Fight #5: Signed Back to Tacoma

On the flight back home to Duluth following my fight in Tacoma I noticed something different in my ear. The pressure was building in one as we ascended into the sky, but the other didn’t have that ‘pop’ feeling when I yawned. This was a first. I was used to flying from my youth as a missionary kid traveling back and forth to Madagascar. I had flown countless times before this trip, but this ear thing was bothersome. I pinched my nose shut and blew pressure into my ears to try and clear the ear that wouldn’t pop. That’s when I noticed what could be the problem. When I blew pressure into my ear I could hear air leaking out of it like a tire valve. I called Chuck Horton over to consult with him and we came to the conclusion my ear drum must have gotten busted when Louis Lopez smashed me with his over hand right. This made sense as I had yet to feel 100% balance on my feet since then. I thought I just got rocked and the slight dizzy spell I felt was the leftovers from getting whacked.
The day after we got back to Duluth I stopped down to the St Luke’s Hospital and checked into urgent care. The funny thing with “urgent care” was that service was never “urgent”. I expected this and waited for my visit. After what seemed like eternity I was called back. I showed the doc how air was escaping my ear when I pressurized it. He snapped at me not to do that again as it could make things worse. I didn’t do it again. After the doc took a look in my ear with his light scope he told me a third of my ear drum was blown away from the sides. He asked how in the world this could happen and I explained the fight to him. He smiled and shook his head. “You can’t think of a better way to pay your way through college?” he asked with a friendly smirk. I just laughed and explained that I loved boxing and fighting was in my blood. I told him I’d rather make a few bucks fighting than get into trouble with the law. The doc gave me some ear drops to use in the AM after I showered and reminded me not to blow pressure into my ears.

By this time the UMD Statesman had started covering my boxing advances and there were news papers throughout the college with my picture and fight story.

By this time the UMD Statesman had started covering my boxing advances and there were news papers throughout the college with my picture and fight story.

Following the visit I went back to UMD to hit up my last class. By this time the UMD Statesman had started covering my boxing advances and there were news papers throughout the college with my picture and fight story. This was cool. I remember sitting the Kirby Lounge reading the write up from this fight. Right next to me was another student reading the same story. He didn’t know I was the boxer he was reading about. I didn’t say anything; just took a mental picture of it. As small as this was I was filled with great joy and pride for what I was doing. I was a moment I’ll never forget. People I never knew were starting to follow my boxing career. It was a crossroads moment where I started to realize what I was doing was being followed by more than just my immediate circle.
This feeling of happiness compounded as the day went on. Class was a breeze and soon enough I was on my way back to the gym for training; or should I say my dingy garage with slick, muddy floors to train in the cold. I didn’t care. I took pride that I was doing big things with minimal means. When I got to the garage I could see that Chuck Horton had a similar feeling. We were both pretty stoked on what was happening. Then, Chuck Horton’s phone rang. I could tell it was business because he switched to serious mode on the turn of a dime. Toward the end of the call I could see him loosening up a bit and he started to smile again as the call wrapped up. The promoter back in Tacoma Washington wanted me back on his next show and was even considering signing me to a promotional contract that would include accommodations to move out to Tacoma to live! This was unreal! I was pumped. There was a catch though. I had to beat one more boxer before ink would go on paper. If I gave another good showing on my next fight in Tacoma the next step would be to negotiate a contract with Brian Halquist Productions. We agreed to this proposal and got right back to work.
I was matched with Josue Cielos, 3-3 2KO. I had no idea what he looked like, but figured my last opponent was 4-3 3KO so this guy would be lighter work. Chuck Horton warned me against thinking this way and reminded me that regardless of what a pro record holds there’s usually a lot of amateur boxing experience behind the fighter. He also stressed that this fight was a ‘test’ to see if the promoter wanted to sign me so Josue Cielos had to be good. Whatever the case I had a job to do so I needed to get serious about it.
I trained extra hard for this fight. I wanted to make a big impression and seal the deal with the promoter. There were high stakes on the line and I didn’t want to get exhausted mid-fight like I did the previous time with Luis Lopez. This fight was also scheduled for 6-rounds; the first 6-rounder of my career. A four round fight was 12 minutes of continual punching with only three minutes of rest. This was already a task for me. I was a high punch volume fighter and I questioned how anyone could ever go a full 12-rounds! The fight was scheduled 6 weeks after my last one and that was just enough time to recover from the ear injury and get my body in shape. I didn’t leave Duluth for sparring. I still felt sharp from my last camp and Chuck Horton didn’t want to risk my eardrum getting reinjured. I focused on getting my lungs and body into the condition needed to take and give extreme measures of abuse if needed. Each day I ran I would imagine a fight started and finished with intensity.
I found a running rout I really liked. I would run along 8th Street in West Duluth between Central Ave and 40th Ave. Along the way there were several up-hill streets that lead to dead ends along a railroad track that paralleled 8th Street. I would start from my home on central and run down to 40th Ave at a brisk pace. On the return rout I’d cross the street to the upper side of the road and sprint all the little hills to the tracks. Following the sprints I’d throw left-right punches at a jogging pace till I rounded the corner to the next hill to sprint. Then when I got back to central Ave I’d take a few quick turns and get on Highland Street which was a 1.2 mile hill. I would charge the hill like the leading soldiers in battle. There were several times early on I could taste the blood in my lungs from the stress I put them through. Once I got to the top I’d return to the bottom at a recovery shuffle as I followed my steps back home. I did this run every day in the evening. It was dark on Highland Street as there were no street lights to spot my steps. I just ran in the middle of the road and crossed over to the other side when a car would come.
An additional perk to my fighting in Tacoma Washington was a family friend named Sandy Crane heard about my fighting in Tacoma Washington and wanted to bring her husband up to watch my fight. Sandy was a long time family friend from the days my family lived in Fresno California. My mom and Sandy became very close during our time in Fresno because her kids were all similar ages to me and my siblings. We to the same schools, had many of the same interests, and shared a love of the wild side of life! Our two families got together every week and in the end it felt like all the siblings blended together like a Brady Bunch type dynamic. After several years in Cali my family moved to Minnesota, but my mom and Sandy always kept in touch. I was so looking forward to catching up with her and meeting her husband.
Before I knew it the week of the fights had come again. The intensity of training calmed down a bit and I got restless. The nights seemed long as I’d wake up here and there only to lie awake dreaming of my next fight. I could see the fight. I embraced the idea I would be putting myself out there again to potentially get hurt really bad. The consequences of boxing weren’t at the tip of my mind though. When I thought about my fight I only saw myself attacking and being victorious. I always did my best to control my thoughts leading up to a fight. Every fight comes with a mental battle during the last days of camp. It was a conscious effort to keep my thoughts positive.
The flight went fast. Duluth, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Seattle, and then a shuttle to the hotel for weigh ins. My nerves were way less as I was familiar with the process from my last fight trip. When we pulled up the hotel there was the familiar crowd of boxing people walking about. This time tough, they gave a nod to say “hello” instead of mug us when we got off the bus. It was a sign of respect earned after our last fight trip when we boxed Luis Lopez.
Chuck Horton and I knew our way though the hotel to the conference room where weigh ins were held. Upon entering the room we were greeted with a few smiles and handshakes to welcome us back. It was far different from our first reception. The room was stuffy with the dank smell of a locker room mixed with the polluted sea salt air and smoker’s cloths. It was funky, but it was our scene. These were boxing folks.
I scanned the room to see if I could figure out who my opponent was. I saw a crazy eyed fella swaggering in place shifting his weight from one foot to the next. He was wearing a cream colored leather starter coat with a flat billed red hat. When my eyes paced by him I noticed he was staring at me. He looked a little bigger than my boxers in my weight class, but then again WHY was this dude staring at me?! I gave him the respect nod, but he just swaggered and stared. Could this be Josue Cielos? I stared back at him now and grinned. Maybe this dude was just in a pissy mood from making weight, maybe he was boxer I was matched to fight. I didn’t know. If this was my opponent I can’t let him stare me down. Nope.
The staring match broke when the promoter called attention to start weigh ins. Pair by pair the fights were weighed in and then it was my turn. Sure enough, the swaggering crazy looking dude across the room was my opponent. What were the chances… I walked to the scale with a grimace on my face from the irony. I was well prepared for this fight. I was feeling confident. I had no need to be scared. Josue Cielos plodded his way to the scale as well. His intensity didn’t waver. He just looked angry with the world and today I guess it was my fault . He didn’t say anything to me. I was shocked to see we both came in underweight for our match. I could have sworn he was heavier. After we weighed in we squared off for a pre-fight photo and went our separate ways to head over to the Emerald Queen Casino for the buffet only to meet up again on the shuttle for the ride over. This is one of the parts of boxing you have to be ready for. You will have several encounters with your opponent before stepping in the ring. It’s important to keep your composure in these times as the final battle is mental on both sides. My goal in these situations was always to show confidence, but not be jerk. That being said, it was a quiet ride over.
The next day felt like it was in fast forward. It felt like I woke up, packed my bag for the fights, and had my hands wrapped for fight time in the blink of an eye. I was excited to fight and show Brian Halquist Productions I was worth signing. I was third up to fight. I warmed up during the first fight and got my gloves on for my fight during the second. The first two matches went to decision and the crowd was getting restless. The fist boxer who won fought his way to an easy one sided win. The second fight was a similar match of light fisted punches and I could hear the crowd boo a few times to urge the boxers to press the action. This crowd was the kind that liked fights, not so much the sweet science of boxing. This crowd was unbelievable! They were a one of a kind fight fan. I walked out to see what round it was and saw my time was getting close. I walked back to my warm up area and was met by a person I’d never met. He greeted me with a huge smile and wished me well on my fight. It was Jeff Crane, Sandy’s husband. He told me he and Sandy had front row seats and were really looking forward to watching me fight. This was a cool thing and made feel pretty cool. Here I was a kid from Duluth MN fighting in Tacoma WA and getting a well wish from a fan from Fresno CA! Now felt even more energized!
My turn came up and the music of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n Roses filled the air. I shuffle stepped my way toward the ring. The arena air felt cold as it hit my skin. This was before I had my tiger robe so I shuffled to the ring just trunks and gloves. I was all business.
Josue Cielos was already in the ring. I saw him through the ropes glaring at me as I made my way to the ring. He was still looking scary and from where I was looking up at him Cielos looked like a monster. The kind of bad guy you see in a movie. I entered the ring and took a lap around to the neutral corner where I said a quick prayer. It was almost time to get to work. I stripped my face of the smirk and smile I carried prior to the fight. I was not playing around. The intensity spiked even higher as we walked to the middle of the ring to touch gloves and get referee instructions. Josue Cielos swaggered in with his dead stare. He had wide eyes that didn’t blink. Chuck Horton walked to the center with me for instructions. When we walked back to the corner following instructions Chuck Horton’s final words were. “Don’t be stupid. Box this guy smart.” I just gave a wink and smiled.
“Ding!” Round 1 was on. I dashed across the ring and attacked Josue Cielos with everything I had. It was a hot mess of punches that took Cielos by surprise. I didn’t give him a chance to start his game plan, nor did I want to. I slipped a few wild counter punches from him that had the sure signs of deadly force. I did not want to get hit by one of those. Then to moved around to my right where I noticed he was blindly following me with jabs to set up his right hand. I stopped and through a quick right uppercut under his jab followed by a crushing left hook to the head that flattened Jouse Cielos to the mat. He got up but I could tell he was still rocked. I chased after him ripping him around the ring with punches till on caught him just right and staggered him backward toward the ropes. As he stumbled back I chased him with jabs till he hit the ropes in the corner and then my punches hit him in the face. He was in trouble and I knew it! I had the upper hand and I knew it! The crowd was going berserk! There were screams and cheers like you couldn’t believe! This was what they wanted. A fight!

