Tag Archives: Javontae Starks

January 3rd Recap: A Wild Night in a Tame Town

On a snowy night in Minneapolis, Rances Barthelemy caught a lucky break, Argenis Mendez drew the opposite number, Ossie Duran spoiled the coming out party of the hometown hero, and Caleb Truax learned that he still has more to learn.

Rances Barthelemy and Argenis Mendez were matched for Mendez’s IBF Junior Lightweight trinket and the title that it represents.  Barthelemy, the challenger, won the bout under controversial circumstances.

The first round started slowly, with Mendez being respectful and tentative and Barthelemy testing the waters and evidently laying a trap.  After some soft jabbing and unexpectedly passive behavior, Barthelemy erupted about halfway through the first round with a ferocious attack that hurt Mendez.  In the second, Mendez was initially more active and tried to regain the initiative, but Barthelemy remained in control.  Finally Barthelemy exploded again and knocked Mendez down.  Then the end of the second was the beginning of controversy, as Barthelemy threw a right and a left well after the bell, and knocked Mendez out.  Though the referee and the TV audience didn’t hear the bell, numerous ringside observers and at least one IBF official in attendance confirmed to this writer that the knockout punch was thrown significantly after the chime.  Most up-to-date word is that an appeal will be  heard by the IBF, so hopefully the result can be changed to a No Contest and a rematch ordered.

In the Co-Main Event, Ossie Duran posed an unexpectedly tough test for rising middleweight star Caleb Truax, who was unable to solve Duran’s hard jab despite an admirable effort.  The end result was a unanimous draw, scored 95-95 by all three judges.

Duran is known to be a tough and experienced veteran, and he surely raised his stock by frustrating Truax with his tight defense and that punishing jab.  Truax maintained an aggressive attitude throughout, but wasn’t able to penetrate Duran’s defense with any consistency.  Though Truax had his moments (particularly in the later rounds), the enduring images of this fight will be Duran’s left hand in Truax’s face and the smudge of blood around Truax’s nose.

Though one wag was heard to say unequivocally that Truax should never rematch Duran, I think the opposite.  Duran was a tough riddle for Truax mainly because Truax had such difficulty solving the jab.  Truax should work on countermeasures for that jab and once he has learned to cope with it, he should show the world his improvement.  Or at the very least, he should make time to spar with Duran.

In undercard action:

  • Adrian Martinez (2-0-1) defeated Trevor Marmon (1-1-1) in a rematch of their September 21st draw.  The first match between the two was a crowdpleasing slugfest with an inconclusive conclusion, but this one brought a decisive result.  Marmon started out strong and aggressive, but Martinez’s strong leads and counters sapped his strength and Marmon ran completely out of gas (and verticality) in the third.  The result was a 3rd round TKO, per world-class referee Mark Nelson.
  • Dennis Galarza, a 21 year old whippet from Orlando, whipped Celiel Castillo in another four-rounder.  Castillo was much shorter than Galarza, and looked physically very soft.  Galarza knocked Castillo down in the first and maintained his dominance for the duration, finishing up with 40-35 scores across the board.  Galarza improved his record to 2-0 while Castillo chalked up a loss in his professional debut.
  • Erickson Lubin wasted no time in thrashing his opponent, Luis Santiago.  Lubin, with a wedge-shaped shock of hair atop his head, hammered his unfortunate opponent for one minute before taking him out at 1:01 of the first.  It was Santiago’s first loss after four wins to inaugurate his professional career.  Lubin advanced to 2-0 with 2 KOs, and more to come if he continues to perform as he did tonight.
  • Javontae Starks moved to 8-0 with 5 knockouts with a split decision win against Limberth Ponce, whose record is now 6-1 with 4 knockouts.  This match sometimes looked like a boxing match, other times a war.  Starks is a beautiful boxer with a strong right hand, while Ponce, in a pinch, would resort to brawling tactics.  The split result is an accurate reflection of the nature of the bout; one could have had either man winning.  The only result that couldn’t conscientiously be forwarded was a scoring draw, since Starks scored a knockdown with a big right-handed counter at the end of the second round.
  • Lightweight prospect Tony Lee improved to 9-1 with 3 knockouts by gutting out a punishing unanimous decision against Willshaun Boxley, now 6-9 with 4 kayos.  Lee is a disciplined and cautious boxer, while Boxley is a flamboyant boxer-puncher who started his career 5-0 and has been in freefall ever since.  Boxley hadn’t fought in nearly two years, and was fighting over ten pounds above his ideal weight, but he showed guts and determination in his bout against a man who held nearly every advantage – height, activity, management.  Boxley’s only advantage was power, but it wasn’t enough to make Lee pay.  Lee boxed well, and punished Boxley mercilessly with a hard and insistent jab.
  • In a sloppy bout campaigned by novices, Damien Hill improved to 2-3 while pinning Nate Richardson (now 1-1) with his first loss.  A fight like this one poses a challenge to the writer, because there is no real narrative to offer.  “Hill hits Richardson.  Now Richardson hits Hill.  Hill hits Richardson again.”  At this level of competition a jab might be no straighter than a hook, and a hook can pass for a straight.  Richardson possesses plenty of aggression and toughness, but those are insufficient virtues for a professional boxer.  Hill is significantly taller, and a more accurate puncher, and that made the difference.
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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

