In State Match Ups, and Why It’s not the Best for the Sport

In state match ups can be a great marketing tool for promoters. Fans get to see great matches almost every time, but these matches may not be the best for our sport in the long run. There is a limited number of pro boxers in Minnesota and an even smaller number of them that have the opportunity to make it big on the world scene, or even the national scene. In the end the boxer makes his own choice on who he fights, but it’s usually a manager’s job to direct the boxer on his mission to get the most out of his career.

You want to know why Vanda vs Bonsante and Ladoux vs Bobick were such big fights? It’s because they met in the ring when their careers had matured. These matches produced a huge turnout to watch the showdown and the boxers have been adored by boxing fans for years after for being a part of such a big show.  Promoters want to make these kind of fights happen, why would they not? But they have to be patient in pulling the trigger on these fights and let the boxers develop. 

The idea of promoters pushing two young instate fighters to battle one another is for their own benefit and not that of the boxer, or the longevity of the sport. It’s a short sited move. When two young prospects face off their fans stack behind them which is great, but when the boxer has just started to build a fan base the turnout is average and the result of losing the match can cripple his career. His fans are just starting to enjoy the sport and if their boxer gets whacked out they may have reservations about buying a ticket to a future show. I know you can say “Well then…Those fans weren’t true fans if they can’t support their boxer through a loss.” But some fans do turn away and those fans matter just as much as the diehard fans. Our local boxers need as many fans as possible to come to shows because at the end of the day the fans are the ones supporting professional boxing. If no fans show up where is the revenue to pay the boxers going to come from? You don’t see businesses lining up to sponsor an empty house for a boxing show!

You say you want the best to fight the best, cool. But why should this mean two local up and coming boxing personalities facing off? A better method of building a prospect into a contender is to fight the best from out of state. Doesn’t this make more sense?

It’s also been said if a boxer’s career is developing in the ring and gaining momentum it’s because he’s ducking the others in the state. Bull! My take on things is if our promoters and managers take the time to develop our boxers’ careers without in state fights the fans will have more time to gravitate to the sport. Creating careers this way will give time for rivalries to build and when the time comes for the match to take place the promotion will be a great success, the boxers will make good purses, and the fans will see a great show!

Matt Vanda

Matt Vanda was managed and promoted by Tommy Brunette

Look at the career of Matt Vanda. He is a great example of developing his career to a peak level before fighting in state fights. After that point, every time he boxed an in state rival he brought a great set of skills, professional showmanship, a major record, and a major following to every one of these match ups. He sold the show! The attributes Matt Vanda brought to the fights were developed over a lengthy career. Not by fighting instate rivals for bread crumbs all the way up. He trained hard and learned the craft of pro boxing. He was managed and promoted by a former MN boxing genius, Tommy Brunette, and boxed out of state competition in front of thousands of adoring local fans. Matt Vanda could fight tomorrow and pack the house! This is a fact! 

The reason Matt Vanda can do this is because he was brought along on by a Tommy Brunette who knew how to get Vanda the most for his potential. Vanda has always been an exciting boxer to watch, but had he been mismanaged early on we may have never seen the great fights he gave us later in his career when he peaked. Vanda may have never got the opportunities he had out of state either! Having the stellar record he had was a golden ticket! 

Back in 2003 Vanda’s fight with MN Rival JJ Corn was a huge fight at the St Paul Armory. The crowd was insane and the match was incredible! This fight didn’t happen till JJ Corn was at 42-6 and Vanda was at 27-0! A big stage was built for a big fight! Vanda’s career was priming and JJ Corn’s career had peaked. That fight made sense. Another good fight and show was Vanda’s fight with Anthony Bonsante witch nearly filled up the Target Center. That fight happened after Matt Vanda had boxed on television and chased his dreams on the big stage though out of state. Bonsante had chased his dreams, boxed all over the US and Canada, and participated in the Contender Boxing show which gave him great exposure. Both careers had great momentum and the boxers were ready to meet. They had a rivalry going for a long time and both sides of the fan base were aware of it. The result of the match was a great show where both boxers made out with great purses and the promoter did well too! Everybody won regardless of the outcome in the ring. 

My point is if we want these big fights to happen and see Minnesota Boxing to do well we need to let the boxer’s careers develop. In state fights can be a lot of fun for the fans and very lucrative for the boxers, but this will not happen if boxers are guided into cancelling the other out before their careers peak. These will be smaller shows, but great fights. We all want HUGE shows with great fights!

State Title fights are a different story and it’s not what I’m talking about here. Same too goes for a boxer facing off with a logical developmental opponent from across the state. I’m talking about two prospects. State Title Championships are great exposure for the any boxer and justify an early meeting in the ring. Aside from that it would be better to match our boxers with opposition from out of state.

There is a poison in Minnesota where a boxer is attacked by rival boxing personalities soon as he shows a spark of potential in the ring. It’s the stigma that keeps our pond small. This approach to the other’s success in boxing is hurtful to the longevity of boxing in our state and it should stop. 

Al Sands

Al Sands has shown that his future is bright in the sport of boxing.

I’m not saying we should have our boxers fight cup cakes till their records inflate. I’m saying we need to do a better job of developing our boxers on their own against out of state competition. Do I think there are some good instate match ups? YES! But let their careers develop independently before having them face off.  Wait for them to prime and you will get a big show to enjoy! Al Sands vs Phil Williams is appealing, but that’s simply based on the fact that Al Sands has shown he’s capable of becoming something big in the sport. Sands has started to build a following in Northern Minnesota and has started to earn the recognition on the world stage from hard fought victories over good opposition. Williams has never developed a following in Minnesota big enough to headline his own show. Only three times has Williams been on the A-Side of a main event fight and the only show draw well was when he boxed Matt Vanda, which he lost. Otherwise Williams has been consistently on the B-Side of a fight showing promoters know he’s not a draw. He’s brought in to embellish the record of the guy he is fighting. William’s approach to challenging the most popular boxer near his weight class is the only card he can play. It’s too bad for him. He’s got a marked up record from fighting small purses and his career will never be what it could have been. I think he could have done a lot better for himself had he been managed better. 

The point of all this talk is to point out what looks like the problem and offer a solution. For boxing to grow in our state we need to become one big team. Minnesota vs everyone else! If we take care of our boxers and develop their careers we will get more boxers breaking through to the national scene. The local scene will get much better as well. 

Author: Zach Walters