I continued to pound Josue Cielos in the corner till he found room to escape. I maneuvered back to center ring where Cielos started an attack of his own to drive me back. He was fight with an unsteady base and his punches were easy to read. I countered with swift left hook as I moved back. It caught him right on the chops and his knees buckled. I poured it on once more and smashed him back to the ropes. I could hear the 10-second warning for the end of the round sounds just as I nailed him with a nice right that once more sent Cielos to the mat. This time face first. He again got up, but during his 8-count staggered backwards prompting the referee to stop the fight! Boom! TKO Round 1!!! The crowd continued to freak out while I walked around the ring with my hands raised. I walked passed a judge’s table that Brian Halquist was sitting at and said “You Like That!!?” He was all smiles and said “I’ll talk to your trainer.”
I was on cloud 9! This was two for two huge nights in the ring for me at the Emerald Queen Casino. I felt like the sky was the limit!
Following the fight I was able to catch up with Jeff and Sandy to thank them for coming. It sure was cool to be able to give them a huge win like that for their first time watching me fight. We made plans to catch up for a bit to eat at the casino buffet after the fights.
Dinner was fun. Conversation was a blend of catching up with Sandy and Jeff about their family and my telling them about how I ended up as a pro boxer. Jeff asked if I had any sponsors. I told him I didn’t, but was always open to the idea. He asked if I would like to be sponsored by his company which I was delighted to hear! That night we came up with a basic plan for his company to sponsor my training camps and training expenses moving forward. What a deal!
It was fun to see how doors would open the more I kicked butt in the ring. The more people saw of me the more people believed in me. There was a contagious excitement that followed me. People that heard my story loved it and wanted to be a part of it. This was a fun time for my career. The feeling was that of being on the crest of a huge wave. I wave of excitement that rushed through everything I was doing. Life was on a sure upswing from my days of living on the gym floor and washing dishes to make a few bucks! I was a happy recipient of the transformational power of boxing. I felt new; brand new. I paid my dues and now I was reaping the benefits.
I flew back home to Duluth as 5-0 4KO’s. I was undefeated and on top of the world!

Author: Zach Walters

Welcome to Tacoma: 1st Out- of -State Pro Fight

“Zach Walters is my most loyal of fighters as he’s been there through the thick and thin. Together, we were responsible for putting Duluth boxing on the map, and I consider this one of the most special moments of Zach’s career.” – Chuck Horton

Welcome to Tacoma: 1st Out- of -State Pro Fight
It was December 2003 and Chuck Horton had been calling around to find fights to keep rolling my career forward. There weren’t many opportunities in MN at that time so we agreed to look at options on the road. The first connection to materialize was with Brian Halquist of Halquist Productions. Brian Halquist had continuous shows year around at the Emerald Queen Casino in the port of Tacoma, WA. The shows were always packed and the fans were a very rowdy sort. I found that out as soon as I got to the venue. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
My record at this time was 3-0 with 2 Knockouts and I was matched with Jason St Louis from Edmonton, Canada who had a 1-0 record. I liked the match as it pinned me against another fighter foreign to Tacoma, WA. I was confident I could win a fight on fair ground and trained hard for this opportunity.

", I possibly had the worst conditions for a young pro boxer, but I had great trainers with Chuck Horton and Bill Plum."

“I possibly had the worst conditions for a young pro boxer, but I had great trainers with Chuck Horton and Bill Plum.”

By now I had moved out of living in the gym, but an ironic turn was that the gym downsized to about 6 members and moved into the garage of the place I rented. I was living in a small house off Central Ave in West Duluth with a small single car garage. The garage was cold in the winter and we had a few space heaters in opposite corners blowing hot hair, but it barely helped. It was still very chilly. We had a heavy bag and the ball bag in there. The space was crammed already so adding any more bags would make training as a group impossible. The floor was greasy from years of oil changes gone bad and when we trained it would get slick and mucky. I remember dropping cat litter on the floor to soak up the gunk, but that just ground into a nasty paste. The training conditions were not ideal. It was tough. I told myself it’s not where you train, but who’s training you that mattered. You can have the nicest gym in the world, but if the trainers are clueless to the fight game they will not produce good boxers. In my case, I possibly had the worst conditions for a young pro boxer, but I had great trainers with Chuck Horton and Bill Plum. I enjoyed having the gym at my house. I thought this was pretty cool as it still offered me the same opportunity to train anytime I wanted as it was when I lived at the gym.
I needed some good sparring so I called up my good friend, Andy Kolle to get some solid rounds in. He lived in Fargo, ND and was attending college there. We were close from the amateurs as we started boxing a few weeks apart in Fergus Falls, MN several years before. We boxed together all through high school and he had come up to Duluth to box on several amateur cards Chuck Horton put on prior to my turning pro. Andy Kolle was still boxing as an amateur at the time, but this didn’t mean he was lacking in skills. He was very good and had been to the nationals seven or eight times by now. He was holding off on going pro because he was on a quest to capture the Upper Mid-West Golden Gloves Championship. That was a crown he wanted to get before he took his craft to the pros. We agreed to meet up for an extended weekend over New Year’s Eve as we were both on Christmas Break from school. It was well worth my trip. We sparred several evenings for about an hour or so in his apartment garage where he too had a little gym set up. I started training camp in my garage on the East side of the state finished up camp in his garage on the West side. After our last day of training we went out to celebrate the 2004 New Year with a bunch of our high school friends that lived in Fargo. It was a fun night and a great send off.
I drove back to Duluth and didn’t even unpack my bags when I got back. One week later I was set to fly out for my fight so I lived out of my suitcase at home. I was amped. I couldn’t wait! One thing I learned to love about boxing was that it took me places. There are many places I’d never have gone if not for boxing. Tacoma Washington was one such place. Also, as we traveled for boxing it was fun to make conversation with the other travelers and tell them fight stories. That was always a fun bonus.
We landed in Tacoma and there was a chauffeur there with our names on a card waiting for us when we walked out of the gate. It felt very surreal. I know it was only a ride to the hotel, but thoughts were rushing through my mind as I imagined things to come. These were the days I dreamed of when I was busting my tail in training in the early days of my pro career. I dreamed of traveling around the US fighting people to make a few bucks. To me, this felt like a significant step forward from things as they were. I had about 16 pro fights by this time although only 3 counted towards my record. I felt like the dark horse in the mix and assumed people didn’t realize what I was capable of. I assumed these people in Tacoma underestimated me and I was looking forward to representing Duluth Minnesota to the fullest! A side thought that I adopted over my years of boxing was that ‘toughness didn’t have a zip code.’ In boxing, it doesn’t matter where you come from as long as you’ve got skills and heart you can emerge from anywhere in the world! For me, I came from Duluth, MN and I believed I had every right to feel confident in the ring with anyone.
The van took us directly to a rundown hotel in the Port of Tacoma where the weigh-ins were to be held. There were several clusters of boxers that had already shown up from out of state and from around the surrounding cities. In the weigh-in room, there was a crowd of the usual boxing folks bunched around the room, some standing, some pacing, some sitting at tables talking about other fights and boxers from recent shows. They were usuals you’d find at a boxing weigh-in… You know, a group of middle-aged men looking like ‘trouble-maker kids’ that didn’t grow up much and found a safe place in boxing where they could still misbehave. It could be intimidating to some. But for me, as foreign as I felt, there was still a sense of belonging that overrode any anxiety I carried with me. This was my scene and I was excited to be a part of things.

