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.