Local Fighter Just Misses on Showtime

Caleb Truax, a middleweight, is Minnesota’s top professional boxer. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he was undefeated until last night. My son Eric got to know Truax when they were training in the same gym, and they have remained friends. So we were excited when Caleb signed to fight Jermain Taylor in a ten-round, main-event Friday night bout on Showtime.

Taylor, the former undisputed middleweight champion of the world, is one of the most talented boxers of his generation. He has beaten Bernard Hopkins twice. But in 2009, he was knocked out by Germany’s Arthur Abraham and was hospitalized for a concussion. After taking two years off from the ring, Taylor is now on a much-hyped comeback trail.

Taylor is from Arkansas and is extremely popular there. Caleb agreed to fight Taylor in the South, but not in Arkansas, so last night’s fight was in Biloxi, Mississippi. At the weigh-in, Taylor made weight easily, an ominous sign for Truax’s fans. Taylor was, I believe, a 4-1 favorite.

Caleb, who had never boxed anyone in Taylor’s class, had a good plan for the bout. He intended to fight the early rounds defensively, not taking any chances, while he felt Taylor out and got accustomed to his hand speed. In recent years, Taylor has tended to falter in the late rounds, so Truax thought that if he survived the early rounds and made Taylor expend a lot of energy, he would have a chance to break through toward the end of the fight.

Caleb executed his plan well, and it almost worked. Taylor swept the early rounds, but Truax’s defense was solid and he was never hurt. At the same time, he had trouble landing punches with any consistency. Then, in the 9th, Truax saw the opportunity he had been waiting for. Taylor got lazy with a jab, and Caleb sent him to the canvas with a short, crushing right hand. He missed with a left as Taylor was going down; if the left had connected, the fight would have been over.

At that point, we–Eric, his roommate, my wife and youngest daughter and I–were on our feet cheering. (Well, the guys were, anyway.) The knockdown came at the beginning of the round, and it didn’t seem likely that Taylor could survive. But he benefited from a long count–we thought it was at least two seconds too long–and managed to hold on. At that point, Truax was as tired as Taylor, and in a spirited final round he was unable to finish him off. In the end, Taylor won rather easily on points.

Still, it was a good night for Truax. He went the distance with a world-class fighter and still, after 20 professional fights, has never been knocked down. A true Minnesotan, he says he plans to buy a fishing boat with part of the fight’s proceeds. Caleb is a bright young man who has a good future outside the ring. But for now, having come within a hair of knocking out the former middleweight champion, he ought to be able to continue getting some lucrative bouts.


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