Tag Archives: Raphael Butler

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.

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Raphael Butler’s Ring Return: September 4th

Heavyweight Raphael Butler (35-8 with 28 kayos) of Rochester Minnesota’s 4th Street Gym will return to the prizefighting ring on September 4th in Toronto, Ontario.  Boxing fans haven’t seen Butler fight since the bizarre end of his disastrous fight with Joey Abell last December, and Butler told me today that he had considered quitting the boxing game in the interim, but just couldn’t stay out of the gym.

Butler’s opponent will be 33-year old prospect Neven Pajkic of Sarajevo, who has only fought thirteen times in his five year career, accumulating a flawless record of 13-0 with 5 kayos.  Foremost among Pajkic’s victims is Jason Gavern, whom he defeated in January.  Since then Pajkic gave Grzgorz Kielsa (now 11-2) the first two losses of his career.

The Hot Stove League of Boxing

Hot Stove

Hot Stove

Once in a while, but not very often, an event comes up that seems to have the potential to launch a Minnesota boxer to the bigger and better things.  Or so the local boxing fan tells himself.  When it comes down to it, most of the events that we bank on to increase Minnesota fighters’ exposure either don’t happen at all (Litzau-Hilario), they go horribly wrong (Abell-Butler), they don’t bring the desired result (Hilario-Honorio), or they result in no appreciable gain for the winner (Peterson-Rodriguez).

A year ago we saw Andy Kolle and Tony Bonsante come together for an event that we all thought would elevate the winner to a bigger stage, and though Kolle won in emphatic fashion, he and his team couldn’t figure out how to spell momentum with a ‘W’.  To wit: in the twelve months since he beat Bonsante, Kolle has fought only twice, against journeymen Anthony Shuler and Pat Coleman, gaining wins and paychecks, but little more.

So here’s Kolle, now 20-2, defending his Minnesota middleweight title against 42-10 Matt Vanda.  Kolle’s title defense against Vanda, a man who he beat two and a half years ago (when Vanda’s record was a more impressive 37-4), is partly an evidence of the slim pickings in Minnesota, but also partly a result of Kolle’s stalled career.  Once again the sharp southpaw from Fergus Falls is hoping to earn a win against a crafty veteran middleweight in order to springboard himself to national prominence.

Maybe the upcoming fight between Kolle and Vanda has the potential to do that for the winner, but it didn’t happen last time the two fought, so why would it now?  Vanda’s stock hasn’t risen since 2007, and Kolle’s has risen only a little.  There’s a state title belt at stake, but it’s only a Minnesota belt, so it won’t impress the networks, coastal promoters, or other powers that be.

Just the same, local fighters, coaches, trainers, and promoters all keep trying, hoping for the best, and believing that their big break lies just around the next bend.  And that’s what keeps the fans coming back: that optimistic belief that some local hero is going to take a big step up and succeed, just like Vicente Alfaro did this weekend!

Are there other potential all-Minnesota matchups that could make a splash?

Phil Williams – Caleb Truax (coming April 23rd at the Saint Paul Armory): A win could boost Truax’s credibility on the local scene but probably not on the national level (given that he’s already beaten fighters with records equal to or better than Williams’).  And though it would certainly be a shot in the arm for Williams if he were to defeat a 14-0 prospect like Truax, he would still only be a thirty-year old super middleweight from Minnesota with a 12-3 record.

Jason Litzau – Wilton Hilario: Litzau has won three straight and is set to face a top-notch opponent in Rocky Juarez on April 3rd, on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones Jr.  Hilario recently somnambulated though a twelve-round disaster with top-notch opponent Martin Honorio.  The two who last summer seemed oh-so-close to fighting are now far apart and on divergent paths; Hilario needs to polish his skills and rebuild his reputation, while Litzau appears destined to box world-class fighters in the 130# division or above.

