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Caleb Truax shocked the boxing world. Then he had to come home and pick up dog shit.

Associated Press

Associated Press

On the Wikipedia page for Osseo, Minnesota, much effort has been put into filling out historical facts and modern features about the small town (estimated population 2,752).

Except for the section on "Famous Residents." There's no way to pad that part. Osseo knows its favorite sons. Or son, rather:

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As of a couple weeks ago, "Caleb Truax, boxer" referred to a respected but largely overlooked fighter, whose bouts only occasionally appeared on television -- or took place outside Minnesota. Based on previous media coverage, the most noteworthy fact about Caleb Truax was that he's got a college degree. (Truax studied sociology at the University of Minnesota.)

On December 9, the pride of Osseo was granted his biggest exposure ever: A fight in London against James DeGale, an Englishman, and the IBF super-middleweight champion. DeGale was using Truax as a tune-up for several high-profile fights he'd planned for 2018, a fact his manager made clear before the contest. DeGale was a 16-to-1 favorite to win.

Then a funny thing happened. 

"I beat him up pretty good," says Truax, laughing. 

Two of the fight's three judges agreed, and Truax won a 12-round decision over DeGale, shocking the boxing world and upending the super-middleweight division. Those fights DeGale was lining up next year might be Truax's now -- unless Truax decides to give the vanquished ex-champ a rematch. 

City Pages spoke with Truax about growing up in Minnesota, his less-than-glorious return to domestic life in the Twin Cities, and what his stunning title fight victory means for his career. 

City Pages: I think a lot of people, when they see the news about you winning the title, are going to say, "He's from where?" So, for those people, what should they know about Minnesota, and about Osseo? Where are you from?

Caleb Truax: Osseo's just a little town, man, about 15 miles northwest of Minneapolis. My family lived there for about 60 years, my grandma and grandpa lived there. It's a small town, growing now, with younger families, but when I lived there it was mostly the older generation that lived there. It was a cool place to grow up, the kind of place you can leave your doors unlocked, and as a kid you can play outside and just do whatever. When I was growing up, I was gone all day long, and my mom didn't have to worry about anything.

CP: What has growing up in Minnesota has done to shape your personality?

Truax: Kept me grounded. I've always been pretty humble. I've got a lot of good friends, a lot of old friends, that keep me that way. They give me a hard time if I try to get too cocky or ahead of myself.  I stay humble, stay grounded, and approach my career and life that way.

CP: You experienced a pretty acknowledged low point in your career, a first-round knockout against Anthony Dirrell, about 18 months ago. After that, did you have any fear about where your career might go? 

Truax: Absolutely. I had a lot of things going on at the time. My girlfriend was eight months pregnant, and she had a stroke, and she had to have an emergency C-section, so that's how my daughter was born. I had stuff going on prior to the fight that you shouldn't be thinking about. Going into a fight, you're always nervous, but that fight, I was overly nervous. I was scared I was going to get hurt and not be able to take care of my daughter, and my girlfriend. I was not in a good spot mentally.

Obviously, the knockout happened, and I didn't know if I was going to be able to fight anymore, mentally. I thought about retiring. I talked to my girlfriend about it, I talked to my coach about it. It took me a few months to recharge my batteries. I stayed away from the gym, and didn't watch boxing on TV. After a couple months, I got the urge to get back in the gym, and got the fire back in the belly. And I'm glad I did [Laughs], 'cuz now I'm here.

 

CP: It became pretty apparent that DeGale wasn't taking this fight as seriously as you were.

Truax: Yeah, all he could talk about all week leading up to the fight was who he's fighting next, how big the fights were that were on the horizon, against these other middleweights in Britain. He wasn't even talking about the fight that was three days in front of him. That's a recipe for disaster in boxing, like any sport.

CP: Did that make you fight angry? Or do you not want to fight angry?

Truax: No, I don't ever fight angry. That's when you start making mistakes. What it did was added a little fuel to my fire, and gave me some motivation. [Laughs] I was like, "Alright, this dude's sleepin' on me. I'm about to ruin his plans, and go in his backyard, and beat him up." 

