Caleb Truax faces his toughest opponent yet

Fighting chance: The stigma of a Midwest boxer

"I got a chance to be myself," he says. "I can't blame anybody else. I can't hide behind anybody else. When you lose, all the blame is on you, all the eyes are on you. When you win, all the eyes are on you, too, but everybody loves a winner."

By 2006, he was preparing for the national tournament and considering a run for the Olympics. Then officials at USA Boxing gave him a call.

In the eyes of the league, Truax had violated Technical Rule 1.5 when he filled out his registration form and answered "no" to questions about whether he'd ever competed in any combat sports.

Caleb Truax (right) takes on Ossie Duran at Target Center
Galen Fletcher
Caleb Truax (right) takes on Ossie Duran at Target Center
Truax ice-fishing with his cousins
Galen Fletcher
Truax ice-fishing with his cousins

Truax pleaded ignorance, arguing that he hadn't considered the Tuff-Guy tournaments a form of professional competition. The brawls hadn't been sanctioned by the state and he hadn't earned a dime from his performance.

It didn't matter. Truax was kicked out of amateur boxing, and a promising career that could have led to the nationals had been squelched before it even had a chance to begin.

"It really pissed me off how it went down," he says. "It was basically just a call to tell me how shitty of a person I was."

At the ice house, Truax slides his sunglasses back on and zips up his coat. Two hours have passed since the fishing began, and he's going home empty-handed.

He stops later to consider what his cousin had said about his fighting style, known as counter-punching. He's well aware of its dark side. It's a fundamentally reactive science, and if you can't figure out your opponent's pattern, you're in serious trouble.

"I've made mistakes in the past, but over these last fights I've definitely been more aggressive," he says.

When asked why he adopted the counter-punching style to begin with, Truax shrugs.

"It's just what I'm comfortable doing," he says. "A lot of times in boxing, a fighter will fight like their attitude is outside the ring. If you're a hyper-aggressive dude outside the ring, that's how you're going to fight. And if you're laid back, as I am, that's how you fight in the ring, too.

"It mirrors your personality."

The door goes beep-beep-beep. Truax lifts his eyes but stays seated and unperturbed in the corner of MGM Liquors in Champlin.

Welcome to tonight's main event: stocking the freezer with Tom and Jerry mix.

Truax washes down his pasta salad with chocolate milk — both high in protein, low in fat — and lets the cashier go on break. A gray-haired woman approaches. She recognizes him from a charity event on her friend's Facebook page, and wants him to know that.

"You gotta keep that face pretty," she says. "You don't want to have marks on it. You're lucky you haven't gotten hit."

He blushes, searching for something to say, and settles on, "Well, that's because I'm good."

Mike Tyson never had to work in customer service. For Truax, it's a fact of life. Boxing may have some of the most inequitable paydays in all of sports. Mayweather made more than $80 million on his last fight, including a share of the pay-per-view pot, but the majority of professional fighters work boring and inglorious side jobs.

There's a saying around Lyke's Gym that every fight is worth a million dollars, meaning a win could propel you to higher and higher purses while a loss can end your career. As Truax keeps winning, his stock keeps rising. After six years, he's begun making a comfortable $15,000 per fight.

Of course, it wasn't always that way. In his first fight, at the Target Center on April 6, 2007, Truax earned a TKO against Ray Walker in the second round, then drove his old Buick Riviera back to his mom's house, where he was living. He stayed there, in fact, until the December before last.

On the whole, Truax dominated his opponents during those early professional years. It wasn't until 2010, when he took on Phil "the Drill" Williams, that he experienced his first setback.

He hit hard that night, and accurate, but the judges came back with a draw. Truax studied his opponent over the next year and won the rematch at the Grand Casino in Hinckley.

"Caleb has been brought up just the way you're supposed to be brought up," says Jim Maurine, his cut man. "Every fight has been a little more difficult. We've exposed him to left-handers, to power punches, to knockdown guys and slick boxers — and he's made it through all of them."

His toughest fight to date, though, came in 2012 when Jermain Taylor, an Olympic medalist, went looking for a tune-up match. For the first eight of a ten-round bout held in Biloxi, Mississippi, Truax held back. Suddenly he'd found himself in the ring with a giant — and a man he deeply admired.

"I showed too much respect and got off to a slow start," Truax says.

In the ninth round, however, Taylor threw a lazy jab and Truax capitalized by dropping Taylor with a right hand. Truax headed back to his corner, beaming, his arms rocketed into the air. The ass-plopping went viral and many fans took it as evidence of Taylor's age rather than Truax's virility. A blogger for Bad Left Hook wrote, "If Caleb Truax can get Jermain Taylor in real trouble, good fighters will seriously do him harm."

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