Joey Abell – Raphael Butler II:  For starters, both men have a reasonable expectation of a pretty generous paycheck.  I’m not sure there are any fans who would even want to see this one, but there are a few details to be sorted out.  Fines, suspensions, bad attitudes, hurt feelings…let’s just say there’s a history.  Can a fight have too much baggage?  Maybe it can.

Dave Peterson – Cerresso Fort:  This one doesn’t seem very realistic, but it would have great panache if it could be made.  Unfortunately, the undefeated (12-0) Peterson is said to have commitment issues and his record of twelve fights in seven years seems to bear that out.  Fort, though similarly undefeated (9-0), is a very different fighter: an aggressive battler who takes chances.  Fort seemed to take a step backwards when he went to war with 6-3-2 tough-guy Lamar Harris back in November and nearly got himself in trouble a couple of times before pulling out a win.  Based on history, it’s hard to say whether Peterson would be willing.  It may be too easy and too comfortable for him to fight once or twice a year against guys with 4-5 wins, and if so, why would he step up and fight an aggressive (though flawed) young prospect like Fort?

Caleb Truax – Andy Kolle:  This fight might be (probably is) the most significant possible matchup on this list.  It’s certainly the most talked-about.  Kolle, if he beats Vanda on April 2nd, will have virtually cleaned out the highest level of veteran middleweights in Minnesota.  The obvious next step, barring a surprise from the semi-retired Kenny Kost, is a match with Truax, the up-and-coming prospect from Osseo.  Though this seemed like a bad mismatch a couple of years ago, when Kolle was 15-1 and Truax just 3-0,  Truax has stayed respectably busy fighting an ever-improving quality of competition.  To date Kolle has competed at a higher level (a 6-1 record against opponents with at least 20 wins), but Truax has proven himself a strong and durable fighter while winning his last three bouts against opponents with a combined record of 48-10.  If April brings Truax a win against Williams and Kolle repeats history with a win against Vanda, this very quickly becomes an even more attractive fight.

Gary Eyer – Jeremy McLaurin:  This is another fight that has been talked about by the fans, but it’s no sure thing, as both men have tough opponents lined up for April 2nd – Eyer is fighting Brad Patraw at 126# and McLaurin is giving a rematch to Hector Orozco, who gave him a very tough fight back in February.  Even if both come through with their unbeaten records intact, it might be tough to put this fight together.  What am I saying?  I’m saying that Eyer may have to get in line.

Gary Eyer – Allen Litzau:  Eyer has his eye on Al Litzau, but Litzau doesn’t fight often, and when he does it’s usually not against opponents from Minnesota.  Though this is a compelling matchup, there may not be enough money in it for Litzau.

Willshaun Boxley – Allen Litzau:  Litzau has had his eye on Boxley in the past, but is it still there?  I don’t know.  Boxley feels that he could beat Litzau without breaking a sweat, while Litzau is confident enough that he famously confronted Boxley in the ring during a Seconds Out show.  The question is now whether Boxley’s power, elusiveness, and ridiculously long reach, combined with a lackluster 5-5 record, make him too unattractive an opponent for the notoriously un-busy elder Litzau.

Willshaun Boxley – Ismail Muwendo:  Boxley has put Muwendo on his list of desired opponents.  Rumor has it that this fight has been offered more than once to Muwendo’s manager, Scott Tolzmann.  “That fight could have been made at any time, and we’ve always known that,” confirms Tolzmann.  “Willshaun is a pretty available guy, and his name has come up before.  It’s a fight that’ll probably be made sooner or later – in fact it’s a fight that almost definitely will happen.”

Corey Rodriguez – Jon Laboda:  Though one local wag tells me that he thinks Rodriguez is secretly retired, C-Rod himself has lamented his inability to get fights and has said repeatedly that a fight with Laboda is one that he wants badly.  Though neither man fights frequently, both are well-known in the Minnesota boxing community.  The fight would be an attention-getter if nothing else, and that’s one factor that’s strongly in its favor.

