Tag Archives: middleweights

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.

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Andy Kolle Moves Forward, Looks Back

Boxer Andy Kolle (20-2 with 15 kayos) is in the midst of preparations for the April 2nd rematch of his 2007 unanimous decision victory over Matt Vanda.  The first time these two met was in the fall of 2007, when Vanda had a record of 37-4.  Vanda has gone 5-6 since, while facing a high level of competition.  Kolle has tallied 5 wins and 1 loss since that day, the loss coming to world-class competitor Paul “The Punisher” Williams and the most important win coming in a Minnesota middleweight title fight against then-champ Anthony Bonsante.

I asked Kolle why he felt that Vanda was the right opponent for him right now.  “Vanda has done some great things since our first fight,” Kolle responded.  “I told him after that fight that I would give him a rematch.  It took a couple years, but I believe that this is the best Vanda has ever been and I want the challenge for myself!”  As a boxing fan you might be thinking that Kolle should be facing bigger national names at this point in his career, and he has an answer for you.  “I…want to stay busy and fight as much as possible, but unfortunately the national fights aren’t [as easy to make] as we thought they would be.”

Andy Kolle

The situation in which Kolle finds himself is a reflection of where he is in his career as well as his social status, identity, and geographical location.  What nationally notable prizefighter would want to risk their career against an obscure but talented white Midwestern southpaw whose only two career losses have come in his only two televised bouts?  Just the same, Kolle remains upbeat.  “Training camp is going great!  I have gotten a lot of great sparring in and I’m ready to fight right now!  I feel great, hungry, and ready to repeat with another victory.”  Kolle is equally positive about the outcome of the fight, declaring that “I am going to win!  To me it doesn’t matter how, or what I have to do, as long as I walk away with the victory.”

Though reluctant to talk about what a win would mean to him, Kolle is happy to reflect on his progress since that first fight with Vanda nearly two and a half years ago.  At the time Kolle was 15-1 but virtually unknown; a young college student, a part-time boxer, and a resident of Fargo, North Dakota.  “Back then I spent a lot of time in the gym by myself training alone and trying to push myself.  Since then I have moved up to Duluth and have become a legit full-time fighter.  I am always in the gym training so I am always ready to fight….I was unknown at the time so I knew  had to prove myself, and I went in there to beat him at his own game.  I fought his fight, going toe-to-toe with him for eight rounds – that first fight made me grow a ton as a fighter and as a man because I knew after that fight that I could handle the deep rounds without any problems.”

Aside from Jason Litzau, who is busy asserting himself at the worldwide level, Kolle and Vanda are Minnesota’s highest-profile professional boxers right now.  Accordingly, the fight is naturally getting a lot of attention – maybe more attention than usual.  It’s all part of the resurgence of boxing in Minnesota.  “I love being part of bringing the sport back to its prominence,” declares Kolle.  “There are a lot of great fighters coming up in this state, and it’s only going to get better!”

One Minnesota boxer who is no longer on the scene is Kolle’s close pal, Zach Walters.  The Jungle Boy announced his retirement in December after compiling a career record of 24-5 fighting out of Horton’s Gym.  Though Kolle says he feels his friend’s absence in the gym, “I don’t let that affect me too much.  When Jungle was in the gym we would push each other to the limits, so the only thing that really changed is that now I’ve gotta try and push that work ethic in othe other fighters so we can all grow together.  But personally nothing much has changed; we still kick it – the only thing different is that he is back to his old self: not always tired and drained from training and cutting weight, so it a more upbeat vibe when he is around now. [laughs]

The Fistic Mystic says: Andy Kolle is a young veteran at the age of 27, an optimistic and upbeat figure in the paradigm of Minnesota boxing.  Not only the standard-bearer for his home gym, Kolle is our state’s most self-intentional representative to the boxing world.  If Kolle defeats Vanda for a second time, as I suspect he will, it’ll be interesting to see whether he can move on to bigger an better things while still preserving his Minnesota ties.