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.

Early Look at ShoBox’s November 5th Fight Card

The preliminary bout sheet for the November 5th ShoBox event in Fargo, ND has been released by DiBella Entertainment, and there are a few dandy matchups and a nice local flavor.  The tendency was definitely to load up on middleweights and variations thereof, with matches of junior middleweights, middleweights, and super middleweights taking up 6 of the 10 slots on the card.  Some of the matches (ie Rodriguez-McGirt, Davis-Pryor) look brilliant on paper, while others (ie Kolle-Osorio, Smith-Pacheco Quiroz) seem to have been put together with an eye toward a quick knockout and a sure “W.”  Seldom does an evening of boxing go entirely according to plan, however, and that’s why they fight the fights in the ring and not on paper.  Tickets are available from Ticketmaster or from the Scheels Arena box office, or the fights can be watched on Showtime or followed round-by-round from ringside on the Fistic Mystic Blog.

Edwin Rodriguez (16-0 with 12 kayos) -vs- James McGirt Jr (22-2-1 with 11 kayos), super middleweights, scheduled for 10 rounds

Dyah Davis (18-1 with 9 kayos) -vs- Aaron Pryor Jr (14-2 with 13 kayos), super middleweights, scheduled for 8 rounds

Marcus Johnson (18-0 with 14 kayos) -vs- Kevin Engel (18-3 with 15 kayos), super middleweights, scheduled for 8 rounds

Andy Kolle (22-2 with 16 kayos) -vs-Francisco Osorio (12-7 with 10 kayos), middleweights, scheduled for 8 rounds

Ishe Smith (21-5 with 9 kayos) -vs- Alexander Pacheco Quiroz (14-8-1 with 12 kayos), junior middleweights, scheduled for 8 rounds

Antwone Smith (18-2 with 10 kayos) -vs- TBA, welterweights, scheduled for 8 rounds

Mark Tucker (14-0 with 7 kayos) -vs- TBA, light heavyweights, scheduled for 8 rounds

Mickey Bey Jr (15-0 with 8 kayos) -vs- TBA, lightweights, scheduled for 8 rounds

Javontae Starks (4-0 with 4 kayos) -vs- Nick Runningbear (4-3 with 1 kayo), junior middleweights, scheduled for 4 rounds

Jamal James (1-0 with 1 kayo) -vs- TBA, welterweights, scheduled for 4 rounds

Announcing: Professional Boxing in Duluth on October 28th

Professional boxing returns to Duluth on October 28th with a ton of fights featuring an abundance of prospects.

It’s still too early to judge, but the preliminary fight card looks promising:

  • Gary Eyer (8-0-1 with 6 kayos) -vs- TBA (Main Event)
  • Javontae Starks (4-0 with 4 kayos) -vs- Hector Orozco (3-6 with no kayos)
  • RJ Laase (4-1 with 2 kayos)-vs- David Laque (2-5 with 2 kayos)
  • Al Sands (debut) -vs- TBA
  • Jamal James (1-0 with 1 kayo) -vs- TBA
  • Donnie Tierney (3-1 with 1 kayo) -vs- TBA
  • Tony Lee (1-0 with no kayos) -vs- TBA
  • Derek Winston (2-0 with no kayos) -vs- TBA

Highlights: Fight fans in the Twin Ports get their first look at Twin Cities prospects Winston, Lee, and James…heavyweight Al Sands makes his pro debut after an amateur career that culminated in an Upper Midwest Golden Gloves title and a trip to Nationals…RJ Laase makes his long-awaited return to the ring following a loss to the O-bandit Hector Orozco in May of 2009…Javontae Starks lays his unbeaten status on the line against the dangerous and tough Orozco, and always-exciting and heavy-handed counter puncher Gary Eyer headlines a fight card for the first time.

