First person to answer correctly on our Facebook fan page wins League Stocking cap… MNBoxingLeague on Facebook. UPDATE: MR. POND GOT IT RIGHT, DUANE BOBICK…..
First person to answer correctly on our Facebook fan page wins League Stocking cap… MNBoxingLeague on Facebook. UPDATE: MR. POND GOT IT RIGHT, DUANE BOBICK…..
Yesterday’s press conference didn’t have some of the theatre that many do. This was a group of fighters with genuine respect for each other. From all I have read and heard, both Abell and Butler think very highly of the other. I taped the whole press conference as well as conversations with the promoters, some fighters, and Duane Bobick. Lets just say I need to go digital. My 1970′s technology has allowed me to only have a few exact quotes. The rest I will try and relay as accurately as possible.
I asked both Abell and Butler what they thought this fight would do for its winner. Butler responded by saying he hoped both guys would have big things lined up after this fight. Joey Abell looked very serious as he stated “I haven’t thought beyond this fight. One fight at a time”.
When asked if he thought if his fight would end with a KO, Butler responded, “Look at the knock out ratio for both fighters”
Joey’s response to the question of whether or not the fight will go ten, “I will be in shape for 20 rounds, but I don’t think it goes ten.”
Zach Walters in his usual way showed his excitement and enthusiasm at his chance to fight at the Target Center. Unfortunately my tape did not catch any of it.
Tony Lee was asked about his pro debut at Target Center, “Long time coming”. Lee’s presence there seemed to drum up some extra excitement.
Gary Eyer was asked if the martial arts played any role in his fighting style and he said he watched it when ever it was on.
The great Duane Bobick was on hand as well. He talked a little about his fights with Scott LeDoux and that he thought the fight between Joey Abell and Raphael Butler could surprise people and go all ten rounds. He also stated during the press conference as well as in an interview with me that he thought heart would play a huge role in who comes out on top. He also pointed out that who ever can make adjustments should win.
I plan on getting more up from the conversations had yesterday. Look for more from Bobick as well as what Ronnie Peterson had to say about his fight later in the week.
In attendance will be Minnesota’s best heavyweights past and present. Scott LeDoux and Duane Bobick are scheduled to be there to lend their support for Minnesota’s latest installment of battling big men. Along with superstars past, some of today’s best young talent will be on hand to discuss what is sure to be one of Minnesota’s biggest shows of the year.
Obviously the main attraction is Joey Abell (25,4) and Raphael Bulter (35,8) who will be there to share their thoughts on finally stepping in the ring to oppose each other as pros. If that isn’t enough heavyweight power for you, add Travis Walker (33,3,1) and Boris “The Russian Giant” (6,1). Six heavyweights spanning the last 40 years of boxing in one room, now that’s power.
To add to the already crowded room of fighters, mix in Minnesota’s light heavyweight champ, Zach “Jungle boy” Walters (24,4) along with Dave Peterson (11,0), Ronnie Peterson (3,0), and Gary Eyer (6,0,1).
We will be there to cover this historic press conference and would like to give you an opportunity to have some of your questions answered. Please either leave a comment with your question or send them through our contact page.
No, its not 1977 all over again. But both LeDoux and Bobick will be in attendance for the October 27 press conference to announce the card with Minnesota’s latest installment of battling big men, Joey “Minnesota Ice” Abell (25,4) 24 KO’s and Raphael Butler (35,8) 28 KO’s. Over 9,000 fans gathered at the old met to see LeDoux and Bobick battle for state supremacy, the promoters for Abell/Butler are looking to break that mark in Minneapolis’s Target Center December 4th.
7-14-09 Joey Abell - Our interview with Abell this past July.
Jake Wegner is probably Minnesota’s greatest resource in terms of boxing history and relevance. His book may be a
while out yet, but from all I have heard and what Jake has shared with me, it will be well worth the wait. Jake writes for one of the worlds premier boxing magazines, and his work has been seen on numerous newspapers, magazines, and websites including ESPN. I am a big fan of his commentary for radio, TV, and webcast. He may have another full time job, but talking with Jake, lets you know his passion is boxing. Unfortunately, with his book still in the works, he was not able to go into a whole lot of detail in its regards, but in a phone conversation I had with him, he read me portions of his work. “Wow”, and “I cant wait”, were my exact thoughts. Jake’s research is not only important in keeping boxers past alive, but maybe even more importantly keeping it from being lost forever. Much has been misplaced, thrown away, taped over and so on. Jake has spent countless hours searching for everything boxing in Minnesota. He has talked to virtually all living and recently deceased boxers from the past, as well as their friends and families. I am honored that Jake was willing to share a little with us.