"I looked up some info on him and figured since I was 3-0 and undefeated this fella would be no sweat!"

“I looked up some info on him and figured since I was 3-0 and undefeated this fella would be no sweat!”

I weighed in right at the 175lbs limit, stepped off the scale, and grabbed a jug of Gatorade I brought with to rehydrate. My opponent was not there yet, but I didn’t care. I did my job and I knew that if the promoter had paid to bring me out this far I was bound to fight! We waited around the weigh-in for a few hours for my opponent to show. Then we found out my opponent had trouble making it down from Canada. He was turned away at the Canada/USA border due to some legal charges on his record and now we had a problem. I needed a match!
Chuck Horton networked with the available boxing personalities at the weigh-in and came to me with a suggestion, Luis Lopez (4-3 3KO) from Pasco, Washington. I looked up some info on him and figured since I was 3-0 and undefeated this fella would be no sweat! After all, I had more professional fighting experience than my 3-0 represented and this guy had been beat three times! I was sold. I told Chuck to accept the match so we could take the shuttle to the buffet and eat. This whole time I felt like I was starving to death with only some Gatorade in my belly. I was getting grumpy at this point and now that I had a fight again I was overjoyed! The plan was that my opponent would drive to the fights the next day and weigh in at the venue. I didn’t care how Luis Lopez got to the fights, I just wanted to eat!
The casino buffet didn’t disappoint and I quickly over ate till my belly was about to burst! I think I had fourths of all the good food they provided. It was the best food I’d had in a long while and it tasted even better since I had been cutting weight for the last several weeks leading up to this point.
The shuttle took us back to our dingy hotel and we checked into our rooms. It was late evening now so we geared down to go to sleep. Only trouble was now I couldn’t sleep! The blood sugars were racing through my body since eating all the tasty food my belly could hold and I was excited to fight the following day. I must have laid awake till 3:00 AM. I remember looking at the shadows on the speckled popcorn ceiling and putting faces together with the dots. Then there were the continuous sounds of semi trucks coming and going from the port. There would be the occasional ship horn that would sound over the roaring of engines and honking of semi truck air brakes. Sleep seemed impossible, but somehow I drifted off.
The next day I must have slept till noon. I met with Chuck Horton and we walked over to a rest stop type diner to get some breakfast. The air was musty. It smelled like exhaust and sea water. Not that great. The short walk to the diner made me appreciate the clean air and water in Duluth even more than I already had to that point. Following breakfast I returned to my hotel room and Chuck Horton walked me through a visualization exercise about the fight plan for that night. Following that, I laid there in my room till it was time to leave for the Emerald Queen Casino.
We gathered out front of the hotel lobby and packed into a shuttle. When we got to the casino it was a bit of a maze getting into the showroom. It was smaller than I had imagined. It could seat 800 people or so. Not too big. As I mentioned before the crowd was a rough looking bunch. They weren’t very welcoming, but not cold either. They were just a hard set of people. The kind that you would imagine knew a bit about fighting whether they were boxers or not. By the looks of a few of their hands, you could tell these folks worked with their hands and very possibly got into frequent fights. Anyway, the locker room situation was pipe and drape partitioning with 8 small 6×6 rooms. It was very small. My fight was the second bout of the night so I quickly got settled. Soon after I found my dressing room space I was notified that Luis Lopez had arrived and was about to weigh in. I couldn’t wait to put eyes on him. Till now I had no idea what he looked like. I got to the scale area and found a short Mexican fighter that was full of tattoos. One tattoo was his last name L O P E Z written in an Old English arch over the upper part of his belly. He looked like a rough guy. Luis Lopez was a soft build and looked like he was fighting above his weight class. I swelled with confidence on the site and watched him weigh in. When he got off the scale he looked up at me dead in the eye and with a smile said; “You are tall.”, then chuckled a bit, but didn’t break his stare. It was like he was trying to under qualify me for boxing due to my lanky tallness. I smiled back and said “you’re short.” I didn’t break my stare either. Without any more words, we had a conversation. We told each other we both felt very good about whooping the other. Chuck Horton called me back over and I broke away with a respectful nod with a smirk. Now I all the pieces were together. It was Fight Time!

"Chuck Horton wrapped my hands and we discussed the game plan for the night. Then Gloves were delivered for the fight and I warmed up. Time was flying!"

“Chuck Horton wrapped my hands and we discussed the game plan for the night. Then Gloves were delivered for the fight and I warmed up. Time was flying!”

Chuck Horton wrapped my hands and we discussed the game plan for the night. Then Gloves were delivered for the fight and I warmed up. Time was flying! Soon enough, it was my time to walk out to the ring. My fight music filled the little arena and I made my way to the ring. Across the ring from me was Luis Lopez. He looked like an enraged bulldog. With his chin down he mugged across the ring with a dead stare. I just smiled. It was not worth it to try and scare this guy. He was on a different level of tough guy. I knew mugging back would only fuel him more. Ironically in his corner was also the gentleman who claimed to be a neutral party matchmaker at weigh-ins. Chuck Horton and I had a little laugh at him in the corner before introductions. The fix seemed to be in, but we still felt good about whooping this guy.
Ding! The first round started and I quickly went to work on Lopez with vicious combinations. I paid significant tribute to digging in somebody punches as I assumed he was out of shape due to his physique. The entire round was a one-sided beating. Several times Luis Lopez looked rocked enough to maybe go down, but he would somehow maintain his composure. After the round, I told myself he’s got one round left and he’s out of there.
Ding! Round two started and I jumped on my opponent like a spider wrapping up a bug stuck in his net. I hit Luis Lopez hard with every shot. Over and over I punched his head and body. He staggered a bit here and there which gave me confidence in my plan, but I started to also feel my arms getting heavy. Luis Lopez was now cut over one eye and the other was getting swelled up. I knew I would be ahead if I wrapped this around up the way I started. I finished the round in stellar fashion with fast combinations, but I knew I needed to take a round off to get back on track and come back from my depleted energy. My game plan changed from taking him out to taking around off in the 3rd so I could finish well in the 4th. My idea was to use my legs to float around behind a jab to buy some time. Ok…
Ding! Round three starts and my legs aren’t quite as limber as I’d hoped. Fending Luis Lopez off with a jab started to become a good 1-2 before stepping off. Then my 1-2 turned into standing my ground and throwing combos. Luis Lopez just kept coming! This was not my plan. Luis Lopez had become a nightmare! He haunted me with the persistence of a bad dream and I was getting really tired. I had hit him several times with my best shot and he took it. He ate the punch like Pac Man eats dots.
I was getting worried. I resorted to throwing a combination and tying him up instead of floating away. I was fading fast. On one of the breaks, Luis Lopez took his mandatory step back, but bounced off his back foot with a huge right hand! The punch looped over my left shoulder and crushed down on my ear. I felt the life leave my legs and the sound of a siren went off in my head. My ear had a tingling like never before and the ground seemed to turn into an uneven slope. It was like I was walking on a trampoline. I staggered over to a corner where I saw Luis Lopez rushing in. The next thing I remember was looking at his black and red Adidas boots walk away. It was a split second before I realized I was laying in a heap on the mat. I jumped up in embarrassment on bad legs. I didn’t want the ref to call the fight! He count finished and the ref let the fight resume. I was shocked but relieved. I knew all I had to do was survive less than a minute and I’d get my stool. It was a horrible finish and to this day I still wonder what the ref was thinking letting the fight continue. I looked terrible now!
In the corner, I sat on the stool. I was happy to get a break, but that’s not what I got. Chuck Horton was irate! He slapped me across the face and yelled at me. He asked why I had got away from the game plan to keep my reach and box. I was exhausted and all I could think of was the advantage Luis now had on the cards. I told Chuck I needed to knock him out or I’d lose the fight. Chuck disagreed and yelled even more. He was red in the face with urgency for me to box. I just said, “I gotta knock him out, Chuck”. Chuck shook his head, gave me a swig of water and said “OK. You’re on your own kid.” and stepped out of the ring. There was still a few seconds lift in the break so I stood up and paced around a bit to get my legs back.
Ding! The bell for the fourth and final round rang and I was at it again. I charged in on Luis Lopez with vicious desperation. He met me in the middle of the ring with equal ferocity. We squared off in a back and forth battle of trading punches till I finally put a miracle of combinations together. I let him bull into me and while I staggered back I ripped two left hooks to his jaw. The second clipped him just right causing him to straighten up a bit. I dug my back foot into the canvas and followed up with a massive right uppercut followed by another left hook and a final right uppercut. The last punch caught Luis Lopez right in the crease of his Adam’s apple and jaw. His mouth guard launched out of his mouth deep into the crowd and he fell backward like “TIMBER!!!……” I slumped forward after the punch and raised my hands as I walked away. I knew the knockdown at least evened the score up if, not putting the fight back into my pocket.