There’s been some uncertainty about the date of this event; it seems that there was a scheduling snafu at the venue (Grandma’s Sports Garden) which resulted in the wrong date being reserved with the state commission.  That’s all cleared up now, and the date of the 28th is said to be solid.

What: Professional boxing

Where: Grandma’s Sports Garden in Duluth

When: The evening of Thursday, October 28th

How: Presented by promoter Chuck Horton of Horton’s Gym, with matchmaking by Cory Rapacz (on loan from Midwest Sports Council)

Minnesota’s Glamor Divisions

A couple of years ago it was written here that middleweight was the most talent-laden division in Minnesota boxing.  That statement could easily have been expanded to include the entire Upper Midwest – at the time the premier division boasted the premier names of Bonsante, Kolle, Kost, and Vanda.  Since then, however, the landscape has changed significantly.  Bonsante is retired, Kost might as well be for all the action he’s been getting, Kolle wants to move down to junior middleweight, and Vanda has been testing the waters of the super middleweight division.  Furthermore, no fighter is obligated to stay in any particular division, so any analysis has to allow for the certainty that weights will change over time.

With that said, what is the best division in Minnesota boxing now?

Let’s survey our most prestigious divisions.

Junior Featherweight (130#):

Players: Jason Litzau (27-2 with 21 kayos), Wilton Hilario (12-1-1 with 9 kayos), Willshaun Boxley (5-7 with 3 kayos), Ismail Muwendo (6-0 with 5 kayos), Gary Eyer (8-0-1 with 6 kayos), Allen Litzau (13-6 with 7 kayos), Hassan Wasswa (5-11-3 with 2 kayos), Darby Smart (11-4 with 4 kayos), Brad Patraw (6-3 with 4 kayos), Antwan Robertson (6-3 with 4 kayos), Vicente Alfaro (4-0 with 1 kayo)

Jason Litzau (right) lays some hurt on Verquan Kimbrough

Summary: Admittedly I’m being a little bit generous to the division by including a few men from lower divisions, but it’s a fact that in those lower divisions the fighters have to be willing to travel.  Jason Litzau is the only sure-fire world class fighter in Minnesota.  How do we know?  A sure sign that a fighter has reached that echelon is that lesser men are naming Litzau as a desired opponent.  Wilton Hilario has been on national TV before and will be again in less than two weeks.  It was less than two years ago that Tony Grygelko was calling Boxley “the second best fighter in Minnesota,” but the bright and affable Boxley seems to have no more idea how to manage his career than do the buttons on his shirt.  Proof of this fact: Boxley has now lost seven fights in a row against fighters with a combined record of 60-2, after starting his career with fight straight wins.  Hilario, Boxley, Muwendo, and Eyer are all very credible second-tier guys who fans would love to see matched against each other.

Junior Middleweight (154#):

Players: Andy Kolle (22-2 with 16 kayos), Kenny Kost (14-4 with 6 kayos), Dave Peterson (12-0 with 7 kayos), Corey Rodriguez (4-1-2 with 3 kayos), Jon Schmidt (9-1 with 6 kayos), Javontae Starks (4-0 with 4 kayos), Danny Figueroa (3-1 with 2 kayos)

Andy Kolle after a job well done

Summary: Kolle is the current Minnesota middleweight title holder, and he’s on the cusp of cracking the top 15 in the world in that division.  Though Kolle has continued to campaign as a middleweight, for the last couple of years he’s been intermittently been protesting his desire to move down a class to take greater advantage of his length and power.  Expect to see Kolle finally make that move in the coming months, and he will stand head and shoulders above everyone on this list when he finally gets to 154.  Kenny Kost gets kudos for his experience and a win total in the teens, and for beating Matt Vanda back in 2007, while slippery Dave Peterson is credited with an unbeaten record and a hard-earned win against Corey Rodriguez in 2009.  This division is thick with prospects, none of which come with greater hype and potential than Javontae Starks, who has devastating power, and whose amateur accomplishments give him a national reputation.

