Tag Archives: Midwest Sports Council

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.

Big Night for the 218, Not So Much for the 651 (Kolle/Vanda/Eyer/Patraw)

The Horton’s Gym crew from Duluth came out of tonight’s boxing event at Grand Casino in Hinckley riding a tremendous wave of momentum.  Here’s why:

Andy Kolle performed terrifically, walking away from the ring with a (well-earned) lopsided decision.  The consensus at ringside was that the rounds could be scored anywhere from 7-3 to 9-1 in Kolle’s favor.  The judges all gave Kolle seven to nine rounds, and though I didn’t score the fight, that sure sounds right to me.  Now don’t get me wrong; it isn’t that Vanda performed poorly; he won a lot of moments and a few half-rounds, but they don’t score moments or half-rounds.  What’s next for the slim southpaw from Fergus Falls?  Kolle reiterated his desire to campaign at 154# instead of the 160# class in which he has contested most of his bouts, but Kolle also acknowledged that opportunities are slim for tall lefthanders.  I would amend that: tall lefthanders who can crack.

The other half of Horton’s delight has got to be the way that Gary Eyer blew Brad Patraw away after dropping 20# to take the fight at the featherweight limit of 126#.  It was an audacious decision for Eyer to come so far down in weight, but given his performance at lightweight against Levi Cortes and at featherweight against Patraw, maybe it’s the right move.  Eyer was sensational tonight.  He keeps his hair longer than most fighters, and that makes his opponents’ punches look more effective than they are.  Some bystanders were fooled into thinking that Patraw was getting back into the fight when they saw him fluff up Eyer’s hair a couple of times, but it was a false hope; Patraw was badly beaten.  For his part, Johnny Johnson (in Patraw’s corner) was furious at the stoppage, but it was the only thing the referee could do – Patraw lost his legs in the first round, and he didn’t look good at all before the visiting referee from Chicago pulled the plug on him.  Patraw isn’t a big bantamweight; he’s a true bantamweight who’s better off fighting at 120-122#, and his speed and power are quite good at that weight.  Patraw, unfortunately, has tasted the mat in his last two bouts, both of them losses.  Let’s hope that those who should be looking out for Patraw’s well-being will keep a close eye on his reflexes and coordination, and will make sure that he doesn’t enter the ring with diminished abilities.

Making the night  more torturous yet for large contingent of fans from Saint Paul was the exposure of Jeremy McLaurin.  After his last win, a controversial three-and-a-half round technical decision against Hector Orozco, McLaurin and his team knew that he had to prove that he deserved to win.  Thus tonight’s rematch.  The expectation of most in the crowd tonight was that McLaurin would box more crisply than last time and use his longer reach and greater speed to keep Orozco in his place, leaving no question of who would deserve the win in the rematch.  The painful reality is that McLaurin doesn’t seem to have what it takes to compete at a high level.  I saw it when he was nearly taken out by Felix Martinez in his professional debut, and others have spoken of it privately; the deficiency of innate punch resistance and the lack of confidence are real.  McLaurin is a guy who keeps in good shape and has good skills, but he isn’t the complete package.  He may string together another nice winning streak and then cash in on a glossy record, but don’t waste your time hoping for more than that.

Dan Copp and Don Tierney fought tonight, but most of the folks who took in that bout will try to forget what they saw.  It was a boring dog of a fight, with a game but slow and soft-hitting Copp losing the decision to Tierney, who has better skills but no more power than Copp and either motivational or conditioning issues.  Tierney tried to do what his corner told him to, but for the most part, execution was a problem.  I did think that Tierney deserved the win more than Copp did, but a friend whose opinion I value and respect disagreed heartily.

The opening bout of the night (Tyler Hultin -vs- Tim Taggart) was much more exciting and entertaining, but gave us a most unexpected result.  I think that most in the auditorium would have given the decision to Hultin based on a demonstration of superior skills and crisper punching – I would certainly have done so – but the judges somehow found a way to turn a five-round bout into a draw.  It’s like this: one judge would have awarded the win to Hultin, another one to Taggart, and one scored it a draw.  I’ll try to find the exact scoring and add it to this article later, but I can only assume that the third judge scored two rounds for each man and one even at 10-10.  In any case, I thought it was plain that Hultin was faster and a more accurate puncher, but Taggart is a bigger man and he also had his moments.  Hopefully neither man takes the draw too hard; it can be a crushing disappointment to train for weeks for a fight and be left with essentially no result.  For Taggart it’s the second draw in a row (the first was against Sam Morales here at Grand Casino Hinckley back in November).