It was a great feeling as I walked over to the neutral corner. From the looks of how he fell back, there was no way Luis Lopez was getting up from that shot. But true to the nature of his prior rounds this guy was tougher than any regular man. Maybe not even ten men! He rolled over, crawled to the ropes, and pulled himself up. The referee got to the count of eight and asked Luis Lopez to step forward to show stability, but when he did so he swayed backward as he stepped forwards as if just getting off a merry-go-round. The fight was called. I threw my hands up for a few paces, then crumbled to my knees in the center ring. I could hardly believe what had just happened. I wept a few tears of joy. Chuck Horton came out of his shell in celebration. He freaked out! I walked over and gave him a big hug. In my ear, Chuck Horton said, “Don’t ever do that again kid.” He then looked at me with a smile and eyes watered with joy. I walked across the ring to check on Luis Lopez and thank him for the fight. He was sitting on a stool and under inspection from the doctor. I shook him hand and he pulled himself up, but didn’t let go. He all he said was “Rematch homes. Rematch”… I smiled and said, “Sure, anytime.” But in my mind I was like “HECK NO!!! You gotta be CRAZY!!’
What a night that was! It will forever be a night I cherish as a golden memory from my pro career. It is a golden moment that happened a long ways away from my home. It is a memory only Chuck Horton and I share. I have told the story countless times, but it never seems as real as it was when it happened. That night was magical. It was the kind experience that is never as good told as it was experienced.
That night again, I didn’t sleep. This time because I was so filled with adrenaline from the night’s events and dreaming awake of what would become of my boxing career. If my career was done at that moment I would count my days in the ring a success. That’s how I felt.
But there was also this addictive side to the experience that drove me to seek a moment like that once more! It was like a high I wanted to find again. At this point, I had just gotten a taste and I was already hooked! I was a fighter and proud of it.

Author: Zach Walters

The Road to my 4th Pro Fight

There was a lot of questioning going on in my mind between my 3rd and 4th fight. What was I doing in the pro’s anyway? Chuck Horton and I continued to work toward getting the pro boxing picture up and running in the Twin Ports, but our advances continued to be slow. During this time we held over 13 small shows, all of which didn’t go on my record. We packed little venues to the wall in Superior, WI and the surrounding area. Places like Tyomy’s Bar and Fat Daddy’s Bar in Superior Wisconsin, couple at Solon Springs Community Center, The Pit Stop in Proctor, Fergus Falls Armory, shows right in the gym, and even a big show at UMD Romano Gym. Some of the shows were exhibition fights and some of them were straight up fights that didn’t get documented in my professional record. The goal was to fight as much as possible and get in front of a crowd as much as possible. I kept an “off the record” type record book that documented my fights and the results. Some of the boxers used aliases and others didn’t. It was a fast-paced saturation of boxing shows with me as the usual main event of the night. The shows usually drew a few hundred people and a loyal fan base of support started to develop as we did more shows. Sometimes we had a mix of MMA, Kick Boxing, and Boxing all on one night. Crazy…, but we just wanted to keep pushing ahead. The shows were always different and exciting.

 

Zach Walters, who is now a family man and head trainer of Jungle Boy Boxing Gym, talks about the path to his fourth career fight as a professional boxer

Zach Walters, who is now a family man and head trainer of Jungle Boy Boxing Gym, talks about the path to his fourth career fight as a professional boxer

During this time Minnesota still didn’t have their boxing commission. Any fight that was to count on the books needed to have an out-of-state commission come in to sanction the event. There were commissioners from Colorado, Iowa, or Oklahoma that would frequently come up to sanction the fights. This was an additional cost on top of paying the boxers to compete on the cards. The local crowds were still growing, but not enough to justify all the additional expenses of an out-of-state commission.

Other boxers in Minnesota were turning pro the same time I was. It was like we were a graduating class of boxers chasing our dreams into the pros.  Jason and Allen

were two of the boxers that were active in my amateur days. These two characters could really fight and were very successful amateur boxers. I had known them for quite a while and never forgot the day I met them. It was my first time at the 4-State Silver Gloves Tournament. The tournament was held in Fergus Falls and all the boxers were staying in the Best Western Hotel down the road. I lived in a neighboring town at the time so I too stayed at the hotel. The weekend was insanely snowy and many teams couldn’t make it. The ones that did were the few that came early to dodge the storm. Anyway, I was passing through the pool area on my way to my room when I walked by Jason and Allen Litzau and

Zach remembers his first encounter with the Litzau brothers

Zach remembers his first encounter with the Litzau brothers

Antonio Johnson. Jason asked me what weight I boxed and when I told him I was 140lbs he said I should be glad I wasn’t in his older brother Allen’s weight class cuz he’d ‘whip my ass.’ I was shocked! I didn’t know how to take this. Jason must have been about 90lbs at the time and his brother couldn’t have been more than 106lbs. Both were littler than me so I thought they were kidding. They were not. I brushed it off as a joke and continued on. Those two would go on to become top-10 rated amateur boxers in the USA. We eventually became friends as we continually attended tournaments. They were always a lot of fun! They always had a lot to say and where not afraid to back it up in the ring. Anyway, I had known them for quite a while by the time they were in the pro’s. They had become a promotional piece called “The American Boys”. They were a package deal. They had stuck together since their early days of boxing and nothing was to separate them. That was that. If you were to see Jason, you were sure to see Allen too. They had both turned pro in 2002, and then took showcase fights in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Antonio Margarito vs Andrew Lewis (WBO World Title Fight) undercard a few months earlier. What a cool opportunity!

This show they were on would be their second show at the St Paul Armory. It was set up as a huge homecoming type event. There was a big buzz about these two and I was glad to be on the card.

I trained hard for the fight. At this point in my pro career I was fighting guys I had no idea what they were made of. I didn’t know how to read a pro record. You see, in the amateurs it’s all about “how many fights you have”, not so much what your record was. If a boxer had 20+ fights he was considered an experienced boxer. In the pros it was different. A boxer with three fights could be 3-0 but be a serious threat. Or a boxer could have 20 fights but a mixed record of say 5-15 and you could see that he may not be as much of a threat. Anyway, I was matched with a guy that was 8-47-3. 50+ fights! I didn’t know what to think of this! Granted he’d lost most of his fights, but you could also say he had tons more professional experience. I thought to myself “if this guy decides to draw on his experience he could be a threat.” I just trained hard and did my best to be ready for anything. I had an official record of 2-0 1KO with 1 NC (No Contest) so this was my third official fight for my record. I had about 9 fights that weren’t on my record, but that just made me feel more confident in front of a crowd. I was familiar with showmanship by now and knew what the crowd wanted. They wanted KO’s.

Bill Plum was the one in my corner for this fight. He and Chuck Horton had trained me together for years and I was very comfortable with both in my corner. I was fully confident with my corner and in my ability to beat my opponent. I was happy to be on a card with a fight that counted toward my official record and now it was time to get in the ring and prove I was as good as I thought I was.

I got warmed up and walked to the ring. My fan base was still small at this time, but there were still enough people there to cheer me into the ring through a tunnel of cheering fans. It was great to get this reception outside of Duluth. My opponent was already in the ring pacing around with a scowl on his face. I got in the ring and took a lap around to feel my space. The first bell rang and it was time to box. I started off behind a stiff jab. My reach was a huge factor in this fight as my opponent was short and more muscular. He tried to cut the ring off with movement, but I was able to throw a fast combination and dart out of the way back to the middle of the ring. This cat and mouse game took up the first two rounds until I got caught with a big shot. I wasn’t hurt, but it looked bad. I got back to my corner where Bill Plum yelled at me and asked; “Why are you playing around in there. Don’t embarrass yourself. Get in there and do your job!” I never thought of it that way. You know… like I had a job to do. Boxing was always something I did because I liked it. It was never a job. But Bill Plum had a point. I was down there to show I was an up-n-comer so the point was clear.

The next round I took more initiative to attack Gerald Sheldon. Instead of backing up and leaving jabs behind to set up counters I marched him down with my jab and landed power shots behind. I hurt him a few times in the third round, but he hung in there tough. He tried fighting me off a few times, but I shut down his attacks with a greater one. The third round wrapped up with me pummeling him into the ropes at the final 10-seconds bell.

Bill Plum was more pleasant in the corner this time. He even had a grin on his face as if he was amused at the thrashing I had put on my opponent. He was short and direct this time. He said; “There we go. That’s more like it. Now you have one round to put this guy away, or you can consider this trip a waste of my time.” He knew how to light a fire under my butt. I would have been happy winning on points if not for him. The next round I finally caught Gerald Sheldon with some clean shots and hurt him bad enough to drop him. He got up, but it would have been better for him to stay down. I rushed in with a lead right over his lead jab that staggered him back. I continued to follow him as he fell backward with a few jabs and finished things with a slamming right had. He crumbled to his knees in the corner and the ref stopped the fight. I won via TKO-4. My official record improved to 3-0 2 KO (1 No Contest).  I was happy with my victory and thanked my opponent for the fight. Following the fight, I got paid with an envelope of crisp $100 dollar bills. It felt pretty good.

I didn’t know how far boxing would take me, but in these days I was happy to be able to make a few bucks for doing what I loved to do. When I got back to my temporary home at the gym it all seemed worth it. I thought to myself, “This sure beats washing dishes at Red Lobster!”  My college schooling was back on track and I had my first appearance on the Dean’s List that spring. I was still on probation and in the Drug Court program, but that only seemed like a formality I needed to complete to get my life back. I saw the program as an opportunity more than a consequence. I felt like these were people that cared about me and just wanted to help if I let them. It seemed like so long ago, but as I write this story those times still feel like yesterday.

It’s amazing how fast life moves on. How at the start of something it seems so long, but when it’s over it feels like a flash. What I’m trying to say is, savor the moments as they happen because they go so fast.

I am thankful one of my professors gave me that advice early on. I started keeping a journal about my life and times. Doing this gave me a moment to step outside myself to see my life from a third person perspective. Writing about my life as it happened helped me to savor the unique times of my career.

That being said, in the grand scheme of things my 4th pro fight could be looked upon as just another fight, but for me it was a brick in the foundation of something big I was working to build. Something I had no idea how big it would become, but I had a feeling it was going to be pretty cool in the end.