CP: As best as you remember it, what happened in the fifth round? You basically stalked DeGale during the entire round, and it looked like you almost knocked him down a couple times.

Truax: My gameplan going in was to put pressure on him, because he's a really good boxer if you give him space. So I was backing him up, backing him up. In the fifth round I kind of broke through for the first time. I had a good right hand that backed him up to the ropes, and then I hit him with like a five- or six-punch combination, and hurt him really bad. I give him credit: I thought I was going to at least knock him down, maybe knock him out. He stayed up, and survived the round. After he was hurt, I just kept on pouring it on. Everything was landing. It was a 10-8 round on one of the judges' scorecards -- they gave me extra points for beating him up.

CP: This is probably a little ghoulish for non-boxing fans, but you drew blood that round. What goes through your mind when you see your opponent's bleeding?

Truax: It's always a little boost when you see that. A lot of times it doesn't mean anything. Like, my nose bleeds all the time, but it doesn't mean anything. In this instance, I could tell I hurt him. I broke his nose in that round, and he was having trouble bleeding, because blood was coming out of his nose. And a cut over his eye was bleeding. It revs you up a little bit, and gets you going, and motivates you to try to get the knockout.

CP: It came down to a decision, and in this case, you're the Minnesotan who's fighting in London. Did you have any worry that you were about to get screwed out of a title?

Truax: Going into the fight... a lot of people were saying, "You have to knock him out." In Britain, they have a really good system in place for their boxing, they take it very seriously. Their judges are good, for the most part. I was confident in them. Fast forward to the fight, I thought it was wide enough where there shouldn't be any question I beat him. Then they read the first scorecard, and it was a draw. And I'm like, "Ah, shit, they're about to screw me." [Laughs] Then the second card came in and it was 116-112, and the only way they'd be able to score that would be if they gave it to me, seven rounds to five, and gave me an extra point for that fifth round. So, I knew I won.

CP: Did they actually give you the belt? Like, did you get to leave with a belt? How does that work?

Truax: No, I don't even got one yet! [Laughs] When you take a belt from a champion, the belt is his, and he brings it to the fight. And he gets to keep that belt. So, the IBF is sending me a new one, and hopefully it gets here soon. After the fight, I was taking pictures with the belt, and I didn't realize he gets to keep it. In one of my fights before, I fought for a vacant belt, and I got to bring it home with me, because it was up for grabs. This time, I was taking pictures with the belt, and the IBF coordinator came up to me and said, "You have to give the belt back." I was like, "What are you talking about? This is my belt, I just won it.' [Laughs] I didn't want to give it back to him! I was like, "OK, but let me take some more pictures with it first."

CP: With your girlfriend, have you had moments yet where she's like, "I know you're the champ, but..."?

Truax: Not yet, but I'm sure there will be. [Laughs] I did have a moment like that yesterday, not with her, but I got back, and had to catch up on things after being gone for 10 days. I was out in my backyard picking up dog shit. I was like, "I'm the champ, I'm not supposed to be doing this." 

CP: You said you were going to go see the new Star Wars. What did you think?

Truax: I did. It was terrible, man.

CP: What didn't you like?

Truax: It was just like how The Force Awakens is terrible, and a reboot. This was a shitty reboot of Empire Strikes Back. It had bad comedy, and I hated it. The ending was OK. But I'm a harsh movie critic.

CP: You came into this fight with your opponent making plans about his next fights. Now that the belt is yours, do you know what you want to do next?

Truax: There's talk of a rematch, with him, over there in the U.K. I would be open to that, as long as they -- this fight, I didn't make too much money, and I took it on short notice, and short money. Now the ball's in my court, so, I'd have to get paid real well. I'd love to have a fight here in Minnesota, if possible. I'd love to have a good fight here, like at the Xcel, or the Target Center. Basically, I'll celebrate the holidays with my family... and then I think I'll fight in April, or May. I'm excited to see what the future holds for me.