M…. Talking boxing with you is like having boxrec right there, its one of the things that make your broadcasts so interesting. You are considered a Minnesota Boxing historian. How do you come about such a title?
Jake…. It wasn’t self-appointed, that’s for sure. I guess it was earned over the course of the past 12 years of my life. The greatest boxing historian Minnesota has ever known is my good friend, George Blair. George has been my mentor so-to-speak about all things boxing-related in Minnesota history, but he’s 76 now and doesn’t care much for the sport anymore. The fact that he’s leaving me all of his stuff when he dies will definitely give me something to do, as it will take years for me to get through it all. In any event, I have written boxing for years, but those around the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press have looked at me as a historian for a while now, but it probably wasn’t until I was the first person to officially debunk the long-standing mythof Willie Pep supposedly winning the 3rd round of his 1946 fight against Jackie Graves without ever throwing a punch. When I proved that was nothing more than fairy tale, Ring Magazine gave me credit, ESPN called me for an interview, and many east coast radio stations began asking me to call in for interviews. Then Fox called and said they really wanted me for a special on Billy Miske, and I guess that not only put my name out there on an international scale, but also my face as well. I don’t know if still stands as true or not, but since I was a voter in my mid 20’s for both boxing Hall of Fames, the World Boxing Hall of Fame out in California, and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in New York, I was told at that time I was youngest person in history to be a voter for both Hall of Fames. Since having a personal dispute with one member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame a few years ago, I didn’t associate myself with them for a couple of years, but would now be interested in getting involved once again with them. I also belong to a historian club called the International Boxing Research Organization, which is mostly made up of many historians you may have heard of like Bert Sugar and the late Hank Kaplan, but also a great many others you may not have heard of, but are equally as knowledgeable, each in their own certain areas. I’m very proud of my association with them. Lastly, I have been invited for a few years now to join the Boxing Writers Association of America. I think I will this time, but have always considered myself more of a historian than a writer. But I’m sure my editor at Boxing Digest would think otherwise.
M…. Did you ever box? When did you realize your passion for boxing?
Jake…. I boxed some while going to college during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s but it was never anything like I had joined the Golden Gloves or anything. Nothing like that. It was supposed to be just to lose some weight and stay in shape, but I ended up sparring and liking it. But nothing official. Actually, I had always loved boxing since being a kid and watching fights with my dad; the earliest memory being Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini killing Deuk Koo Kim in 1982. I was 6 years-old then.
M…. I have seen some of your articles printed in various places, what was your first boxing piece and who was it written for?
Jake…. I don’t know if I can even remember that. I really don’t. It may have been the interview I did with Jackie Graves for the website www.cyberboxingzone.com back in early 2003.
M…. How many publications have you been printed in, online and print? Broadcasts you’ve done?
Jake…. You know, I’m not sure if I know the answer to that either. Mostly because I have been telephone-interviewed by several newspapers both in and out of state, and I don’t remember all of them. Also a lot of different websites have called me for interviews and I’m told stuff with me is out there here and there. I don’t really follow it all to be honest with you. If I had to guess, I would say somewhere around a dozen or so different publications, spanning some 30 or so articles. As far as broadcasts, I think I’ve done 11, if you include radio (4), online streams (5), and television (2).
M…. What was your most memorable boxing experience?
Jake…. Getting to know perhaps Minnesota’s greatest Featherweight of all time, Jackie Graves. I knew Jackie for a while and his stories were surpassed only by his character. What a great guy he was. So close was I to him later on, that his family asked me to be a pall bearer at his funeral. I also put on a slide-show of his life and career at the wake. I did his eulogy as well.
M…. The greatest Minnesota boxing event you have had the chance to be at?
Jake…. That’s easy. Anthony Bonsante—Matt Vanda.
M…. Can you tell us, from your research, who was the most popular MN boxer up to now.
Jake…. That’s not as easy as the last question. There were many very popular stars; and “stars” is the right word. They were that big. Jackie Graves would be hard to beat when talking popularity, but I think Mike and Tommy Gibbons probably were more popular, as was Mike O’Dowd. Del and Glen Flanagan were big-names here also, as well as King Tut—he was huge too.