Author: Zach Walters

Boxing Used as Self-Defense

Boxing used as self-defense is very effective and I recommend it for anyone who wishes to learn to defend him or herself. I recommend for those that disagree that they do a Google search for street fights, before making rash judgments on learning another form of self-defense. From all my years in boxing and also being involved in more than my share of confrontations I have seen fights end with one well-placed punch. I have also had to deal with my share of loud mouth bullies who think that they can push people for no reason because no one has stood up to them.

 I have been putting a great deal of thought in how I could be of greater service to my community and the one gift that I have been blessed with is the ability to teach boxing

I have been putting a great deal of thought in how I could be of greater service to my community and the one gift that I have been blessed with is the ability to teach boxing

I have been teaching boxing for years and feel a great amount of pride knowing that I helped hundreds of boys and girls learn the art of boxing to defend against the bullies of the world. To see these young people grow into self-confident adults who carry themselves with dignity and honor motivates me to try and reach out and see if I can somehow reach a larger group. I have been putting a great deal of thought in how I could be of greater service to my community and the one gift that I have been blessed with is the ability to teach boxing. 

I have been talking with Zach Walters in how I can contribute more to his program, “ Jungle Boy Boxing Gym “ and we have decided to offer our services to those that want to learn the “ Art of Boxing “ without competing in matches. I am not just talking about another fitness boxing class taught on DVD garbage. I’m talking about really learning the art of boxing and getting all the benefits of boxing, self defense, physical conditioning, and self confidence.

If you want to get in great shape and have a physique of a fighter, if you want to get in the absolute best shape of your life, and if you want to be self-confident knowing that you can defend yourself Jungle Boy Boxing Gym is the right spot for you. We are highly trained with a well-proven track record of producing the best fighters that have ever come out of Duluth, MN.

If your Child is being bullied or is suffering with self-confidence issues that is causing them problems at home or at school we are the right fit. I have been helping young boxers for years and now I want to help all kids. You don’t have to compete to reap the benefits of our services. 

Zach’s 3rd Pro Fight

Author: Zach Walters

My 3rd pro fight took place a month after my second. I was welled up with confidence from my last win and was eager to get back at it. Every day after my second fight I came home to the gym and trained. I wanted to build on my recent success and keep moving ahead. Resting after a fight was not part of my recipe for getting ahead. I knew from reading stories about early pro’s in the 1920’s that hard work was the key. I embraced it. You see, I compared what Chuck Horton and I were doing in Duluth to what early professional boxing people did to pioneer professional boxing into existence. Pro boxing had been absent from Duluth, MN for the longest time and our goal was to bring it back in a big way. How to do that was a continual riddle we had to figure out. It was hit and miss with the shows and I could tell it was wearing on Chuck even though he never let on. That was something I learned to admire about Chuck Horton. In the years that followed I would see this cape of bulletproofness he’d put on in trying times. No matter what the circumstances we were given he always continued to push forward in bold determination and confidence. In these times he got a look in his face when he’d talk. It was a glare with a goofy smirk. The expression a kid would get playing with firecrackers. Anyway, he was a big confidence giver for me over the years and this was the first time I started to identify what to look for in him. I’d watch him when things got tough. If he was chill, I would relax. There were time’s Chuck Horton got real intense and that’s when I knew things were bad. Thankfully, this rarely happened.

 After the fight the judges ruled a decision in my favor and I jumped to 3-0 1 KO

After the fight the judges ruled a decision in my favor and I jumped to 3-0 1 KO

So for my third pro fight, Chuck Horton lined me up with a veteran road warrior from Kansas City, MO. His name was Vance Winn. Although Vance Winn had a losing record he was coming off a big win at Cruiserweight where he beat a guy 18-2. I weighed in at 175 and he weighed in at 185. It was clear he didn’t even try to make the weight. His size didn’t bother me at the weigh ins, but when I got in the ring with him it was clear that being the smaller boxer in this fight was a bad thing. I belted him with my hardest punches and they had little effect on him at all. In fact he just smiled and waved me in for more action. Vance Winn would let me bash him into the ropes and then he’d violently fight back in fistic flurries. This kind of fight was not hard to read. I just boxed him back ward and pulled away with a high guard before he retaliated. Back and forth we went in a fight of cat and mouse….except this mouse could fight back and hurt me if I was not careful. I recognized that I could not hurt him with my punches so I decided to win on skill instead. I knew if I controlled the fight tempo and landed the better shots I’d get it. This was not the kind of boxer I wanted to exchange shots with. I had great focus and conditioning from camp. Round after round I boxed smart and at the final bell I knew I had won the fight. After the fight the judges ruled a decision in my favor and I jumped to 3-0 1 KO. It was a great feeling. A few years later the decision got changed to a NC (No Contest). I was never sure why, but figured it had to do with Vance Winn coming in way over the contracted weight. I didn’t care too much about it. It was just a mark on paper. My goals in the ring were bigger than looking backward and fussing about a technicality.

This night was a confirmation that I could really do something. It confirmed to me that I was on the right track and with time things would grow into a great show. Every fight I had I walked into the ring with no excuses to be anything but ready for to fight… I literally lived at the gym! This was a special time for me. I was on a mission. Chuck was too. We shared this vision of making pro boxing something big in Duluth. We understood that to do so we both needed to do our part. I had to stay hungry and fight to my best and he had to keep setting the table and feeding the machine we were building. This machine we called “Jungle Boy”. I was the one in the ring, but we tied our success to the same thing; making Jungle Boy a big deal.

Chuck Horton Olympics

Chuck Horton had gone out to the Olympic Training Center to get his Level-4 USA Boxing coach’s certification. It was a big deal. On that trip he met an Icelandic boxing coach with a vision of bringing boxing back to Iceland

Now around this same time, Chuck Horton had gone out to the Olympic Training Center to get his Level-4 USA Boxing coach’s certification. It was a big deal. On that trip he met an Icelandic boxing coach with a vision of bringing boxing back to Iceland. Guðjón Vilhelm was the guy’s name, we just called him Gui for short. Iceland had outlawed boxing since the 1950’s and he believed the time was tight to pioneer it back. He was an ambitious fella. Very much like Chuck Horton; so much so they were like brothers from different countries. These two got to talking and conceived a plan to bring a boxing show to Iceland. This plan came to fruition weeks after my 3rd pro fight.

Chuck took a large group of the gym members over to Iceland to partner with Gui to hold the first boxing show in decades in Iceland. There were at least 18 of us. It was a controversial deal in Iceland to be a part of a boxing show there because boxing was still technically outlawed. Chuck and Gui had talked the Icelandic Parliament into conditionally legalizing boxing for one show. This show was to show them that boxing was not barbaric and a sport that could be recognized again. This is when I met Skúli Ármannsson, the future Icelandic Heagyweight Champion. Skúli Ármannsson and I had many similarities too. We were both they type of person to fearlessly chase goals no matter how impossible they were. Our meeting happened in the ring for a 4-round exhibition. I was much lighter, but the trade off was that he had less experience than me. I was suited up in 24 oz gloves, they felt like pillows, and he was to have the same. Not the case. He was wearing much smaller gloves than I. The gloves looked like 10oz pro fight gloves, but I’m sure they were probably 16oz or so. I looked at Chuck Horton prior to the ring announcing of our names and we had a good laugh seeing that we’d been tricked, but being that the fight was all in good fun we didn’t mind. I just shrugged and said “He’s gona pay for that.”

My plan was to dig all my power shots into his body and wind him out so the later rounds would be target practice for me. The plan worked, but not without a few shocks. I got nailed with a really nice uppercut when I was going in for a body attack and the shot dazed me pretty good. In the corner I asked Chuck Horton if he’d seen the punch. He did. I said, “New boxers don’t throw uppercuts like that. How new is this kid?” It was a good punch. I had been dazed before so I played it off and kept working away. Each round was like a mongoose and a cobra. I circled around Skúli attacking with fast combinations and he was holding the middle of the ring firing back with one or two big shots. It was a beautiful dance of punches. At the final bell I took the win and congratulated him on a good fight.

Later that night there was a huge after party where we all got together to celebrate the first boxing show in Iceland in over years. Skúli Ármannsson and I got to talking and he wanted to know if he could come to the US to train with me and learn how to box better. I agreed that this would be fun and this is where we changed from being comrades in the ring to good friends.

Over the next 7 years Skúli Ármannsson would come over in three to four week spurts to train with me at Horton’s Gym. He really like the style of boxing Chuck Horton trained and was hooked on mastering it. He went on to fight in some pretty big European boxing tournaments and got into the Olympic Qualification Tournament on April 7-14, 2008 in Athens, Greece, but fell short on making it to the Olympics. His last trip to the US he made his professional boxing debut which made him a national icon for boxing in Iceland. He was matched with Caleb Nelson of Hayward, WI who had a strong MMA background and good punching skills.  Skúli Ármannsson dominated an exciting fight and won by knock out. The future looked bright for him, but VISA difficulties made it tough for him to return to continue fighting.

Skúli Ármannsson

Skúli Ármannsson

Since then Skúli Ármannsson has kept himself in great shape, but with a different goal. He now enjoys training with a group of guys dedicated to becoming the world’s strongest man. He has put on significant bulk since we boxed the first time, but is still active in boxing. Skúli Ármannsson trains fellow Icelanders to box and still gets into the ring on occasion, but not to fight; only to spar. Most recently he put in several rounds with Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson who is better known as Gregor “The Mountain That Rides” Clegane from the popular HBO series Game of Thrones. You can see the sparring video online.