The Fistic Mystic says: Some of these fights are realistic and some probably aren’t.  And yet any and every one of them could be made if promoters were ambitious enough and persuasive enough and if enough money was offered.  This last condition is probably the most exigent, considering that money is typically the most desired and least available commodity in Minnesota boxing.

“If You Laid All the Professional Boxers in Minnesota End-to-End…”

“If you laid all the professional boxers in Minnesota end-to-end, it would look a lot like a Friday night on the road.”

In a moment of good humor a local boxing professional shared this wry observation with me.

It’s certainly true that Minnesotans haven’t done well on the road in the last few years.  It’s a well-established pattern that our local boxers rack up the wins and fatten up their records in Minnesota and then go on the road to try to step up.  It’s a good thing that they get paid, because that’s usually all they get for their trouble.  Even our best boxers do it.  Here, for example, are the 2008-09 road records of some of Minnesota’s most popular and successful pugilists:

  • Joey Abell 3-2 (Ratko Draskovic, Maurice Wheeler, Alfred Cole, Jason Nicholson, Billy Willis)
  • Anthony Bonsante 0-1 (Adonis Stevenson)
  • Willshaun Boxley 1-3 (Barbaro Zepeda, Eric Hunter, Arash Usmanee, Ronny Rios)
  • Raphael Butler 2-4 (Kerry Biles, Eddie Chambers, Homero Fonseca twice, Marvin Hunt, Malik Scott)
  • Chris Holt 1-0-1 (John McLean, John McLean)
  • Andy Kolle – 0-1 (Paul Williams)
  • Jason Litzau 2-1 (Robert Guerrero, Verquan Kimbrough, Johnnie Edwards)
  • Caleb Truax 1-0 (Thomas Rittenbaugh)
  • Matt Vanda – 0-4 (Sebastien Demers, JC Chavez Jr twice, John Duddy)
  • Zach Walters 0-1 (Byron Mitchell)
  • Phil Williams – 0-1 (Don George)

 

  • Cumulative Record: 10-18-1

So seven of the ten fighters listed here compiled losing records on the road in 2008-09.

It’s appropriate at this point to acknowledge the extenuating circumstance: It’s a given in boxing that the tougher fights are on the road.  Once a fighter has made himself road-worthy, it’s normal for him to get tough tests on the road and showcases at home.

But there are a couple of flies in that ointment, for while Minnesota boys occasionally go on the road and lose to big-name opponents, the reverse isn’t true; big-name opponents don’t come to Minnesota and lose to local boys.  It may be that the best home-state win for a Minnesota boxer against an out-of-towner in the last two years was Wilton Hilario’s trouncing of Leon Bobo, decidedly un-super despite his 18-3 record, in November 2009.  Also, it’s pretty obvious that only one of the ten victories listed above was truly significant, and that was Jason Litzau’s pasting of then 21-1 Verquan Kimbrough.  Not surprisingly, Litzau is the only boxer in Minnesota who has established his world-class credentials.

Is there any hope for improvement?  There sure is!  There are some really promising young fighters coming up through the ranks who could reverse this ugly trend, most notably unbeaten middleweight prospect Caleb Truax of Osseo and light middleweight Javontae Starks, a new pro with a stellar amateur resume, of south Minneapolis.  Not to be forgotten is Robert Brant, an amateur with his eye on the 2012 Olympics in London – Brant’s natural giftedness already has people talking about his potential as a professional.  And there are others – too many to list here, in fact.  Things are looking up!

The Fistic Mystic says: Keep your chin up, Minnesota boxing fan – we have some good prizefighters operating now, and there are reinforcements coming!