M…. What time period would you say boxing was at its peak in this state?
Jake…. The 1920’s through the early 1950’s. Those were the power decades where Minneapolis and St. Paul competed right up there with New York City and Philadelphia.
M….”Land of 10,000 Bruises…100 Years of Minnesota’s Greatest Boxing Rivalries” , How long has this book been in your minds eye?
Jake…. 3 years
M…. I was able to briefly talk to you about some old TV footage of some of these bouts, and you informed me that many of the tapes were simple reused by the TV stations, How hard has it been digging up these stories from the past?
Jake…. You don’t want to know. It’s very hard. Especially because I am an admitted perfectionist. Everything has to be just so with me. All the facts as best as I can uncover them, have to be told in as great of detail as I can give, plus all the behind-the-scenes banter, cross-talk, quotes, and personal stories and interviews have to all be put together in an accurate, yet exciting way. And it has to be that way. I’m not interested in just re-telling what happened in round-by-round accounts. I go beyond that. Simple round-by-round accounts are like listening to Sergeant Joe Friday on old Dragnet episodes. I try to stay away from that and do such deep digging with the fighters (if still alive), their families, friends, former trainers—you name it. It’s extremely hard work to get all of this information, especially since I put that same sort of dedication into my real job in sales. I also have a wife and 4 kids, and so my time is very, very, limited. If I get any facts wrong in this book, they will be few and far between. That’s how serious this is to me. Those who have seen “sneak-peaks” of certain chapters in the book, know just what I am talking about here. When it is finished, I hope it is a large work that others can open up at night and read all about the many great fights between our own fighters and get all the details—without having to do all the work I have done. I’ve considered breaking it up by decade or 1900-1950 and 1951-2000, but I like the idea of one complete work. Follow-up smaller books will be done every 10 years for as long as I live in the 21st Century.
M…. How big is the effort now to save this information from the past?
Jake…. Well the effort is little to none Todd. I don’t know of anyone but myself and a few close friends like Denny Nelson, Don Weller, Bill Kaehn, Jim Glancey, and Jeff Flanagan that haveany interest in helping to preserve this type of stuff. It’s sad really. Take Duane Bobick and Scott LeDoux for example. Their first fight was huge, huge, huge. NBC paid promoter Ben Sternberg $7,500 for the rights to come here and film and televise the fight ($7,500 in 1976 is like $30,000 today adjusted for inflation). But do you think anyone has the film footage? Nope. Not any of the local television stations like Fox 9 or Hubbell Broadcasting, and not even NBC themselves. I’ve had friends like Jeff Passolt at Fox help me, and we’ve always come up short. I have searched long and hard for that film footage, and have not been able to locate it. And I know all of the largest film collectors in the world, including the people who ESPN Classic and HBO use for really rare film footage. No one has it. I was on the phone for a total of 3 hours with the Sports Executives of NBC, they no longer have it either. They taped over it years ago they tell me. This is the really frustrating part of loving Minnesota boxing history. That stuff is sacred to me. That’s how I feel about it. Todd, I even dream about old-time fighters. It’s the single weirdest thing that has happened to me since I started this book. I don’t believe in any type of psychic stuff. I never really have. But I can tell you that I have had fighters appear to me in dreams at night—old fighters, some that are in my book. How’s that for weird? It weird, it’s strange, and it’s kind of creepy. I’ll be the first to admit that.
M…. I write out of Duluth, do you have any interesting stories from this area you could share?
Jake…. Just you wait.
M…. What has been your biggest victory, in terms of information gathering?
Jake…. Nothing in particular Todd, just all of the really cool insight I’ve gathered from the fighter’s themselves or from their friends and families if certain fighters are deceased. I’ve gathered funny quotes that never made the papers, and cool insights and details of what happened in certain fights that none of the newspapers even reported. I dig deep. I’ve said this many times before. I never intended on publishing this book. It was just going to be a hobby thing for me, and when it got completed, it was just going to be printed with my own money and handed out to a few close friends of mine. That was basically it. But things changed. It will never be a New York Times best-seller or anything like that. It’s a local interest book, to be sure. I certainly didn’t write it to make money, or I would have done things differently, starting with the focus of the book. But I do have a list of more than 700 copies to be pre-sold so-to-speak. But I guess some nice “victories” for me if I have to pin down some, would be that the magazine I write for (Boxing Digest) will give it a nice book review, Barnes & Noble at the Mall of America has expressed an interest in carrying it when completed, and some local T.V. stations have some interest in having me on to talk about it when its done. So that’s all nice stuff.