I share the additional story of meeting Skúli Ármannsson to show how my career was anything but the norm. At this point in my career I was 2-0 1KO, but had already traveled across the world.Every day of my career was an adventure. Much of this was due to Chuck Horton’s sense of adventure and my willingness to jump head first into whatever Chuck Horton was up to. After all, if not for Chuck Horton sticking his neck out for me early on none of these memories would be possible. He taught me through his actions that we all get knocked down in life. The difference is who gets back up. Had Chuck Horton given up on Pro Boxing back when we had our first show none of this would be possible. Had Chuck Horton given up on me when I was knocked down by my poor decisions I would have never had the great pro boxing career that I had. In many ways, boxing made me. It made me the man I am today.

Vietnam Vet, Brad Bennett, Travels for Those Who Can’t

“I know what it feels like to stay awake at night in fear of falling a sleep and to wake up covered in sweat with tears falling down my cheeks. I have woke up many nights reliving a friendly fire incident that occurred on February 17, 1991. Two vehicles from my unit,1/41 Infantry 2 AD (FWD) were destroyed. A Bradley Fighting Vehicle (Bradley) and an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier (M113) were hit by two Hellfire missiles fired at approximately1:00 a.m from an Apache helicopter commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Hayes.
 Two of my fellow Soldiers died that night, Corporal Jeffery Thomas Middleton and Pvt. Robert Talley, six others were wounded. I used to dream about killing, Colonel Hayes in revenge. It is only through helping others and the Grace of God that I have finally, after all these years found some peace. I have made contact with many of my friends from old unit and have met Jeffery’s parents a few years back.
 My friend Brad Bennett has been an example for me and to many of my fellow Veterans, through my relationship with Brad I have learned how to stay active in my community and to keep moving forward. Thank you, Brad Bennett.”
– Chuck Horton

Imagine taking a trip that was decades in the making.

For a Duluth, Minnesota radio talk show host, that is just the kind of trip he has taken—twice.  Brad Bennett returned from his second trip to Vietnam last week.  That doesn’t take into account the trip he took back in the Vietnam Conflict, a trip that has left him with a heavy heart and a desire to make things right.

As a young man still wet behind the ears, Bennett’s unit was activated to an area with reported Viet Cong activity.  It was in a small village in northern Vietnam called Ap Chin An.  The Viet Cong had built bunkers filled with explosives disguised as thatched huts.  The firing started as soon as the helicopters came in; eight Marines were lost and over forty more were wounded instantly.  Then things got ugly.  

"Good things come to those who do good things."

“Good things come to those who do good things.”

Bennett recalls with a great deal of emotion the events of that assault.  The village was destroyed.  Many innocent people who should not have been there got in the way.  It was complete decimation and it has haunted him ever since.  But good things come to those who do good things.  

At a Vietnam memorial event in Duluth, Bennett met a man who fled Vietnam during the conflict.  The man escaped on his fishing boat and ended up in a refugee camp in Malaysia.  Through a sponsor he ended up being adopted by a Duluth family who raised him and put him through college.  Every year he travels from his home in California back to Duluth on Memorial Day to honor his father who is buried in a local cemetery.  

After meeting each other at the Duluth event, the men formed a relationship and traveled with Bennett’s wife and another Vet to Vietnam.  All expenses paid by the generous emigrant.

Bennett found the village of Ap Chin An online last year.  He asked his radio audience to help adopt the village.  They were able to raise over $2500, which went a long way in the poor ricing district with no real tax base or government help.  On his trip this year he was able to work with the principal at the local school where there were definite needs.

The middle school had little for sports or activities.  Bennett was able to provide some uniforms and equipment, a metal filing cabinet for their records, four desks, and four chairs.  The students were so excited that they immediately changed into the new clothing.  

He was also able to give the principal $1500 to give out in $100 scholarships to help the poorer children get additional books and tutors to get into high school.

He was also able to give the principal $1500 to give out in $100 scholarships to help the poorer children get additional books and tutors to get into high school.

He was asked to speak to a couple of the classes.  Some of the students wanted to know why he was doing it.  He told them the story of what happened and how it made him feel.   At the end a girl asked if she could take a picture with him.  Soon they all wanted to be in the picture.  Bennett said the experience was very healing.

But one thing that he couldn’t stop thinking about was the plumbing, or lack thereof.  The “bathroom” out back for the boys was just a long steel urinal that leaked out the back of the wall to a pond behind the building.  Bennett knew fixing the unsanitary conditions would have to be next on his list.

Luckily he met another kind soul; a successful businessman who escaped Hue (where the fiercest battle was fought) and was adopted by an Australian family.  He heard what Bennett had done and asked him to help with setting up a nonprofit, with his aid in funding.  Now it is an ongoing mission and they will help to fix the sanitation issues and help with the school’s basic needs.

Bennett also met a woman on his last trip who was there when the choppers landed in Ap Chin An.  She recalled that she was herding in ducks to collect eggs when she saw what she thought were birds coming in from the sky.  When they got closer she realized they were helicopters.  She remembered the Viet Cong setting up the bunkers.  As her family rushed to hide in a fruit cellar she said, “This is not going to be a good day.”

He is trying to do good where they “had done so much destruction…that made the heart feel good.  It was a very healing time; a very emotional trip.  But when it’s said and done, it’s so worthwhile.”

He is trying to do good where they “had done so much destruction…that made the heart feel good. It was a very healing time; a very emotional trip. But when it’s said and done, it’s so worthwhile.”

That was an understatement.  Bennett recalls the landing as a group of young men who had “Never fired a weapon in anger and, all of a sudden, Marines are getting shot and dying in our arms.”  But decades later it is time to take a trip for all of the guys who couldn’t make it.  He is trying to do good where they “had done so much destruction…that made the heart feel good.  It was a very healing time; a very emotional trip.  But when it’s said and done, it’s so worthwhile.”  

Author: Roxanne Wilmes

My Second Pro Fight, and Life in the Gym

Officially, my second professional boxing match came in the fall of 2002. However, my second fight as a pro actually happened later that summer. This fight never made it to my pro record because Minnesota didn’t have a commission at that time. The day after my pro debut Chuck Horton and I met in the gym for a brief meeting. Chuck told me that was it. He was done promoting pro boxing. He was rethinking his aspirations of promoting professional boxing in Duluth.  Although the show was an overall success it didn’t go quite as he’d hoped. I pleaded with him to give it at least a year before making up his mind. He eventually agreed and we kept going. What a relief! The following weeks I trained for my next fight which was to be held a few weeks later.

We made a bloody show of our match. We gave the crowd four solid rounds of back and forth action. It was a very fun fight and I’ll never forget it.

We made a bloody show of our match. We gave the crowd four solid rounds of back and forth action. It was a very fun fight and I’ll never forget it.

Chuck Horton had a two fight deal with the Wade Stadium so he was obligated to hold another show there later that summer. With careful planning he pulled it off and it was a good show. Scott LeDoux was a guest announcer. There were several amateur fights and a hand full of pro fights on the card too. It was a fun show, but it didn’t count on my record. Minnesota didn’t have a commission at the time. I boxed a crafty boxer under an alias name. We made a bloody show of our match. We gave the crowd four solid rounds of back and forth action. It was a very fun fight and I’ll never forget it. My second official fight was a memorable fight as well, but before I get into it let me give put into context what life was like for me at that time. 

My living arrangement was most unique. At this time I lived in Horton’s Gym. I found my way to making Horton’s Gym my home though a course of random life events. If you remember, I had recently gone through the court system and was accepted into an intensive probation program called “Drug Court”. This was an open ended program that gave the courts full access to my life to make sure I was living to their standards. If I successfully completed it, my charges would vanish from my record. I was fully committed to changing my life so I saw the whole program as a huge opportunity to get my life straightened out. Shortly after my pro debut my probation officer had a search team do a random inspection and search of the college house I was living in. This was popped on me randomly without warning. I was not worried about it since I was living straight, but following the search they deemed it “unfit as a recovery environment”. At the end of the day, my roommates were good friends, but they liked to party here and there so I couldn’t disagree. Probation reported their findings to the Drug Court Judge, the honorable Carol Person, and she gave me two weeks to find a new place to live. It was a wrench in my plans, but I had to make it work or be written up on a probation violation.

 I didn’t know what to do in such short time so I called Chuck to see if he knew of any open rooms I could sublease. I told him my predicament and he had a simple solution. He said; “Just move in the gym, kid. You can stay in my office. It will work out fine.” I was taken aback by his generosity and thought living in the gym would be really cool. I didn’t hesitate to jump on the opportunity.

I quickly moved in before Chuck could change his mind. I don’t think he would have, but just in case I wanted to act quickly! I didn’t have many belongings in those days so moving was easy. I did it all in one move with my car. Chuck Horton’s office was not that big, maybe 10×8 feet. I bought a cheap curtain railing and anchored it close to the ceiling about three feet from the back wall of his office. Behind the curtain I had a hanger railing for few shirts with a few stackable bins below it with drawers I used for a dresser. My bed was a mattress that I laid on the floor. During the day I tipped it up against the wall behind the curtain to hide it and dropped it down at night to sleep. 

There was another area of the gym separate from the main rooms of that had a shower room. The room was very large with a simple shower head coming out of the cement wall. I didn’t complain. It worked. Most mornings were very cold so I’d turn the shower on extra hot to make a bunch of steam around the shower head to offset the draft. Just outside of the shower room I set up a kitchen area. I used a book shelf as a pantry and put a small dorm room fridge alongside of it that worked as a small counter top. To make up for regular kitchen amenities I had a variety of appliances; a hot plate burner for cooking Mac n Cheese and frying eggs, a small microwave for heating things up, a blender, and a toaster. I mostly ate egg and cheese sandwiches so my hot plate got the most play. 