The Best of Minnesota Boxing: 2009

Here’s the final End-Of-Year article from the Fistic Mystic commemorating the events of 2009.  In the first two articles (Minnesota Boxing P4P and Risers/Fallers) we discussed who’s the best fighter in the state and who’s had the best year.  In this article we’ll take a broader look at the best and worst moments and the most outstanding achievements in Minnesota boxing in 2009.  Now please enjoy, and if you think you know better, honor me with a comment!

 

Knockout of the Year

Marcus Oliveria KO2 Otis Griffin on June 5th at Grand Casino Hinckley – Griffin used his speed and effective jabbing to blunt Oliveria’s attack in the first round, but somehow Griffin lost the plot in round 2.  Maybe it was because Oliveria quit going to the body, or maybe it was because the pace of the fight had slackened, but Griffin allowed Oliveria to slip inside and land a wrecking-ball right uppercut that knocked Griffin full out.

Honorable mention: Andy Kolle TKO3 Anthony Bonsante, Caleb Truax TKO7 Patrick Perez, Dion Savage KO4 Jeffrey Osborne Jr, Javontae Starks KO2 Dan Copp (body shot)

Fight of the Year

Gary Eyer UD6 Levi Cortes on December 4th at Target Center – Cortes came out throwing bombs and for a short time it looked like Eyer might not even make it past the first round.  But Eyer began landing counters and Cortes slowed, so that what had started out looking like a Cortes walkover turned into a thrilling slugfest.  The pattern that held through most of the fight was that Cortes came forward throwing rights, while Eyer gradually figured out how to time him, sidestep him, and counter with both hands.  The last 30 seconds of the fight consisted of a toe-to-toe punching contest.  When it was finally over Eyer looked like he had been brutally beaten, but Cortes looked even worse – like he had been trampled by horses.

Honorable mention: Cerresso Fort UD6 Lamar Harris, Christopher Holt SD8 Jonathan Corn, Caleb Truax TKO7 Patrick Perez, Dave Peterson MD6 Corey Rodriguez

Worst Fight of the Year

Cerresso Fort KO1 Yancy Cuellar on August 14th at The Myth in Maplewood – In the first round, the hapless Cuellar went down like he’d been shotgunned, and laid on his face until he was counted out.  Then he got up and casually walked back to his corner.  I don’t know, maybe he really did recover that quickly.  But it looked like shenanigans.

Dishonorable Mention: Tomi Archambault RTD2 over Ronnie Peterson (Peterson retires with a shoulder injury)

Worst Moment of the Year

Joey Abell NC1 Raphael Butler on December 4th at Target Center – This fight and its aftermath have been talked to death.  It’s enough to say that the way it ended (an after-bell knockout following the first round) was a disaster for everyone involved, and hopefully none of the corner dwellers are proud of their in-ring behavior afterwards.

Dishonorable Mention: Michael Davis TKO6 Jesse Barbot (scary-violent knockout, Barbot suffers bleeding on the brain)

Best Performance on the Road

Jason Litzau RTD3 over Verquan Kimbrough on August 15th at Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, MS – Litzau beat the tar out of 21-1-2 prospect Kimbrough in a supporting bout on the Roy Jones-Jeff Lacy card, the fight was stopped after three rounds to save Kimbrough from further injury.  With the win Litzau earned himself an appearance on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights, which he used to beat Johnnie Edwards.

Honorable Mention: Jason Litzau UD10 Johnnie Edwards, Joey Abell, TKO3 Billy Willis

Prospect of the Year

Javontae Starks – Starks’ amateur credentials and professional potential will compel his management to handle him very thoughtfully and with great care, but Starks is confident and ambitious.  He wants to fight a lot and go up the ladder quickly.  Given the right opportunities at the right times, Starks should reach the upper echelon of Minnesota boxers quickly.  After that, who knows what might happen?

