When pro boxing returns to Target Center to open the 17th season of “Friday Night Fights” on ESPN, two Coon Rapids residents will compete on the under card before Osseo’s own Caleb “Golden Boy” Truax (23-1-1) takes to the ring in a co-main event.
The event is being promoted by Mike Tyson’s IronMike Productions in conjunction with Seconds Out Promotions.
No doubt, Tyson’s name and ESPN will help draw even the casual boxing fan in a growing boxing region.
“It’s great for casual fans,” Truax said. “Minnesota has a knowledgeable fan base, as far as hardcore fans go and I’ve gotten to know a lot of them at my fights. They’re always supporting, but it will be good to bring out casual fans to buy a ticket.”
While Truax continues to make strides in his professional career, he still trains out of Lyke’s Anoka-Coon Rapids Boxing Gym in Coon Rapids, where he got his start at the age of 19, late in boxing years.
“I’ve learned so much,” he said, starting out as a hobby before advancing through the amateur ranks. “Here I am today, man. Looking back at the early fights, now, I sucked.”
Truax was part of the football and baseball teams at Osseo High School, never taking up boxing until after graduating.
The facility resembles something out of “Rocky” along Foley Boulevard.
Inside, Truax prepared for his fifth bout in a year which he said is an ideal amount of work to keep him busy preparing all year.
“It’s cool to have a gym here locally for the kids in the Coon Rapids area to keep them out of trouble,” he said ahead of a sparring session with Coon Rapids resident Nate Richardson.
Truax retweeted a message from Hall of Fame announcer Al Bernstein about 2013 being the best year of boxing since 1988. “Product was fantastic – tweet all mainstream media members this,” Bernstein wrote.
“There’s been a ton of good fights globally and it’s been a great year for local boxing,” Truax said. “A couple of guys got some good wins and I think a lot of momentum is coming back to Minnesota boxing, starting with this card.”
The importance of Minnesota being the site of a nationally-televised card is a positive sign for boxing in the state. “Hopefully we’re turning that image around and I’m at the forefront,” Truax said, heading into his 26th professional bout.
Minnesota was known as a place to get an easier win. “We’re starting to show people we have fighters here who can actually fight,” Truax said.
He was originally slated to face Derek Ennis, but Ennis pulled out due to an injury in early December. Ossie Duran (28-11-2) stepped in after a second opponent withdrew, Dec. 19. Both have fought Matt Vanda and the Ghana-native Duran brings in a 17-year boxing career.
Truax estimates he’s had an opponent change five times, mostly when he was just starting out.
“It’s part of the game and something every fighter has to deal with it,” he said. “I haven’t had to deal with it in a while.”
Willshaun Boxley (7-8) of Coon Rapids faces Tony Lee (8-1-1) of St. Paul in an eight-round lightweight (135 pounds) bout for the Minnesota State Lightweight Championship.
This is Boxley’s first fight after a four-year suspension from the sport.
Boxley and Lee have faced each other in the past.
Boxley, a Florida native, would’ve liked a warm-up fight before facing Lee (8-1-1). Lee won two of the three matches against Boxley, a 32-year-old with 16 amateur fights under his belt including five trips to the national golden gloves tournament.
“I like it, he ’s a solid contender, thats what I look at it as. My eyes are open now to be a fighter,” Boxley said, after a long time away from the sport. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle [to get back into fighting shape] but I know now what it takes than ever before. I’m mentally stronger than I was before.”
Richardson (1-0) faces Minneapolis’ Damien Hill (1-3) in a four-round junior middleweight (154 pounds) bout.
The bout is a somewhat of a revenge match as Hill knocked out Richardson in what he called a “flash knockdown” in an MMA fight.
Richardson is having only his second match as a pro after earning a TKO in an October bout at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
“I was just a little too antsy, trying to put him out of there as quick as possible,” he said. “I just need to pick my shot and be a little bit smarter.”
Richardson has a ways to go as a boxer making the transition from mixed martial arts.
He had a 3-1 MMA record in three professional seasons at featherweight (145 pounds).
Richardson grew up in Africa and graduated from Robbinsdale Armstrong High School. He went 9-3 as a senior wrestler after learning it wasn’t the pro-wrestling variety.