M…. Has it always been this hard for promoters to work together? Were there big fights that should have happened but didn’t?
Jake…. Oh gosh, yes. It wasn’t a lot different when it came to local promoters back then, than it is today. Part of that comes down to money, and the other part is pride—both of which are factors built into boxing promoters’ DNA. That’s not always good for fans, and that’s not always good for the fighters either. Minneapolis has ALWAYS had a HUGE rivalry with St. Paul—in terms of buildings and architecture, theaters and ballparks…and boxing too. In every era, except maybe right now; there has always been one premier Minneapolis boxing promoter, and one premier St. Paul boxing promoter. They were like czars, really. Rarely did any big fight happen in their city without it happening through them. Let me be clear about something…I’m not saying there was only one promoter in each city, but I am saying that there was usually only one BIG one in each city. The second part of your question asks if there were big fights that should have happened but didn’t. Hell yes! It still makes me mad that some never occurred. But you know what? The unfortunate fact that a lot of big fights never happened were often not the faults of promoters, but the faults of the boxer’s managers. Either they were too afraid to throw their guy in against another local rival out of fear of losing and taking a setback for their fighter’s career, or else they were greedy. You need to understand one very important thing here. Today with the Muhammad Ali Act and similar pieces of legislation, we aren’t supposed to see the managers of fighters also being their promoters. Yet, in Minnesota we all know that is not what we have. You don’t want me to go into specifics, and you shouldn’t need me to either. But back then, managers were not the ones promoting the fights—not usually anyways. I’ll give you an example. Why are a lot of “big fights” we could potentially have going, not happening right now? Well, because the manager of “Boxer A” is also his promoter. Same story with“Boxer B”—i.e. both managers/promoters want to be the one to promote that fight and make the money. When talks break down because neither can agree as to just who will promote the fight, the mud-slinging then begins, and now the two sides are sore at each other and that only makes it more difficult to come to the table to talk again. It’s just how it is today, that’s all. What big fights did Minnesota miss out on? A lot. I won’t go into them all, but certainly we know that Bonsante-Vanda almost fell into that category. Lucky for us fans, it didn’t. But one huge one from the 1920’s was when My Sullivan and Jock Malone’s handlers could never quite agree on terms, and the fight along with all the money, fell by the wayside. On a more recent note, the 1980’s and early 90’s saw a crime that Dan Schommer and Danny Morgan never fought, and in the 90’s we certainly missed out on Johnny Montantes vs. Mike Evgen. A better question might be “What fights occurred, but occurred too late”? In other words, what really would have happened if Pat O’Connor and Rafael Rodriguez would have fought 4 or 5 years earlier? On a national scale, what would have happened if Lennox Lewis would have fought a prime Mike Tyson? Back to local and recently, what would have happened if Andy Kolle would have fought Anthony Bonsante back when he whipped Matt Vanda, rather than in the last fight of Bonsante’s career? Those are fun questions to ponder too. One thing I can tell you withabsolute certainty, is that there has NEVER been a rivalry between the Twin Cities and the Twin Ports. It’s just not true. What you see and hear a lot of, especially if you liveup in Duluthlike I know you do, is that the Twin Cities people resent Duluth, and that we always have. Todd, I can tell you with reasonable certainty that is not true today, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that was never the case historically either, as either the late Don Jasper would have admitted, as would have Duluth’s greatest promoter, the late Sammy Gallop. What’s being circulated today is manufactured. Perhaps it helps sell fights, I don’t know. Those that want to believe it, will.
M…. Looking at today’s boxing picture. I know Minnesota is small on the larger boxing scale, but what in state fights would you like to see most?