Kenny Kost Heading Back to the Gym

Kenny Kost sends word to Minnesota fight fans that with the seasonal slowing of his construction work, he plans to get back into the gym soon.  Kost has maintained a very reasonable walking-around weight that will allow him to get down to his desired fighting weight of 154 without drama, and he has his eye on Minnesota’s two hottest middleweights: Andy Kolle and Caleb Truax.

Just in case the rumored Kolle-Truax fight fails to materialize, don’t forget this: Truax has mentioned Kost as a potential opponent in the past.

October 17 Boxing Show Canceled, Title Fight Rescheduled

This Saturday’s boxing show in St Paul has been canceled, but promoter Tony Grygelko of Seconds Out Promotions says that Caleb Truax’s IBA Americas title fight is being rescheduled for November 20.  The venue will again be the St Paul Armory.

More news to come…

Boxer Profile: Tyler Hultin

When a writer sits down to begin a composition, whether he’s a reporter or an author, one of the things he or she strives for is a hook.  A hook is the point of interest that grabs the reader and holds him captive until he finishes reading.  A writer who can fabricate or discover a hook will ensnare his readers – even against their will – and that will keep his articles, books, or stories in demand as long as he can churn them out.

Consequently, one fatal trap for a writer is the subject which presents no obvious hook.  The person or event about which he is writing has no rough edges, no gripping drama – no angle presents itself – and then he’s got a dilemma.  Why would anyone begin reading this article?  Once they’ve started, why would they finish?

Tyler Hultin, a product of the amateur boxing club of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, isn’t loud or obnoxious.  In fact he’s placidly self-assured.  He doesn’t self-promote or brag about his great future accomplishments.  He deflects attention from himself and compliments others, sometimes even at his own expense.

This is the dilemma presented by Tyler Hultin.  He’s modest, polite, mild-mannered, and self-effacing.  What am I supposed to write about a guy like that?  Who does he think he is, putting me in this position?

This is Tyler Hultin:

He originally got into boxing at the age of 14 without his parents’ blessing.  In fact, he worked out with the Fergus Falls club for a good eight months before coming clean, and he only did it then because he wanted to enter competition.  Hultin lost his first fight, and the next three after that.  “It was a pretty rocky start.  Very rocky,” Hultin smiles.  “I lost pretty bad.  I had my doubts, thought maybe this isn’t really for me, but instead of giving up I pushed myself pretty hard.”

All that hard work eventually paid off, as Hultin earned a Silver Gloves title in 2003, the Golden Gloves region IV title at 152# from 2004 through 2006, the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves title in 2006, and then the Region IV title at 165# from 2007 through 2009.  Along the way Hultin amassed a cumulative record of 80-27 over a nine-year career, and ultimately won over his mom.  “After my mom came to the fights for the first time, now she’s the loudest fan I have.  Oh yeah, she’s a die-hard,” Hultin winks.

Maybe it’s natural, and maybe everyone feels this way about their club, but Hultin thinks there’s something special about the Fergus Falls club.  “Our club doesn’t win the most awards or the most championships, but I think that we’re the most feared club in the area.  I mean, fighters coming in from other clubs are confident that they’ll win, but they also know that win or lose, they’re going to have been in a fight.  They’re going to feel it the next day.”

Hultin turned pro in May of this because he was feeling restless and bored, and because of a particular phone call.  “In amateurs it got so nothing was original – you knew how everything was going to go down, and I was always at a certain weight, and you pretty much knew who was out there to fight…I think I fought one guy sixteen times.  I got my name known throughout the amateur scene, but it didn’t really get me anywhere.”  Then came a fateful phone call: “After my last year of Golden Gloves I was just about ready to hang up my gloves.  And Andy Kolle called me and goes, ‘I heard that you wanted to go pro for so long, are you ready to do it?’  I told him I was thinking about hanging it up and he asked me, ‘Is that really what you want or is it just nerves and false thoughts?’  I thought about it and I decided that I can’t get out of it.  I’m only 22 years old I have to keep going.  So Andy had a lot to do with it.”

