BEST BOXER - 2005
In recent years, Minnesota fight fans have had to swallow more than their share of disappointment. It's a familiar story: A local prospect builds a shiny record by pummeling underpaid tomato cans trucked in from Milwaukee and Indianapolis. The fans get whipped up in a lather. They start talking about how their guy is a "contender." Eventually, the day comes when the hometown hero has to climb in the ring with a legitimate fighter. Just like that, the dream is over. Truth is, some national boxing experts break into peals of laughter when they hear the words "Minnesota fighter" and "contender" uttered in the same sentence. The one recent exception to this career arc--the immensely talented junior flyweight Will Grigsby--did manage to win a world title a few years back; alas, Grigsby's career was derailed by a prison stretch. So who is the Great Minnesota Hope now? It's another diminutive St. Paul fighter, the lanky 21-year-old junior lightweight Jason Litzau. After an extremely impressive amateur career, Litzau turned pro in 2002. Since then, he has amassed 13 straight wins, all by way of knockout. True, the baby-faced East Side tough guy hasn't accomplished this by taking on any world-beaters. Just five of those KOs have come against opponents with winning records. Still, Litzau has done some of his finest work on the road, an accomplishment that separates him from most of Minnesota's other supposed contenders. Also to his credit, he has stayed busy, fighting a total of seven times in 2004.