and his trainer, Johnny Johnson of the Rice Street Gym.  Eyer’s size (he formerly fought as a welterweight but has worked his way down to super featherweight) and his power have made him rather an unattractive match, but his manager Todd Bechthold and trainer Chuck Horton are too smart to bet so much hard-earned momentum on a risky opponent.  Eyer’s next fight is scheduled for February 12th, but no opponent has been announced yet.
  10. Corey Rodriguez – 5-1-2 with 3 kayos (10) – That Corey Rodriguez could maintain his position on the P4P chart after going 1-0-2 in 2010 owes something to the quality of his in-ring competition.  Rodriguez fought only once during 2009, losing a close decision to unbeaten Dave Peterson in Rochester.  C-Rod didn’t fight again for nine months after the loss, then packed three fights into five months.  Moving up to middleweight to face Charles Meier, a very respectable boxer and a bigger man than Rodriguez, Rodriguez got a majority draw.  Traveling to Cleveland to fight unbeaten Ohioan Dante Moore resulted in another draw.  Finally, Rodriguez made the trip up I-94 to Fargo and came within a whisker of knocking out tough journeyman Nick Runningbear, earning himself a wide unanimous decision win.
  11. Cerresso Fort – 10-0 with 8 kayos (17) – That an undefeated prospect like Mr. Fort could be ranked lower than Corey Rodriguez owes something to the quality of his competition, as well.  Fort seemed poised for good things as 2009 came to a close, though a close fight with Lamar Harris may have (should have) struck a note of foreboding in the hearts of supporters.  But in 2010 Fort fought only once, earning a unanimous decision in a four-rounder against 3-8 opponent Steve Macomber in California.  That’s it.
  12. Willshaun Boxley – 6-7-1 with 4 kayos (13) – Sometimes an athlete’s struggles against tough competition can establish the level of his talent even as he tallies a loss.  Consider Boxley a case in point.  Boxley’s record in 2010 was a dismal 1-4-1.  The cumulative record of his opponents, however, was 54-3.  Not only that, but at least one of Boxley’s losses (against Pier Olivier Cote) was an egregious miscarriage, booed by the fans and mocked by the television broadcast crew.  Fortunately, Boxley ended the year on a better note, ending an 8-fight winless streak with a win in Canada and then earning a draw against 15-1 John Jackson at Target Center.  Boxley is still as talented now as when he was 5-0.
  13. Dave Peterson – 12-0 with 7 kayos (8) – Missing in action for an entire year, Peterson is an enigma.  Eventually he’ll probably cash in on his record for a nice payday or two against impossible opponents.  Else he’ll retire undefeated.  Either outcome would be disappointing for Minnesota’s boxing fans.
  14. Mohammed Kayongo – 15-2 with 11 kayos (9) – Here’s another fighter who hasn’t been seen or heard from in a year.  This lanky welterweight seemed to be in a good place when he TKO’d James Todd at the Saint Paul National Guard Armory in November of 2009.  Since then his name has come up a couple of times as a possible opponent for bigger names, but nothing has developed, and Kayongo and former manager Scott Tolzmann have parted ways.
  15. Jon Schmidt – 10-1 with 6 kayos (-) – Schmidt fought just twice in 2010: a no contest against 6-1 Josh Crouch in June when Schmidt suffered a bad cut, and a points win against dangerous but limited opponent Ryan Soft in October.  Schmidt will take a major step up when he faces 10-0 former Olympian Shawn Estrada on the undercard of the Abell-Arreola event on January 28th in California.  Schmidt’s career has been undistinguished so far, but the young man with a reputation of a workout fanatic has a great opportunity to shine.  All of Minnesota should be pulling for Schmidt when the time comes.
  16. Javontae Starks – 4-0 with 4 kayos (18) – Young Starks has looked like a monster in the ring when he’s fought, but his opposition hasn’t been great and he has pulled out several fights in the last year.  Now it looks like Starks has severed ties with his original promoter, MSC, and is appearing on the January 7th card presented by Tony Grygelko’s Seconds Out Promotions.  Only time will tell what the future holds for this talented youngster.  If he had been more active this year, Starks would surely have advanced further up the P4P list than he did.
  17. Vicente Alfaro – 4-1 with 1 kayo (-) – A year ago only the most obsessive fight fans in Minnesota knew of Alfaro, but now he’s the owner of wins against Brad Patraw and former Olympian Ron Siler.  Alfaro also suffered his first loss in November, reportedly a one-sided beating at the hands of 11-0 Efrain Esquivias Jr in Ontario, CA.  Nevertheless, Alfaro remains nicely positioned to fight local small men like Antwan Robertson, Derek Winston, Gary Eyer, or even Ronnie Peterson.
  18. Brad Patraw – 7-3 with 4 kayos (12) -Patraw, fighting out of the Rice Street Gym, had an uneven 2010.  First he lost badly to Gary Eyer in April, then he faced off against Vicente Alfaro and lost a second straight fight by 2nd-round TKO (his third consecutive loss overall).  Finally, on December 18th, Patraw stopped his skid with a unanimous decision win in the rubber match between him and Antwan Robertson.  The win against Robertson was a carbon copy of the first fight between the two, which Patraw dominated.  Patraw has big ambitions, but he might be wise to use the Minnesota bantamweight title strap as an inducement to make fights with other local small men before trying to move up on a national level.
  19. Jamal James – 3-0 with 3 kayos (-) – With Javontae Starks seemingly out of the picture, you can expect MSC to push Jamal James as the next big thing in Minnesota boxing.  And why not?  James is a talented technical boxer who seems to have found power to go with his speed, precision, and slickness.  The junior welterweight from south Minneapolis also has a quirky personality.  Watch him bow and flourish in the ring before a fight and try not to smile!
  20. Hector Orozco – 3-6 with no kayos (-) – 2010 was Orozco’s best year as a pro.  As the new year dawned Orozco’s record was 1-4.  Orozco’s 2010 unfolded this way: first Orozco lost controversially to unbeaten Jeremy McLaurin, a stoppage due to a cut that was ruled a TKO.  In a rematch with McLaurin, though, Orozco befuddled his 7-0 opponent and took the win.  Next Orozco was rematched with 3-0 welterweight Danny Figueroa, by whom he had been beaten in a technical decision in 2009, and gained another win.  Finally, Orozco would take a loss to end up at 2-2 for the year courtesy of the blinding speed and punishing power of 6-0-1 prospect Michael Anderson.  The remarkable thing about Orozco is that all three of his wins have been against unbeaten fighters (Figueroa, McLaurin, and in 2009, RJ Laase).  In fact, the cumulative records of all of Orozco’s opponents at the time that he fought them was 37-7-1.  How good would this guy be if he were more selective of his opponents and a little more lucky in the ring?