Honorable Mention: Cerresso Fort, Wilton Hilario, Ismail Muwendo, Derek Winston, Danny Figueroa, Dave Peterson, Jeremy McLaurin

Boxer of the Year

Jason Litzau (26-2 with 21 kayos) – The American Boy got better press than any other Minnesota fighter this year with his relatively high-profile wins against Kimbrough and Edwards.  Add that to the totality of his career work, and there’s nobody who can share this podium with him.  Litzau is one of the best reasons to pay attention to boxing in Minnesota, even if he doesn’t often fight here.

Honorable Mention: Andy Kolle, Matt Vanda

Minnesota Boxing: 2009 Year-End Pound-for-Pound List

Here comes the first in a series of obligatory year-end articles.  A few thoughts on these pound-for-pound rankings: (1) even though I might think a guy has the potential to be very good, he still has to earn his way up the list (2) there might be someone missing from my list, please leave a comment if you think I’ve missed the boat, and  (3) I respect every man on this list, so there’s no dishonor in being ranked lower than someone else.

  1. Jason Litzau (26-2 with 21 kayos) – No one else could have ended up in this slot this year.  Litzau went 3-0 in 2009 and made himself a factor in both the 130-pound and 135-pound weight classes.  Something big is guaranteed to happen for Jason Litzau in 2010 – either a marquee appearance on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights or a title shot on premium cable.
  2. Andy Kolle (19-2 with 14 kayos) – Kolle could only have had a better 2009 if he had fought more.  Kolle won both of his fights this year, and one of them was for the Minnesota championship in the state’s most prestigious and accomplished division (middleweight).  The news out of Duluth is that Kolle and Chuck Horton are searching high and low for a suitable opponent for a soon fight.
  3. Wilton Hilario (12-0-1 with 9 kayos) – Here’s a guy whose career was stalled due to injury for a year between 2007 and 2008, who has come back to make a major statement on the local scene in 2009.  Hilario’s record in 2009 was 3-0 with the first two wins coming by TKO.  The first win was merely work, but the second was a nice career boost at the expense of Allen Litzau.  The third and most important win was against 18-3 veteran Leon Bobo, in which Hilario showed that he can also do it the ugly way.
  4. Matt Vanda (42-9 with 22 kayos) – Skelator began his year with a February loss to John Duddy in which he was thoroughly dominated until the tenth and final round, when he landed big and had Duddy hurt, but couldn’t seal the deal.  Vanda won his last three fights of 2009, thought the first – the decision win against Pudwill –  seems to have been controversial in some quarters.  The win against Teddy Muller made an important statement – Vanda showed that he could outpunch a legitimate super middleweight.  Vanda’s defeat of Phil Williams was his highlight of the year.  With his herky-jerky dancing, taunting, and trash-talking during the fight, Vanda showed the kind of energy and bravado that were once his trademark, but which have gone largely missing in the last couple of years.
  5. Phil Williams (11-2 with 10 kayos) – This was an up-and-down year for the barber from north Minneapolis.  Down: his unanimous decision win against mediocre Isaiah Henderson wasn’t a knockout.  Up: A TKO of former contender Antwun Echols resulted in an enthusiastic endorsement from Echols, and Williams’ stock was rising fast.  Down again: the loss to Vanda was puzzling because Williams is a much bigger puncher and a much more imposing figure, but it was Vanda who took the initiative and stuck it to Williams for the first six rounds.  Williams had his moments in the last few rounds, but a few big bombs aren’t enough against a tough and determined foe like Vanda.  Williams says he’s learned that lesson.
  6. Caleb Truax (14-0 with 9 kayos) – The gregarious young man from Osseo with a college degree and a million-dollar smile did nothing but rise in 2009.  Truax won five out of five this year, with three wins coming by KO or TKO.  More importantly, Truax began to step up to tougher opponents this year; his last three fights came against men with records of 11-2, 25-6, and 12-2.  Why is Truax not ranked higher?  Because his last two opponents really stretched him.  But keep an eye on this one: a fight with Andy Kolle seems almost inevitable.
  7. Joey Abell (25-4 with 24 kayos) – Maybe you raised your eyebrows when you saw Abell ranked in this slot, but his career record of 25-4 with 24 kayos is only half of the story.  If you weren’t at Target Center on December 4th you didn’t see that Abell was one combination away from taking a knockout win in his state championship match with Raphael Butler.  That fight ended, unfortunately, with Abell getting his knockout but not the win; the knockout came on a punch after the bell.  It makes you wonder what could happen for this big heavyweight if he could just have one good night where nothing goes wrong.