And here’s what most fans will remember most vividly about tonight: we were all treated to the spectacle of a collapsing boxing ring.  For most of us it was the first time, though I spoke with a few who had been through it before.  One was referee Mark Nelson, who explained that the same thing had happened in March of 1999 at a Don King-promoted event in Saint Paul.  Nelson recalled that King and a contingent of about 60 of his best friends had crowded that ring before the Will Grigsby-Carmelo Caceres main event, causing the ring to collapse with everyone in it.  This occurrence wasn’t nearly so dramatic, but it provided a few moments of bewilderment for this writer: between the third and fourth rounds of the Copp-Tierney bout I noticed that my press table was halfway under the ring, and I wondered to myself who had pushed it in so far and when they had done it.  I pulled the table out from under the ring and went back to my writing.  After the fight was over but before the result was announced, I noticed that the ring was overhanging the table again.  I looked to my left, down the leading edge of the ring, and realized that it moving – just barely perceptibly.  Before I could yell, the ring lurched toward me, then stopped with a loud crash.  Then the mat dropped straight down with the fighters still in it.  Thank God that no one was hurt.  There was a lengthy delay while the ring was straightened up and the canvas was raised and bolstered from beneath, then the fights resumed.  I look forward to seeing photographs – there were three photographers working almost directly across the ring from me, so I imagine that at least a couple of snaps will include my astonished countenance.

Upcoming Boxing Event: April 2nd at Grand Casino Hinckley

What to watch for:  Andy Kolle and Matt Vanda are in different places in their careers, but they’re each hoping for the same thing – a win that would elevate them so they can take a big fight on favorable terms.  Jeremy McLaurin takes a risk to right a wrong, giving Hector Orozco a rematch following their mildly controversial first fight at First Avenue in February.  Gary Eyer takes a big risk, banking that it will pay off; slimming down and getting in the ring with talented 6-1 super bantamweight Brad Patraw of Rice Street Gym in Saint Paul.  Tim Taggart, in search of a much-needed win, has a date with Tyler Hultin of Fergus Falls, who is only 1-0 as a pro but whose amateur record was 80-27.  Danny Figueroa of Hastings is a late replacement for the withdrawn Javontae Starks, taking on young veteran Bobby Kliewer in a junior middleweight bout.  Highly touted amateur Jamal James, from Circle of Discipline boxing gym in south Minneapolis, makes his pro debut against Alexander Tousignant of Milwaukee.  And in a surprise late addition, Dan Copp and Don Tierney team up to beat each other up – call it an appetizer!

  • Andy “Kaos” Kolle (20-2 with 15 kayos) -vs- Matt Vanda (42-10 with 22 kayos), middleweights, scheduled for 10 rounds, for Kolle’s Minnesota state middleweight title
  • Jeremy McLaurin (7-0 with 5 kayos) -vs- Hector Orozco (1-5 with no kayos), light welterweights, scheduled for 6 rounds
  • Gary Eyer (7-0 with 5 kayos) -vs- Brad Patraw (6-1 with 4 kayos), featherweights, scheduled for 6 rounds
  • Tim Taggart (3-2 with 2 kayos) -vs- Tyler Hultin (1-0 with 1 kayo), middleweights, scheduled for 5 rounds
  • Bobby Kliewer (10-9-2 with 5 kayos) -vs- Danny Figueroa (3-0 with 2 kayos), light middleweights, scheduled for 4 rounds
  • Jamal James (debut) -vs- Alexander Tousignant (1-2 with 1 kayo), welterweights, scheduled for 4 rounds
  • Dan Copp (1-2 with no kayos) -vs- Don Tierney (2-1 with 1 kayo), light middleweights, scheduled for 4 rounds

The Fistic Mystic says: The casual fan will never know all the drama that goes on behind the scenes.  Some of it you hear about, and some of it you never will.