Missed the cut:

Scott Ball – The middleweight from Rochester lost his only bout in 2010, to Marcus Upshaw, to go to 10-7 with 8 knockouts.

Anthony Bonsante – Came out of retirement to fight Bobby Kliewer after 20 months of inactivity.  Dealing with some stress in his personal life, Bonsante had hoped for a cathartic experience.  Instead he got a tough fight and was handed a humbling loss by a club fighter.

Raphael Butler – Only fought once in 2010, was outpointed by Canadian heavyweight prospect Neven Pajkic.  Butler felt he had earned the win and been cheated, but what losing fighter doesn’t think that?

Levi Cortes – After bursting on the scene with a gutsy performance against Gary Eyer a year ago, Cortes has been missing in action.

Danny Figueroa – This Hastings-based fighter is a genuine talent, but only fought once in 2010, losing to Hector Orozco.

Kenny Kost has reportedly been seen in the gym recently.  Kost, who hasn’t fought since losing to Hector Camacho Jr in the spring of 2008, should be expected to require a tuneup bout before getting into any serious scrap.

Tony Lee – Two fights into his professional career Tony Lee has an unblemished record.  His first fight, a win against Hector Orozco, I saw and was not too impressed.  His second fight, an all-action victory against scrappy David Laque, I didn’t see, but Lee got good reviews from everyone who saw it.  I expect good things from Lee in 2011, and you should too.

Antonio Johnson isn’t officially retired as far as anyone knows, but has only fought three times in the last three years, so what’s the difference?  Johnson hasn’t been seen or heard from professionally since notching his first loss (to Francisco Santana) in March of 2009.

Bobby Kliewer had lost four in a row and eight out of nine before shocking Anthony Bonsante in December.  That’s not to say that Kliewer is a bad fighter; the book on “Sweet Dreams” is that he’s a short notice opponent for good prospects.  A couple of wins in 2011 would get this young (23 years old) veteran a ranking a year from now.  He only just missed the cut this year.

Allen Litzau – I refer back to the elder Litzau’s entry from last year: “not a bad fighter, but no big wins in several years.   I’m hoping to see Allen fight and win several times in 2010.” There’s been serious talk of matching Litzau and Gary Eyer in Duluth.  Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Jeremy McLaurin fought three times in 2010, winning controversially against Hector Orozco, losing a rematch with Orozco, and winning impressively against 3-0 Joel Flores of Michigan.  I don’t know what to make of McLaurin.  He’s a likeable young man and a talented boxer, but I’m not sure he has the chin of a good prizefighter.  McLaurin has a lot of options, so expect to see him gain a couple of wins and get tested in the new year.

Jonathan Perez just turned pro a couple of weeks ago.  It’s too soon to give him a ranking, but with some good wins we could see him make a splash.  Having a promotional deal with MSC doesn’t hurt.