It was a simple time, but I time I’ll never forget. It hardened me into the person I am today. When I look back I will always think fondly of those times. It was very “Huck Fin”. There was a sense of adventure in the air every day I woke up in the gym. The simplicity also made it easy to focus on my goals; do well in college (this was my first semester getting on the Dean’s List at UMD) and commit 100% to boxing. 

I didn’t pay rent so in return I helped out around the gym. I was the odd job guy. If it needed to be done, I did it. One of my duties was to open the gym for the 7:00 am class before I went to school. I also cleaned up at the end of the days doing janitorial type work.

There a lot of perks to living there too. One of them was access to lots of boxing videos. Between the office/entry way and the rest of the gym was a small living room area where there was a TV with cable access. There was a boxing video library with movies about the great boxers from the past. I took full advantage of these and watched all the videos countless times. After all, I had no roommates and so this was like my social outlet. This was also before I had a cell phone, so keeping in touch with friends was tough. That part didn’t matter though, after I hit rock bottom earlier that year I didn’t feel very social anyway. I liked my quiet times. Of course I had some favorite videos, two for sure. One was “Latin Legends” about Roberto Duran, Alexis Arguello, Carlos Monzon, and Julio Cesar Chavez and the other was “The Fabulous Four” about Marvin Haggler, Thomas Herns, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Roberto Duran. I also made time to catch the “Wednesday Night Fights “and “Friday Night Fights” on ESPN 2 as well as any HBO or Showtime Boxing that was on. I was on a quest to do my best. I saw boxing pro as a new beginning. I started undefeated and I wanted to keep it that way long as possible! I thought of the great boxers from prior generations as ones that left a road map to be followed. I wanted to do well so I studied as much as I could about their lives. 

Another perk was I could train any time I felt the need. As I learned more about the sweet science I was able to try out new moves and perfect them any time I felt like it. Having things to hit also helped me in my late night college studies. When I’d start dozing off reading text books I would glove up quick and hit a few rounds on the bags to get my blood moving to wake up. The gym was the perfect place for me to live at the perfect time in my life.  I will always remember living in the gym as a really cool experience and be forever thankful for the opportunity.

Now we have window to see my life at the time I can fill you in on my second ‘official’ pro fight. It took place October 26, 2002 at the Golf Sky Dome in Hermantown, MN. Chuck Horton had to pay the Iowa Commission to come up as he did with my pro debut. The show was titled “Battle at the Dome”. Prior to the show being scheduled I was looking for a fight that would excite the local fans and make a good show. In my search I found out that another Duluth boxer had turned pro in July the same year as I had and at the same weight as I was. His name was Joe Lorenzi. He and I both had one pro fight. Mine was a TKO win and his was a draw. Joe Lorenzi felt he deserved the win and the draw was unfair to him. We both entered the match with an agenda to prove. For me, I wanted to prove my TKO win was well deserved. For Joe Lorenzi, he wanted to prove he should have a 1-0 record. We also had scores to settle from the amateur days.  We had boxed twice already and I knew him well. I knew him as a crafty boxer with good skills. That being said, I had beaten him both times; the first time by decision at the Lake Superior Ball Room at the DECC and the other by KO at the Golf Sky Dome. I felt confident I’d beat him again and also give the fans a good fight.  At this time Lorenzi was training with Clem Tucker Sr. in St Paul, MN at “BT Bombers” boxing club. The BT Bombers had a long list of talented amateur boxers and had a few successful pros as well. They knew the game. I knew Lorenzi would bring his A-game so I trained for this match like I did all my fights; like my career depended on it.

At this time I had Bill Plum and Chuck Horton in my corner. Bill Plum was very hardcore with his fight strategies and knew how to get my mind ready for any fight. He could put me in a very intense state of mind to be ready for any kind of ring war. Chuck Horton was great on laying out a game plan and winning strategy. Together, they partnered to get me in great shape mentally and physically. The basic plan was to fight on the inside and use pressure and angles instead of fighting outside with my reach. They wanted to tweak my skills a bit to make me into a foreign boxer to Joe Lorenzi. We didn’t train to box like we did the first two times. We trained to straight up fight. 

Fight time came and I entered the ring. Joe Lorenzi and I mugged across the ring at each other in confidence. Then it was time to fight. From the opening bell the fight was messy. Both of us threw everything into our punches and never let up. The plan to prepare for a fight was the right plan! I did a bit of boxing at range too, but most of the fight was a battle of wills fought in close quarters. Jim Perrault was the referee. He had his hands full as this was a fight both Joe Lorenzi and I were passionate about winning. Each round was charged with action. After the final bell the judges unanimously scored the fight a 4-round Unanimous Decision victory for me and my career improved to 2-0-1KO. 

The fight was everything we’d hoped. It was exciting and full of back and forth action. The fans definitely got their money’s worth that night. Following that night our careers went on opposite paths, but nonetheless we both look back at this night as a great fight.

Author: Zach Walters

To learn more about Duluth Boxing, please visit Chuck Horton’s other sites.

Radio Host is Former Marine with a Soft Touch

Typically when someone describes a fighter they don’t usually say things like, “He’s got a really big heart.”  But Chuck Horton and Brad Bennett, two former boxers and combat veterans, say just that about each other.  

They met years ago and had an instant connection through their service history; Bennett was a Marine in Vietnam and Horton served in the Army in Desert Storm.  Horton grew up in a boxing family in Duluth, Minnesota, and Bennett boxed a little as a Marine.  This brought the two men closer.

After leaving the military, Bennett watched boxing from afar.  He knew how hard people had to work to be good at the sport.  He says he has a great deal of respect for the athletes and was always impressed with those like Zach Walters who could make something of it.  

When Horton was getting started and looking for an announcer for his matches, he asked Bennett if he would be interested.  Not only did he jump at the chance, his wife got involved as well.  She sold the tickets for the Duluth boxing club’s 50/50 raffles and he encouraged the crowd to purchase tickets between matches.

Typically when someone describes a fighter they don’t usually say things like, “He’s got a really big heart.”  But Chuck Horton and Brad Bennett, two former boxers and combat veterans, say just that about each other.

Typically when someone describes a fighter they don’t usually say things like, “He’s got a really big heart.” But Chuck Horton and Brad Bennett, two former boxers and combat veterans, say just that about each other.

These days Bennett spends his time behind the mic on his radio show, Sound Off, on WDSM 710 AM in Duluth.  He says he likes to throw out some issues at the beginning of his show and kind of let the listeners determine where the show goes.  And although regional and national events get some air time, most of his show is based on what’s happening locally in business and politics.

This time of the year for Bennett there’s plenty going on locally.  He’s currently in the midst of planning a Christmas Eve dinner for anyone who needs a hot meal that afternoon.  It’s a tradition that started almost thirty years ago with one turkey and the usual fixings.  Now they’re averaging between 400-450 diners.  

And the best part is that all of the food is donated, and the cooks and helpers volunteer their time. 

They turn-over the tables at the VFW in Duluth’s west end about three times that afternoon to accommodate all the people.  But the help don’t mind.  They are happily there in their Christmas aprons and Santa hats, ready to enjoy a visit from Santa himself.   

Bennett says, “At the end of the day you’re worn out, and now you have to go home and do your own stuff.  But it just makes you feel good.”  And he says he runs it the same way Horton ran his gym, no one is turned away.  It’s just what’s best for the community.  

Two tough guys with big hearts, indeed.

Author: Roxanne Wilmes

Be sure to visit the other sites of Duluth boxing promoter and trainer, Chuck Horton, for more interesting stories.

The Road to Redemption: The Beginning of Zach Walters’ Career

This is the first entry in this series in which Zach Walters recounts the trials, tribulations, and glories of his boxing career.

It’s been a while since I’ve thought back to my professional boxing debut. Thinking of crossing over to the pros brings back a bunch of memories about why I did it. My debut was a fun fight that I won by TKO in the first round. The 1-0 1KO was nice, but didn’t mean as much to my career as it did to my life. This represented the beginning of a story.  A boxer and a coach not knowing much, but believing they could make it happen–if they stuck together and if they worked hard enough. For me personally, it represented the beginning of my new life.

You see, I never intended to turn pro back when I was boxing as an amateur. I simply loved to fight and did it because it had become who I was. I was in college working my way toward a degree in psychology so I could work with troubled youth. That’s what I saw as my career.  But in life we can make plans, think we have it all figured out, but then stuff happens and plans change.

For me it was a dramatic change that pushed me into the pros. I was at the top of my game in the amateurs and had just won the 4-state tournament. I earned my trip to nationals and this time I felt really good about placing high. I won the fight at 4-State with ease. The other two boxers were tough, but I was on top of my game at my personal best. I felt great!

in life we can make plans, think we have it all figured out, but then stuff happens and plans change.

in life we can make plans, think we have it all figured out, but then stuff happens and plans change.

However, along with my success in the ring and in college, was my life behind the curtain. This life was very contradictory to the positive life I showed everyone. I had been trying to keep both lives apart and at the worst time ever they spliced together. My other life was that of a street hustler/dealer, an attempt to fund my party ways and then some. I got in deep enough to get the attention of the Duluth Police Task Force Team and my house was raided. This bought about an all time low that I have never felt since. 

The echo of this event in my life got to my trainers, Chuck Horton and Bill Plum, who were extremely disappointed. In their own words they both agreed that I was no longer welcome at the gym. It was February and at this time, I would jog 23 blocks to the gym, work out for 2 hours, and then jog home. On this night I had to jog all the way home right after getting to the gym. The run felt longer than usual as my mind started to clog with thoughts of how my life was crumbling in front of my eyes. 