Kliewer’s Opponent for April 2: Out with Starks, In with C-Rod (?)

It’s been confirmed: Javontae Starks has withdrawn from his planned fight with Bobby Kliewer due to a back injury.  According to matchmaker Cory Rapacz, the decision to hold Starks out was an easy one.  “He hurt his back training.  He doesn’t have full range of motion and when you have a kid this promising at 21 years of age you take every precaution…you don’t put him in the ring unless he is 100 percent.”

The planned replacement for Starks, chosen from a pool of several suitable candidates, is 4-1 junior middleweight Corey “Collateral Damage” Rodriguez.  At the time of publication, Rodriguez had not returned a telephone call seeking confirmation or comment.  However, Kliewer did confirm that he had been informed of the switch.

For his part, Kliewer (10-9-2) is unfazed by the change in opponent.  “They’d better just pick a retirement spot next to Raul (Gracia) for Corey.  I put old welterweights into retirement!”  Kliewer doesn’t care to discuss tactics or strategy, but he thinks that he has several advantages over Rodriguez: “Youth, power, coach, knowing I’m fighting for a month, pro experience, and I’m prettier!” Kliewer laughs.  But the man who styles himself as Sweet Dreams had some sharp words for Rodriguez as well.  “Who knows, by the time C-Rod is 40 he’ll have as many pro fights as I do now – if this fight doesn’t change his mind about boxing.” (Rodriguez, veteran of more than 70 amateur fights, has struggled to get matched as a pro, fighting only five times since turning pro two and a half years ago.)

Note: Since this article was published I still have not heard from Corey Rodriguez, and matchmaker Cory Rapacz points out that Rodriguez has not officially accepted the fight.  Will C-Rod sign the contract?  Tune in tomorrow for more of the soap opera that is Minnesota boxing.

Jeremy McLaurin Signs with Studer, MSC

Well-regarded lightweight prospect Jeremy McLaurin will announce today that he’s parting ways with Seconds Out Promotions and going forward will be managed by Andrew Studer and promoted by Midwest Sports Council (MSC).

A source tipped off the Fistic Mystic last night, and two more sources with ties to McLaurin confirmed the signing today.

McLaurin wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Seconds Out founder Tony Grygelko had this to say: “We wish him nothing but the best with his future and would love to be able to have him on our next event January 23rd at the Armory against Ismail Muwendo or Willshaun Boxley.”

McLaurin, 5-0 with 4 kayos, is expected to face 3-0 Darryl Hayes of Houston at Grand Casino Hinckley on December 18th.

UPDATE:  McLaurin released his announcement only moments ago.  See it published in full at mnboxingleague.com.

Minnesota Boxing Scene: In Overdrive

These are heady days for the Minnesota fight scene.  Join me as I survey the the Minnesota boxing fan’s calendar…