  8. Dave Peterson (12-0 with 7 kayos) – Sometimes he looks like a great talent, sometimes he doesn’t.  Dave Peterson returned from a long layoff to go 3-0 in 2009, but his results were something of a mixed bag.  His win against Joshua Rodriguez was expected and his narrow victory against Cory Rodriguez looked like a big one at the time, but his TKO win against Silas Ortley should raise some questions.  Peterson was bigger and stronger, but he didn’t look tremendously fit and he got hit much more frequently than a 12-0 prospect should.  Maybe it was an unfavorable matchup, or maybe he had some bad milk before the fight.  I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
  9. Mohammed Kayongo (15-2 with 11 kayos) – Kayongo, aka the African Assassin, had only one fight this year, but it was an important one for his nearly comatose prizefighting career (Kayongo had fought only twice in the preceding three years).  Kayongo was favorably matched with an inexperienced 2-1-1 brawler, improbably for an alphabet title.  Kayongo was the faster and harder-hitting man in that fight, and his reward was a 3rd-round TKO win and the WBF Intercontinental welterweight title.  What a way to get your name back in the mix!
  10. Cory Rodriguez (4-0 with 3 kayos) – Here’s another fighter who had only one fight this year, but it was the close loss to Peterson.  Rodriguez is a guy who could be in a lot better place if he fought more frequently.  Promoters like to cast him as a money-grubbing prima donna, but this writer likes C-Rod personally and hopes that his 2010 is much better than his 2009.
  11. Antwan Robertson (5-1-1 with 3 kayos) – Robertson and his rival, Brad Patraw, could almost be tied in this spot.  After all, they split two fights in 2009.  But there are two reasons why Robertson is ranked above Patraw: first, he knocked Patraw down twice in his win, while Patraw never managed a knockdown of Robertson in his win.  Secondly, Robertson’s win against Patraw was the rematch.  A third bout between the two seems like a sure thing in 2010, but sure things don’t come to pass nearly as often as we expect.
  12. Brad Patraw (6-1 with 4 kayos) – In contrast to his absolute confidence before and during his March win against Robertson, Patraw seemed confused and unsure of himself in the October loss.  Hopefully Patraw returns to form in the new year.  His next bout is penciled in for January.
  13. Willshaun Boxley (5-3 with 3 kayos) – The difference between Boxley and the two men ranked just above him?  Boxley has been taking the toughest out-of-town fights he can get and losing.  One big win on the road would see Boxley leap over not only Robertson and Patraw, but a bunch of other names on this list as well.
  14. Gary Eyer (7-0-1 with 5 kayos) – Eyer is one of those guys who are just fun and exciting to watch.  After his big slugging match with Levi Cortes at Target Center in December, Eyer isn’t a well-kept secret anymore.  The lightweight from Duluth might be much more desirable to promoters now, but the retirement of Jungle Boy Walters could instead result in his being more carefully matched.
  15. Raphael Butler (35-8 with 28 kayos) – It seems obvious that Butler was in serious danger of a legal knockout before Joey Abell flattened him after the bell in their December title match.  The no-contest spared Butler the loss on his record, but at what price?  The NC result was the result of a brutal after-the-bell knockout that resulted in some short-term memory loss.  That’s serious stuff.
  16. Scott Ball (10-6 with 8 kayos) – Ball returned to the prizefighting ring after a twenty-two month layoff with an impressive first-round stoppage against journeyman Mike Davis.  Tall, slim, and young, Ball has a reputation as a good technical boxer with decent power.
  17. Cerresso Fort (9-0 with 8 kayos) – Hopefully Mr. Fort can continue to step up in terms of quality of opponent while duplicating his 5-0 record in 2009.  On the other hand, fans of Minnesota boxing would not like to see Fort fight the same way against Phil Williams or Caleb Truax that he did against Lamar Harris; a display of wild and undisciplined slugging not befitting an undefeated prospect.  Fort got the win in that one, but that kind of performance won’t do the job against Minnesota’s better middleweights.
  18. Javontae Starks (2-0 with 2 kayos) – Starks is only 2-0, but they were two great knockout wins.  This youngster is the kind of prospect that the state of Minnesota doesn’t produce very often.  The tall and slender Starks is unnaturally strong and fast.  Watch for improvement in his fundamentals – that will be a sign of how hard this ambitious and optimistic young man is working in the gym.
  19. Jeremy McLaurin (6-0 with 4 kayos) – He has yet to lose, he recently signed a promotional deal with MSC, and he is a strong and accurate puncher.  It’s unclear what McLaurin’s ceiling is, but it seems clear that he hasn’t reached it yet.
  20. Levi Cortes (3-1 with 2 kayos) – I’ll admit to not knowing anything about Cortes prior to his fight with Gary Eyer in December.  Now I’m a fan.  Cortes has a wicked right hand and looks very strong.  Other than that, I can’t tell you much.  He doesn’t seem to have much of a plan in the ring and he tired rapidly against Eyer, but that could have been the result of Eyer’s tremendous counters rather than any cardio deficiency on Cortes’s part.