Antwan Robertson suffered through a 1-3 campaign this year, his only win coming against 0-1 William Bellcourt.  Robertson is a tremendous athlete, but that athleticism hasn’t consistently translated into success in the ring.

Derek Winston has only fought twice since turning pro in October of 2009, both times taking wins against difficult opponents, but has yet to show the kind of potential that built him a reputation as an amateur.  A cousin of Antwan Robertson,  Winston has talent and access to good sparring.  Some say that Winston is a better boxer than Robertson.  With a little luck and some more favorable matching, 2011 could be Winston’s year to make some noise.

Holiday Murmurings

Murmur murmur…grumble grumble…Minnesota sports fans are seldom happy.

  • Twin Cities-based promoter MSC (Midwest Sports Council) is taking some lumps over its handling of Matt Vanda’s suspension and resulting ineligibility to fight this Saturday past.  The story is that Vanda had a clean Fight Fax early in the week of his bout, but on Saturday morning the promoter learned from the Minnesota Boxing Commission that Vanda is under suspension by the New Jersey Boxing Commission.  The reason for the suspension hasn’t been announced, but it’s widely speculated to be related to a failed drug test.   Since Vanda’s fight with Phil Williams was the main event of Saturday night’s show, the promoters found themselves in a bit of a pickle with little time to ponder a solution.  Their lesser evil of choice was to have the fight go on, but as an exhibition.  Long story short, Vanda and Williams fought a six-round exhibition rather than a ten round fight.  Both men agreed to reduced pay under the circumstances, so it’s difficult to make a case against the promoter for that move, although ideally it would have been good for Vanda’s purse or a portion thereof could have been diverted to Williams, who is the blameless party in the matter.  The real gripe from most fans seems to be that they (the fans) didn’t know about the change in the nature of the Vanda-Williams clash until they were at the arena.  In MSC’s favor: the card’s supporting bouts included lots of fun and entertaining action.
  • Prospect Jamal James of Minneapolis, who on Saturday improved his record to 3-0 (3 knockouts), got some positive press in this article from the DL-online website.  “I was more than happy to get a chance to fight James,” James’ opponent Ryan Gronvold is quoted saying.  “The promoter came up to me after the fight and told me they couldn’t find another boxer to fight James.  Now I know why.”  James dispatched Gronvold with sharp and hurtful punching in the first round.
  • In the same article we read that the attendance at Target Center that night was 2,505 – a higher number than is reported by most eyewitnesses.
  • There’s no doubt that Jason Litzau would like to fight in his hometown, but it may turn out that he has bigger fish to fry.  According to the Nevada Athletic Commission Litzau was paid $50,000 for his most recent fight, a ten-round split-decision defeat of then 34-2 Celestino Caballero.  That victory put Litzau on the boxing world’s map and gave a big boost to his earning power.  After earning a raise, to fight in Minnesota would require Litzau to take a voluntary pay cut – it would be a labor of love.  How much does Jason Litzau love Minnesota?  Considering how little love he has gotten from his home state fans and media and the fact that the major television players are interested in his services, we may find that Litzau is less inclined than ever to fight in small local shows.
  • Horton’s Boxing in Duluth has announced that Tyler Hultin has been added to their February 12th show at Clyde Iron Works restaurant and bar.  Hultin joins Gary Eyer, RJ Laase, Al Sands, Aaron Green, and Dustin Mason on that card.
  • KO Promotions will present another boxing card at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Iowa City on February 5th.  The featured fighters will again be Emily and Katy Klinefelter, with a mixed undercard of male and female fights.  For ticket information call 319-338-1633.

No Honor in His Hometown

This past Saturday night Saint Paul’s Jason Litzau won the most notable victory by a Minnesota professional boxer in years, defeating world champion Celestino Caballero by split decision in a non-title bout.  You might have expected such an accomplishment to earn Litzau some attention from hometown newspapers, the Star Tribune and in particular the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.

Nope.

The Saint Paul Pioneer Press noticed Litzau in the sixth item of a notebook-type article that first mentioned Mike Modano, Marc Trestman, the UFL, U of M volleyball, and U of M wrestling, under the sub-heading of “Miscellaneous/Litzau wins split decision.”

The Star Tribune paid a little more attention than the Pioneer Press, placing a stock AP article titled “Berto Successfully defends WBC welterweight title with 1st-round knockout” on their website on the 27th, an article that gave Litzau just one mention, in the fourth of ten paragraphs.  Then on the 29th the Strib gave Litzau a second mention, at the tail end of an article about the University of Minnesota womens’ hockey team’s victory of Harvard.

Litzau, a 15-1 underdog going into the fight according to at least one report, achieved a truly notable win with the victory of Caballero, and that’s what makes it so surprising that the local papers paid such diligent inattention.  At least the boxing world recognizes what Litzau has accomplished.