  • November 4 at Camp Lejuene, NC Jason Litzau faces Johnnie “The LumberJack” Edwards (15-4 with 8 kayos) at 130# in a bout to be televised on ESPN2.  Following his seemingly effortless demolition of Verquan Kimbrough (then 21-1-2)  in August, a win here would appear to set Litzau up nicely for something bigger in the near future.
  • Willshaun Boxley takes on another big challenge November 6 when he meets Salvador Sanchez (16-3 with 8 kayos) in a six-rounder in Las Vegas.  Boxley has shown a ton of ambition in the past year, jumping up from the usual early-career patsies to face men with records of 12-7 (Boxley won by unanimous decision), 10-1 (Boxley lost by majority decision), and 10-1 (Boxley lost by unanimous decision).  Sanchez is a pretty good young fighter, but he may have bitten off more than he knows with Boxley.
  • November 13th at Grand Casino Hinckley we find a stacked card – by Minnesota standards anyway – presented by promoter Midwest Sports Council.  Phil Williams and Matt Vanda headline, supported by Wilton Hilario -vs- Leon Bobo, unbeaten prospect Cerresso Fort, Javontae Starks’ pro debut, and more.  Four bouts from this event will be televised on Fox Sports North immediately after the conclusion of the Minnesota Wild hockey game.
  • November 20th in St Paul we’ll see Caleb Truax fight the faded former WBC world title holder Carl “The Squirrel” Daniels (50-18 with 32 kayos) for some IBA Intercontinental hardware.  Daniels has lost seven straight and fourteen out of fifteen, but this fight will force him to train harder than he’s done in a long time – Daniels hasn’t fought below 170# in nearly two years.  A supporting bout gives this event a higher profile: young Welshman James Todd (2-1-1) meets Mohammed Kayongo (14-2 with 10 kayos) for an IBA welterweight title.  Todd’s supporters are talking about making the trip to St Paul to lend their support, and we all know that British boxing fans travel well.  (There has also been a rumor floating that Todd’s countryman Kerry Hope will face Robert Kamya on this card, but I haven’t confirmed that one with promoter Tony Grygelko of Seconds Out Promotions.)
  • The heavyweight bout that Minnesota has waited too long for headlines a December 4th event at Target Center in Minneapolis.  Joey Abell (25-4 with 24 kayos) meets his pal and fellow Minnesotan Raphael Butler (35-8 with 28 kayos) with the vacant Minnesota heavyweight title on the line.  Zach Walters faces Larry Sharpe, who is the man who beat the man (Bruce Rumbolz) who beat the man (Shawn Hammack) who beat Walters back in August of 2008.  Travis “Freight Train” Walker, Ronnie Peterson, Gary Eyer, and Dave Peterson also support this card.
  • No specifics are available at this writing, but Showtime will be in town on December 18 to televise a boxing event at Grand Casino Hinckley.  Expect some locals to get a boost from this show.

Javontae Starks Signs with Local Promoters MSC!

The biggest boxing related news to come out of Minnesota boxing in years comes to us by way of electronic mail, from local boxing writer and publicist Brett Mauren.  Mauren’s press release trumpets the announcement that local promoter Midwest Sports Council (MSC) has signed amateur boxing star Javontae Starks to a  promotional deal.

It’s revealed in the release that Starks will make his professional debut November 13 on the televised card at Grand Casino Hinckley which features Matt Vanda –vs- Phil Williams and Wilton Hilario –vs- Leon Bobo, as one of four televised bouts.  The expected stock comment from MSC matchmaker Cory Rapacz: “I’m extremely excited to get an opportunity to work with Javontae and his team.  I have been working for the better part of the year to get him to be a part of the Midwest Sports Council roster and I’m thrilled we came to a deal that worked for both sides.”  Reached for comment, Rapacz elaborated on plans, “The debut fight is scheduled for November 13th, and a second fight is planned for December, though no date or site can be announced yet.”

An ebullient Starks had more to say: “I was going to sign with Cameron Dunkin [of TKO Productions in Las Vegas], but we had some things that just didn’t mix.  So I thought that it was best for everyone that we take our agreement elsewhere.  Boxing in Minnesota is not looking too bad.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you see my first eight or nine fights here.”

Regarding his long-term plans:  “I’m not in a rush to sign with any big-time promoter.  When the time comes I’ll be ready to sign a long-term deal.  Money has never been an issue, I’d just like to fight and eventually my talent will get me to the big paydays.  I may even surprise everyone and stay with MSC, everybody will just have to wait and see what happens.”

On prospective opponents: “I actually got texts from some fighters around here saying that they were willing to fight or they wanted to fight, and being from the state of Minnesota and now I finally get to put on shows in Minnesota, once I show the fans what I can do for two or three fights, then I’ll be coming at fighters from Minnesota.  One thing I’ll say right now: Jonny Laboda, I’ll tell you straight out, I’ll stop him.  I’ll knock him out easily.”  This is not the first time that the 4-0 welterweight Laboda’s name has passed Starks’ lips, so there may be something behind the talk.

Starks joins another good local pro, Ceresso Fort of St Paul, in the MSC stable.  Without prompting Starks volunteered that although he would be willing to fight Fort if the money was right, “Woo is my friend, he’s like a brother to me, and it would have to make a lot of sense for both of us.”

The Fistic Mystic says: Starks’ pro status should be a great shot in the arm for the sport of boxing in Minnesota.  Expect to see a lot of him in the near future, until some big national promoter swoops in and carries him away with a big-money, long-term deal.