Missed the cut:

Michael Faulk – keep winning in 2010 and you’ll make next year’s list, Mike.

Yevgeniy Shishporenok (Boris the Russian Giant) – One good win away from taking the 20th spot, Shishporenok has compiled a pretty good record against pretty bad opposition.

Antonio Johnson – Just one fight in 2009, no wins since 2007…I want to include Johnson on this list but it’s hard to justify it.  One win against anyone  in 2009 would have done the job.

Allen Litzau – not a bad fighter, but no big wins in several years.  I’m hoping to see Allen fight and win several times in 2010.

Kenny Kost – didn’t fight in 2009.  I have to consider Kost retired until he fights again.

Anthony Bonsante – retired after the loss to Kolle in March.

Boxing Dreams: Minnesota’s Fantasy Matchups (Part 2)

It’s a known fact: bloggers are empty-headed know-it-alls.  It’s the empty-headedness that gives us such liberty to say anything.

Now consider these possibilities:

Jason Litzau -vs- Tyrone Harris – Litzau’s prospects are actually a little tough to sort out.  Harris is a nice match on paper, though – he has a good record and his worldwide standing is pretty close to Litzau’s.  But Harris is a couple inches shorter than Litzau and has less power, he’s been kayoed twice in his five losses, and he’s almost local (Michigan).  Litzau needs a good step-up fight, and this could be it.  Fly in the ointment: Harris is already penciled in against South Korea’s Ji Hoon Kim for February 12th.  Hopefully the promoter has Litzau’s number handy in case Kim falls out.

Andy Kolle -vs- Ronald Hearns – Two years ago I wanted Kolle to fight Gee Cullmer of Philadelphia, and that would still be a nice one to pad his record, but Cullmer hasn’t progressed as Kolle has.  Then I was agitating for a Kolle match with Harry Joe Yorgey, but Yorgey was demolished by Alfredo Angulo in early November, and there’s speculation out of Philly that the 32-year old Yorgey may choose to retire.  This leaves Hearns.  Hearns is 23-1 but doesn’t have nearly the resume that Kolle does, and didn’t look good in a loss to Yorgey earlier this year.  Bonuses #1 and #2: Hearns is an orthodox fighter and has a suspect chin.

