Caleb Truax: Cerebrawl
Outwardly, culturally, and pugilistically, it would seem that local middleweight Caleb Truax has little in common with Heavyweight title-holding Ukrainian brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko. Yet, as his "Golden" alias may suggest, Truax, like the precious metal -- and the Klitschko's -- is indeed a commodity in the boxing world. He's a fighter with a college degree.
The yarn of how Truax found himself in the ring is well spun locally, however an abbreviated version tells the story of an intelligent young jock who tried his hand at college football at D-II Virginia St. University before an old knee injury directed him otherwise and took him back to the University of Minnesota where he would earn a degree in Sociology in another three-plus years. Towards the closure of said study, Truax entered himself in area Toughman Competitions which would serve as the early foundations of his boxing study, and soon introduce him to his management team of ACR Boxing's Ron Lyke, and Seconds Out Promotions' Tony Grygelko.
"When I first saw Caleb in Toughman Competitions, I really wasn't paying much attention to him because the fighters there are pretty limited as far as what their goals are," Grygelko reflects back to 2004. "But after he started getting involved in amateur boxing, I could see the strong work ethic and that Caleb had a destination in mind; that he was bound and determined to achieve some goals."
Since Truax's pro boxing career began in the spring of '07, a distinct division of said goals have surely been realized, as evidenced by the fighter's unblemished, 9-0 record with 6
Knockouts. Regional respect has undoubtedly followed, aligned with a national nod that finds the 25-year-old ranked as the 34th best middleweight in the country. Such American accolades are buoyed by Truax's June of '08 win over Thomas Rittenbaugh at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, Cali., the fighter's sole bout outside of the Midwest. To prepare for that Unanimous Decision, 6-round victory, Truax had the rare opportunity to train alongside former four-time world champ Shane Mosley, while sparring with top-flight middleweight contender Enrique Ornelas.
"It was awesome, a great experience," Truax recalls of his time spent with the Mosley camp in Big Bear, California. "All the guys there -- Shane, Enrique, Jaidon Codrington who was on "The Contender" -- they have more experience than me, been in the fight game longer, so I was just soaking it up."
Truax's two fights since that rare experience have evidenced that the college-grad-turned-boxer was taking good notes. In August of last year, he defeated Robert Kliewer (9-7-2, 4 KO) by Knockout in three rounds; in November he scored a first round technical kayo of Larry Brothers (7-32-3, 5 KO), running his record to the afore-noted 9-0. Truax explains the lesson plan:
"Before I went out there to Big Bear, I was a little more laid back, counter-punched more than I should have. But when I was sparring with Enrique he kept stressing to me the importance of always putting pressure on your opponent, making them uncomfortable."
And while Truax's recent (and likely ensuing) opponents are displaying furthered discomfort with the fighter's evolving physical skills, it is the young man's cerebral muscle that may find the opposition most ill-at-ease.
"He's very intelligent in the ring," says his promoter Grygelko, himself a former fighter. "He's always very cognitive. You can see him really absorbing everything that's happening to him during a fight."
Such cognition defines Truax both in, and outside of the ropes. Just as he absorbed the teachings at Big Bear, his academic background at the U -- Sociology major; Political
Science and African-American studies minor -- has formed him into a man with layers. Like a boxing match evolves with each round, Truax's life, studies, and work-ethic have seen him advance through his twenties.
"It's a common belief that if you're a boxer, you're a common street thug," Truax comments on a ubiquitous image of the sport that, whether he recognizes it or not, he's working to change. "I think it's a Mike Tyson-effect, that boxers are crazy guys that have done jail time."
Parallel to Truax's image-altering success in boxing as that rare degree-holder in the ring, there undoubtedly runs on a larger scale, in our contemporary Ring of Nations, a universal changing of leadership. The recent election of Barack Obama found Truax wholly enveloped, both with our 44th President, and the election process itself. The history-making night in November spoke toward both Truax's own foundations, and also a passionate area of his college study. Truax explains:
"I grew up in the suburbs for the most part, and went to mostly white schools. I never learned African-American history in high school. Getting to learn that at the University of Minnesota, I could discover more of what I was about, which was really cool for me.
"The election was awesome. I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime," Truax continues, speaking of the Obama campaign and ensuing victory that he followed regularly on both the Internet and television. "Everybody says, 'Be what you want to be.' But you look at the past Presidents and there's no black people. So it would be tough to tell kids that with no black Presidents. I think Obama can bring people together. Another cool thing is that he looks like me, a light-skinned black guy. I was just captivated by his speeches. He doesn't come across as over-confident or cocky. Just even-keel, kind of like me."
Truax possesses obvious depth and intelligence, although he may not recognize that his believed "even-keel" demeanor sways slightly when conversation shifts back inside the ring. Truax knows he's a smart guy, but he also knows that token of being a degree-holding fighter doesn't get him anywhere in and of itself.
"As for someone that really thinks in the ring, there are advantages, obviously," Truax explains. "But at the end of the day, the guy across from me doesn't give a damn if I have a college degree. He's still trying to punch my head off. It's after boxing when that degree will matter."
Physically or socially, no, that degree won't mean much to an opponent. But the applicable lessons, the words and ideas and observations that go into earning that calligraphied piece of paper are layering his possibilities more than even he may know, and more than future opponents may want to consider.
Sociology, in brief, is the study of human behavior. And such humanity is perhaps never more magnetized than in that 20x20 foot ring where the undefeated Truax plies his trade.
"One of the things I've been really good at as far as boxing goes, is studying people's body language. We covered that in Sociology," Truax concludes. "I pretty much know when a fight's going to go my way by reading my opponent's body language. Like if somebody doesn't want to engage, or move forward. I seem to have a knack for seeing when somebody doesn't want to get hit by a certain punch -- I can see it in their eyes. The physical reaction is brought about by the mental."
Titles are not won and proverbial belts are not donned based on intelligence alone. But such is the interest in the journey of talented and layered men.
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