Middleweight (160#):

Players: Kolle, Kost, Cerresso Fort (10-0 with 8 kayos), Tyler Hultin (1-0-1 with 1 kayo), Caleb Truax (15-0-1 with 9 kayos), Matt Vanda (43-11 with 23 kayos)

Caleb Truax

Hot prospect Caleb Truax

Summary: Kenny Kost isn’t officially retired, as far as anyone knows, but he hasn’t fought for two years and he isn’t getting any younger.  Caleb Truax is seen as an up-and-comer in this division, but the truth is that usually he weights in a pound or two over the limit.  With three wins against Matt Vanda and the now-retired Tony Bonsante in the last few years and no immediate challengers, Andy Kolle rules the roost here until he leaves.  Minnesota fans have asked for a Kolle-Truax matchup, but the promoters haven’t seen fit to make that fight.  One possibility: both fighters’ management are smart enough not to want to risk cashing in their fighter for the relative pittance that an all-Minnesota fight is likely to generate.

Super Middleweight (168#):

Players: Traux, Vanda, Phil Williams (11-3 with 10 kayos), Tim Taggart (4-2-2 with 2 kayos), Bobby Kliewer (10-11-2 with 5 kayos)

Heavy handed puncher Phil Williams

Summary: Despite the fact that he usually weights over 160#, Truax has been billed and marketed as a middleweight.  Matt Vanda is small for a super middleweight, but this seems to be where he wants to live, while Phil Williams is a former light heavyweight who moved down.  Taggart and Kliewer are young guys who will gain weight with age.  My point?  For most of these guys, the super middleweight division seems to be a way station on the road to somewhere else.  Nevertheless they are here now, and some interesting matches can be (in fact have been) made.

The Fistic Mystic says: The two best divisions in Minnesota right now are junior feather and junior middle.  This quick survey of active fighters and their records suggests that while middleweight still holds the potential for some very interesting matches, it’s junior featherweight and junior middleweight that have the most potential for fireworks.

Slow Season

The slow summer season of boxing is upon us.

Boxing-wise, the spring of 2010 wasn’t as busy as we’d all hoped.  Several planned shows didn’t come off or were indefinitely postponed.  Now summer is here, and everybody with any sense is spending their weekends at the lake or otherwise out of doors.

But it looks like we’ll have a couple of shows in June and then at least one in July.

Both Seconds Out Promotions and Midwest Sports Council had planned boxing shows in Saint Paul for June 11th, but the state boxing commission awarded that date to Seconds Out.  Tony Grygelko, president and CEO of Seconds Out, has assembled a very respectable card for this show, one that’s worth your time as a boxing fan.  We can look forward to Caleb Truax taking his shot at faded former contender Antwun Echols, who put on a great show against Phil Williams just a year ago at Grand Casino Hinckley.  Although Echols had lost five straight, and including several draws had gone winless in ten straight before kayoing 0-8 Fred Thomas in March, he still has a 32-12 record and a recognizable name.  In any case he should be a decent test for young Truax, who continues to intrigue.  Also on the card is the enigmatic Corey Rodriguez, who should be favored against Charles Meier despite their identical 4-1 records.  Jon Schmidt puts his 9-1 record up against Josh Crouch’s 6-1, while possible future opponents Ismail Muwendo and Vincente Alfaro each look to add to their win totals against overmatched opponents.  Last of all, Danny Figueroa gives the always dangerous Hector Orozco a rematch in his first bout since October of last year.  Figueroa is one to watch; if he can put some fights together, he could turn out to be the best mid-sized Minnesota fighter who nobody knows about.

June 17th in Duluth there’ll be an MSC-facilitated event featuring Horton’s Gym fighters.  The good news is that Horton’s headliners Andy Kolle and Gary Eyer will be featured, less good is that the venue is the little Grandma’s Sports Garden in Duluth.  Hopefully this is the start of something good; there’s been a great history of pro boxing in Duluth, including recent cards that featured Kolle and the now-retired Jungle Boy Zach Walters.  There’s nothing to report yet as far as opponents, but we can expect the competition to be well considered and carefully picked.  Duluth is an old-fashioned port city with an appetite for boxing, so you can expect this show to be a hot ticket.

After a too-long lull, Minnesota’s boxing action picks up again on July 23rd or 24th, when another MSC card in the Twin Cities is slated to feature Matt Vanda, Javontae Starks, Jamal James, Tony Lee, Brad Patraw, and Donny Tierney.  Opponents and the venue have yet to be announced.

One last note: Sometime this summer there’ll be a boxing-related event that will really raise the profile of the sport locally.  What it is, I’m on my honor not to disclose publicly, but it’s an open secret in boxing circles and it’s bound to generate some excitement.