Phil Williams -vs- Matt Vanda II – This one has already generated some talk, so why not?  Williams has told everyone who would listen that he could have gone another ten rounds in the first fight, and that if he had it to do over he would have unloaded on Vanda in the early rounds instead of waiting till late.  Vanda isn’t known for backing down from a challenge, but he may feel that there’s little reason to do it again.  Just the same, fight fans would like to see it, and that’s usually reason enough!

Willshaun Boxley -vs- Allen Litzau – Two confident fighters who must be disappointed with their recent results and who have already established the beginnings of a rivalry.  It’s ready-made!  This one seriously must be on some promoter’s to-do list, and I think  know whose!

Gary Eyer -vs- Jeremy McLaurin – Eyer (7-0-1 with 5 kayos) put himself on the statewide map by winning his thrilling battle with Levi Cortes on December 4th.  At the same time, he showed that he can get down to lightweight territory, weighing in at 133.5 for the Cortes fight.  McLaurin (5-0 with 4 kayos) just cut his ties with Seconds Out Promotions and seems to be looking for challenging fights to move him up the ladder.  This fight has the potential to be a real crowd-pleaser, and the two fighters’ undefeated records would look nice on a fight card.  Alternate plan: McLaurin -vs- Levi Cortes.

Javontae Starks -vs- Patrick Cape – The conventional wisdom says that this isn’t as much a matchup as it is a measuring stick.  Starks was understudy to Demetrius Andrade on the USA Boxing team.  Andrade made his professional debut against Cape a little over a year ago, winning by TKO in round 2.  It would be interesting to see how Starks performs against Cape, wouldn’t it?

The Fistic Mystic says: Before we ride off into the sunset, let’s review my proposals from last time (March 31, 2008) and see what actually transpired:

Anthony Bonsante -vs- John Duddy II – didn’t happen, and never will, because Bonsante is retired, and hopefully that’s a permanent state of affairs.  Duddy is less of a prize than he was back then anyway, since Billy Lyell deflowered him.  (Billy Lyell!)

Boxley -vs- Wilton Hilario – boy, this one is a long way off now.  Boxley is still a tough and talented fighter, but he’s lost three in a row.  Hilario is back on track and riding high, following his UD win against then 18-3 Leon Bobo in November.

Raphael Butler -vs- Eddie Chambers – this one happened, and frankly it wasn’t pretty.   Chambers, not a heavy-handed slugger by any stretch, TKO’d Butler in the sixth.  Chambers has gone on to win four subsequent bouts and is scheduled to face the younger Klitschko (Wlad) on my birthday (March 20th) in Germany.  Butler, by contrast, has gone 3-3 with a no-decision since, though he is on the record saying that two of the losses (a split decision and a majority decision to Homero Fonseca of Houston, in Houston) were gamey.

Jason Litzau -vs- Cristobal Cruz – this one hasn’t happen, and likely never will.  Cruz is the IBF world champ at 126#, and Litzau appears to have found a home at 130#.

Matt Vanda -vs- Sebastian Demers – This is another one that happened, and went poorly for the Minnesota guy.  Few Minnesotans saw it, but it was reported to have been an entertaining battle.  Vanda lost a landslide decision (shut out on all three cards) and has gone 5-3 since, but has continued to spring surprises on boxing fans (a close loss to Julio Cesar Chavez in 2008, a close win against Tocker Pudwill in 2009, the surprising win against Phil Williams at 165# in 2009) while Demers has gone 6-1 since.

Zach Walters -vs- Hugo Pineda II – Here’s another that will never happen.  This looked like a good revenge fight a year and a half ago, but that was before Walters lost three out of four starting with Shawn Hammack in August 2008.  Walters retired following his latest loss, and it’s for the better.  It’s good for a Minnesota kid to get out while the getting is good.

Want to talk it over?  Go to the Minnesota Boxing Forum for for discussion!