Of course, the last two pro fighters to come out of Fergus Falls (Kolle and the Jungle Boy, Zach Walters)  have moved to Duluth to train at Horton’s Gym.  I asked Hultin whether he might do the same.  “The thought has come into my head, but for now I’m in school in Alexandria, and I’m committed to finishing that.  The Saint Cloud Golden Gloves team wanted me to move down there and train them, too, but now that I’ve gone pro I’ll hold off on those things for a while.”

Back in Fergus Falls there’s another Hultin who Tyler would like boxing fans to know about, and that’s his little brother Tanner Hultin.  “If he had my conditioning he would probably be better than me.  He’s a southpaw, too!”  Tanner is 18 years old and still in high school, but Tyler offers high praise: “Tanner is my best sparring partner.”

To date Hultin has only had the one pro fight, winning his debut contest against Lakendriek Craig with a first-round knockout on May 21st up in Duluth.  What his future holds, Hultin won’t speculate.  His goals are articulated thusly: “First, to keep fighting, and second, to work my way up.”  I explained that most fighters use their interviews to predict a signature win or a championship, or some other kind of great success.  “I think one day, yes.  That would be nice.  I have a lot to learn first.”

Sigh.

The Fistic Mystic says: Continuing a great new tradition in Minnesota boxing, I asked Hultin to name some other young fighters whose names we should remember.  There were no stunning revelations, but as usual, some candid and interesting recollections.

“Obviously, my brother Tanner Hultin.”

Javontae Starks – “We clashed heads back in ’07 or ’08, then he dropped me with a body shot.  I finished the fight, though.”

Jamal James – “You don’t hear very much about him, but he’s really good.”

Robert Brant – “I fought him twice, lost them both.  He’s a natural.”  A prodigy, even?  “Yes, and he’s a nice guy, too.  Going to give Kelly Pavlik a run for his money.  I’m serious.”

Degrees of Separation

Anthony Shuler, last seen blowing across a boxing ring in Duluth like a tumbleweed, has been handpicked for Andy Lee’s next opponent.

Shuler brought a 20-5-1 record into a bout with Andy Kolle back on June 18.  Kolle took his time getting to know Shuler, then shut him down with a TKO in the 3rd round.

Lee (18-1 with 13 kayos), as any avid boxing fan knows, is the young Irish project of the great Detroit-based trainer Emmanuel Steward.  Lee has won three straight since getting pummeled by the better-than-average Brian Vera 17 months ago.

It’s a small world out there, as evidenced by the insularity of the boxing community.  No doubt Lee’s handlers know who Andy Kolle is, because they know who everybody is.  In this business, everybody knows who everybody is.  Someday soon Kolle will find himself in the ring with a genuine contender again.  Keep your eyes peeled!

Caleb Truax: Ready to Move On

Fistic Mystic: So you beat Durrell Richardson on Friday night.  How do you feel?

Caleb Traux: I felt fine afterwards, man.  I wasn’t even tired.  I went eight rounds with a guy who didn’t really want to fight.  I was frustrated the whole time.  He didn’t want to fight, he just wanted to be a track star!

Fistic Mystic: Please share your thoughts on your win.

Caleb Truax: I’ve never fought anyone who was more interested in getting away than in fighting.  Even when I had him caught in the corner, he would make like Barry Sanders and juke and then run away.  That’s the story of the fight.  Obviously I didn’t agree with the one judge, but in the end I got the win, and that’s the important thing when you have an ugly fight like that one.  (The scores are reported as 80-72, 79-74, and 77-75 for Truax)

Fistic Mystic: Do you know when you’ll fight again?

Caleb Truax: I think I might fight the end of July in Saint Paul.  I’m not sure, I haven’t gone to the gym and discussed it with Tony and Ron yet, but hopefully on the 25th of July, which is a Saturday.  They’ve been talking about maybe Robert Kamya, I think he’s 16-10 or something.