Jason Litzau lands a left - photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Jason Litzau lands a left - photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Boxing Result: Celestino Caballero -vs- Jason Litzau

Jason Litzau (now 28-2 with 21 kayos) defeats Celestino Caballero (now34-3 with 23 kayos) by split decision after ten rounds

Notes:

Caballero looked good early, but appeared a little bit gassed after two typically busy rounds.  After three rounds of his relentlessly aggressive style of fighting, Caballero is really huffing and puffing in his corner.  In the fourth Litzau seemed to be waiting for something; I think he was waiting for Caballero to stop throwing, but that’s a fruitless strategy; Caballero never stops.  Litzau needed to stop waiting and start finding opportunities in between Caballero’s punches.  In the fifth Litzau finally began to take the initiative, and the fifth was the first round that I thought Litzau decisively won; he was aggressive from the get-go, bouncing on fresh legs, throwing power combinations, and dropping his hands and taunting Caballero.  Caballero tried to steal that round in the last half minute, but Litzau kept coming forward with effective aggression and nullified that tactic.  Litzau stayed aggressive the remainder of the fight.  In the eighth the two fighters traded power shots and Caballero hurt Litzau about halfway through the round, but Litzau recovered well and was very strong – even dominant – throughout the ninth and tenth rounds.

Jason Litzau and Celestino Caballero Meet This Saturday

Jason Litzau of Saint Paul faces a career-defining moment this Saturday night when he faces former world title holder Celestino Caballero in a super featherweight non-title bout.

Caballero (34-2 with 23 kayos), who vacated the WBA world super bantamweight title to move up in weight class, will bring a relentless style and a 5-foot 11-inch frame into the ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.  For his part Litzau (27-2 with 21 kayos) tells The Boxing Bulletin that “You guys are going to see a Jason Litzau like you’ve never seen before. I’ve got a new strength and conditioning coach. My trainer has come up with a great game plan. All I can tell you is this will be the best fight of my life. We’ve got 10 different game plans. Whatever he brings to the table, we are going to be there ready to respond….I’m stronger.  I’m faster.  I’m making weight easier….The way Manny Pacquiao’s strength and condition coach has changed his career.  This guy is changing my whole career.”

It’s nice to see that Litzau has taken some serious steps to enhance his career.  Litzau has often been criticized as a talented fighter who loses his composure and reverts to brawling when a fight gets interesting.  His decision to grow up as a prizefighter demonstrate the truth of the old saw, that you can learn more from your failures than you can from your successes.

Future star Jamal James

Future star Jamal James

In the same interview Litzau also makes a point of sharing with interviewer Cory Erdman that high-quality sparring has prepared him well for Caballero’s assault: “My sparring partners are unbelievable.  They’re way bigger.  I think Caballero is going to be little compared to some of my sparring partners.  They’re 6’1″, 147 pounders.”  It’s no secret around here that Litzau has been sparring with six-foot-one welterweight Jamal James of Circle of Discipline gym in south Minneapolis.  Litzau’s comments accord with what I’ve heard, which is that Jamal has more than held his own with Litzau.  It is said that young Jamal (2-0 with 2 kayos) has earned Litzau’s respect in the gym, and Litzau’s comments to Erdman bear that out.

Minnesota Boxing Outlook, Fall/Winter 2010

A few tidbits to keep you interested while the area scene develops…

Matt Vanda will meet tough Ghanaian veteran Ossie Duran (24-8)  in a light middleweight battle at the top of a planned nine-fight card this Friday night, November 12th, in North Bergen, New Jersey.

The next boxing show in the Upper Midwest is the KO Promotions card in Iowa City on November 13th.  This show will be headlined by the unbeaten Klinefelter girls, Emily and Katy, with an undercard full of 4-rounders.

The biggest story of the fall for Upper Midwest boxing fans is the Jason Litzau-Celestino Caballero fight on November 27th.  This bout should produce fireworks, but that isn’t the only reason to tune in: the winner is almost certain to get a title shot.

December 18th at Target Center in Minneapolis is the appointed time and place for the rematch of last year’s Matt Vanda -vs- Phil Williams match, won by Vanda on points.  Early indications are that the undercard should be well matched, and there may be a big happy surprise for the fans.

January 8th is reportedly the tentative date for the next Horton’s Gym show in the Twin Ports.  More on this when more information comes my way.

The winter has its own big story: Minnesota Ice Joey Abell is signed to fight Cristobal Arreola on national cable TV on January 28th.  Should Abell win, and that is not out of the question, he’ll gain instant worldwide credibility.  Abell has this going for him: Arreola, billed as “The Nightmare,” gives his own trainers sleepless nights by refusing to take his training and diet seriously.  That’s a failing that Midwestern boxing fans know Abell doesn’t share.

The Fistic Mystic says: some major kudos will be earned in the next couple of months.  How and by whom we must wait to find out.