I got home only to find my roommates in a house meeting discussing my living there. It was decided that I had to find a new place to live. I had to move out. My mind clogged up more as it felt like life was imploding on me. At that point I felt like throwing in the towel, giving up. It seemed like the easy thing to do…the only thing to do… I didn’t know what to do!  I let my life continue to erode as I slept on my friend’s couch with my belongings packed in his garage. 

After the initial wave of consequences settled in, I started to think my way out of things. My court date was set for late June, but I figured why wait till then to start changing. I knew I needed to change or I’d lose everything for good. At this time I put my hope in God. I hoped He would work things out. I didn’t know how it would work out, or what life would look like, but I knew it couldn’t feel as bad as I did right then. Being a son of missionary parents I figured God was going to make me be a prison missionary from the inside. After all, I was facing two felonies and it looked like things were set with no way around it.

After coming to this conclusion, I started training again. I wanted to get myself into good shape and put on some bulk. It was April 1, 2001 (April Fool’s Day) that I declared to myself and my friends that I was going to live sober. No more drugs and drinking. I joined the YMCA on a 3 month student membership deal and worked out daily. I started to improve my grades in school and got all caught up in my classes. I also checked myself into treatment. I figured the courts would recommend it anyway so I would take care of it before they told me to. After all, I knew I needed some support crossing over to a sober life. 

Something was still missing though. I missed boxing. I missed the atmosphere of the gym.

“Something was still missing though. I missed boxing. I missed the atmosphere of the gym.”

Something was still missing though. I missed boxing. I missed the atmosphere of the gym. Hitting the bags and training with a purpose. I was at the end of my YMCA membership and I decided to go over to the gym to see if they’d let me back. “No” was the answer I got. I went back to the Y and finished out my membership time there. But when this was over I still had a burning desire to get back into the gym. I once again went back into the gym and asked to come back. I had tears in my eyes. I told Chuck Horton that boxing was a huge part of my life and I missed it dearly. I also told him I would only be there for a short while to keep in shape before I faced my charges. He said to come back the next day and we’d talk about it. It wasn’t “No”, so I figured I’d come in wrapped up and ready to go. 

When I got there the next day, Chuck hadn’t arrived yet, so I just kept to myself and started training. When he got in I was hitting the bag. I glanced over at him and we did a mutual nod and that was that. I was back in! I showed up daily and trained independently. I was so happy to be back in the gym. I trained very hard as if I was getting in shape for a national tournament. That’s where I left off and that’s where I was happy to jump back in. Chuck Horton and I didn’t talk during these times. We just quietly moved about the gym and stayed out of each other’s way.

Then one day Chuck came into the gym with an intense look on his face. He walked over to me and asked what was going on with my court case. I told him it was coming up the following week and at that time I would most likely be shipped off to prison. He said, “No you’re not kid! We’re gonna get you a lawyer and make sure you stay.” He told me he’d had a sleepless night and couldn’t stop thinking about my situation. I was shocked. I thanked him for the offer, but told him I couldn’t afford a lawyer. I was a broke collage kid and my only source of income was washing dishes at a local restaurant. Chuck said not to worry about it. “We’ll figure it out later”, he said. Right then he took me for a walk though the sky walk over to Rick Holmstrom’s office. Rick Holmstrom was a leading defense attorney in MN. I still had my hand wraps on and a light sweat from training. Chuck told me to sit and tell Mr. Holmstrom everything about my case and Rick would tell me what my options where. I explained things to Mr. Holmstrom and he told me the potential of getting around my charges was next to nothing, so we would work to get sentencing lessened.  I didn’t know what that would look like, but I had faith that whatever happened was part of whatever plan God had for my life. Rick Holmstrom ended up getting me accepted into a program called Drug Court which would expunge or reduce my charges if I completed it successfully.

I was so happy I could cry!  I was extremely relieved I didn’t have to do time in prison! Meanwhile, I was still training, but had no fight on the horizon. I had taken a break from competition while sorting out my legal matters. Then an idea came to mind.  I would repay my trainer for hooking up the lawyer by fighting professionally. I could use the money I made from fighting to chip away at paying him back. I presented the idea to Chuck Horton and he agreed to give it a shot. He had set up a two-fight deal with Wade Stadium in West Duluth (a baseball stadium) to debut the start of Pro Boxing in Duluth. I was now a part of it. The name of the show was “War at the Wade”. 

Chuck Horton

Chuck Horton introduced Zach Walters to leading defense attorney, Rick Holmstrom

Anyone who lives in Duluth knows about the weather and will tell you its extremely unpredictable. This can be dangerous for any outdoor event planning because if it rains there’s a chance your show takes a hit. Wouldn’t you know it, all week prior to the show it was sunny weather and then on fight day it was rainy! Not downright pouring, but just enough wetness to make it a pain. The show went on. I was one of the opening fights and Anthony Bonsante was the Main Event. I was amped to fight. I had sold a huge crowd of tickets to my friends and was ready to show them my best. 

The route to the ring was from the dugout over to home plate where the ring was set up. Chuck Horton had a crew jimmy up a large blue tarp to divert the ongoing rain from the ring canvas. This was my first time walking out to “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n Roses. This was also my first time fighting as “Jungle Boy”. Until finding the ring walk music I was unsure of the moniker, but on this day it fit! I entered the ring and felt naked without a headgear protecting my face from punches. It was really different. The bell rang and my opponent took to action throwing wild combinations behind a stiff jab. He was a lefty and our head crashed together. Ouch! That hurt! It was my first time getting head butt in the face without a headgear. The punches landed differently on my opponent too. It was like they slipped off his face every hit. I knew I was catching him square, but I didn’t have the dense connect as I remembered from landing a shot on a headgear. I threw a continual onslaught of punches until the referee stopped the fight. My opponent hadn’t landed much and started to fade. It was like I ran him over with an avalanche of punches!

Boom! Now I am pro! My debut was done and I was now officially a pro. I saluted the crowd of people there to watch. After getting dressed I went into the crowd and sat with my friends and fans with a huge stack of debut photos. I quickly signed all 500 of them. It was a happy day! I thought of the long road that led to that moment. The dues I had paid to get there. It was a celebration of my life’s renewal, my new life being clean and sober. The fight was short, but the road to that moment was a year long. It was a year that changed my life for the better from then on. This was the start of something big.

Theater of the Unexpected

Long time boxing analyst Larry Merchant often referred to the sport of professional boxing as the “theater of the unexpected.” My experiences in the sport have led me to the conclusion that his analogy is spot on.

Long time boxing analyst Larry Merchant often referred to the sport of professional boxing as the “theater of the unexpected.” My experiences in the sport have led me to the conclusion that his analogy is spot on.

“Long time boxing analyst Larry Merchant often referred to the sport of professional boxing as the “theater of the unexpected.” My experiences in the sport have led me to the conclusion that his analogy is spot on.”

The sport of boxing can take those emotionally invested on a series of highs and lows like no other. What other sport can fortunes change so substantially in a split second? Any long time fight fan can recall a fight where one punch quickly clutched victory away from the jaws of defeat.

I could write for days on my own entry and involvement in the sport. Like so many others, it is unique and many of the memories are as vivid as the day they occurred. Perhaps, I’ll detail some of these adventures specifically in the near future.

 However, as I attempt to write creatively for the first time in nearly two years, I feel obligated to provide the reader with a brief glimpse of the sport from an insider’s perspective. While all those involved in the sport here in the Upper Midwest have their fair share of opinions on the sport, a few constants remain.

I can honestly say that my brief involvement in the sport of boxing is among the fondest memories of my life

“I can honestly say that my brief involvement in the sport of boxing is among the fondest memories of my life”

First and foremost, those punches are real. Young men, and even some young women, take blows to the head for the entertainment of others. Most of the time, they do so for a purse that is neither life changing nor substantial for their long-term future. Whether or not you understand their reasons for doing so, their courage should be commended. There are no true “bums” in the sport. There are just different levels of determination and skill set.

The people who work behind the scenes to keep the sport prospering do so with little to no financial reward, and often at the risk of their own financial health. I’m not sure that the casual, and even diehard fans, have a true understanding of this. My hope is that the fans in this region leave shows with an appreciation for all of the hard work it takes to run a professional boxing event, particularly a successful one. Some of the smallest details can often make or break a show.

The culture of professional boxing is truly unique. Allegiances can shift instantly. Enemies suddenly become the best of friends. The fluidity of it all can become mind boggling. However, at the end of the day, most involved all share the same goal, which is advancement of the sport.  The staples of the local scene remain involved due to their passion for the sport and the hopes that their contributions to it help it thrive.

"Boxing is very well and alive, my friends."

“Boxing is very well and alive, my friends.”

While I have personally been removed from the professional scene for over five years, I can honestly say that my brief involvement in the sport of boxing is among the fondest memories of my life. I formed friendships that will last for the rest of my life. I learned life lessons and traveled to parts of the country I never knew existed. There is a certain brotherhood that exists that is difficult to describe or understand. I can go to a show and see individuals I haven’t seen or talked to in years, and we don’t skip a beat. The continued camaraderie is what keeps me coming to the shows and maintaining contact with all of my old friends still in the sport.  

There is an old cliché that the sport of boxing “is dead.” Every time I hear this ridiculous phrase I become insulted. Some people have a tendency to criticize that to which they don’t understand. My response to these critics is that they aren’t watching the right fights. If you judge the sport based solely on pay-per-views and the dismal state of the heavyweight division, you are missing out. There is a plethora of outstanding fights broadcast on a variety of networks, as well as a solid professional scene locally. Boxing is very well and alive, my friends.  

Author: Mike Letourneau