Jake…. Actually, I would say that “yes” Minnesota does not have the larger scale fights happen here. How could we? Look at our income tax rates. Why would Mosley or Pacquaioever want to fight here, where even if we could sell out the building, their earnings would be taxed at such a rate that they wouldn’t be able to keep nearly as much as if they fought in Vegas. But we are one of the more active states right now as far as volume and frequency of fight cards. But what fights would I like to see most? In no particular order: Kolle-Kost (but Kost needs a tune-up or two, and deserves one), Kolle-Truax, Walters-Williams (if this fight doesn’t happen, the fans will never forgive them for it, even long after they are done fighting), Boxley-Allen Litzau, Hilario-Jason Litzau, Rodriguez-Laboda, Abell-Butler; Muwendo-Allen Litzau (yes, you read that correctly. I like this Muwendokid). I’d also like to see Dave Peterson make a believer out of me once and for all, but to do that I need to see him fight somebody who has the chance to hurt him. I wouldn’t midn seeing Antonio Johnson fight him.
M…. What MN fighters do you think have the greatest potential to make waves on the national level.
Jake…. Obviously Jason Litzau is already there. I like Andy Kolle, but he needs to talk more and do more interviews—be more accessable. I’m told by those that haveinterviewed him, that he only does them by email. His team needs to market him outside of Duluth because he has a lot of potential. I think Andy Kolle is one of the better southpaws in the land, but provided he makes it past Truax in the Fall, and then hopefully Kost, I would really like to see Andy in a nice fight on ESPN against a guy similar in talent. In other words, he shouldn’t haveto fight killers like Ward and Paul Williams to be able to get a fight and a payday on ESPN. He should be matched evenly and allowed to shine. I like Caleb Truax’s athleticism and counter-punching, but I want to see him be more aggressive out there, and I think that certainly Phil Williams has the right stuff to shine on a national level. Had Codrington showed up that night when he ended up fighting Echols, Phil just may have killed him. He looked that good, and everyone that was there noticed the power and speed of his jab. It had the force of a cross. Joey Abell is in the right weight class, and definitely has the right skin color to get him televised fights, but I want Joey to see a hypnotist, Anthony Robbins, or whatever it takes to get his full confidence back, and then step up and fight some serious names in the Heavyweight division. If Wilton Hilario beats Jason Litzau this Fall, then his name jumps to the moon automatically. It’s a crime that a Light Heavyweight with Zach Walters’ record has not been invited over to Germany to face a European belt holder and get a career payday. I can put him in touch with the right people overseas to make that happen if he’s interested.
M…. How would you fix boxing’s declining popularity?
Jake…. Who can answer this? Far be it from me, but my thoughts are these: I would like to see a national boxing commission. Basketball has the NBA, football has the NFL, and so on. Boxing is the world’s oldest sport and the only one without a real national body to keep things organized. This would not only help to get rid of all the ridiculous alphabet titles which hurt the sport by confusing the average fan who the real champion really is, but also bring some needed credibility back to the sport. Pensions and the like, that many non-profit boxing advocates have long been trying for would become a reality as well. I would also reduce the weight classes. I might not go back to just the 8 we used to have, but would I trim down the 17 we currently have. Then some of the answer starts young. I would like to see the Police Athletic League (PAL) get more involved with troubled youth like they used to. Offer kids that would otherwise end up on lengthy probation sentences get a chance to havetheir records cleared for participating in boxing classes via PAL. Next, the amateur Golden Glove association has to get rid of their insane methods of scoring that they employ, and go back to the old ways that produced great fighters. Every major sport has an amateur program or minor leagues that are designed to produce pro talent. Not boxing. Just the opposite. The Golden Gloves even states often that they do not try to produce professional boxers. Do you know how insane that sounds? Why else has the U.S. fallen off lately in international competition? We don’t train young boxers on how to really fight anymore. The scoring sucks, the training and coaching is not what it used to be. This is why we are the only sport where you hear people say, “That fighter has a very good amateur style to him, but no pro style at all. He will not do well as a pro.” Do you hear that in any other sport??? Of course not! You don’t hear people say, “That kid has great skating speed, a 100 mph slapshot, and good physical size…but…he won’t do very well in the pros.” No. Instead, we get excited about that player and draft him with one of the first few picks in the NHL Draft. Lastly, we need do some public relations withlocal newspapers. With the exception of a few writers, most major newspapers would rather report on a dart game on 5th & Hennepinthan report on a boxing fight. That has to stop. We need to get the local reporters excited about the sport. Free tickets, dinners, and invites are key. Get the Press on our side again. Boxing also needs to more than just that. We need to get proactive. Promoters need to ask for permission to have boxers show up for free at parades and state fairs and hit speed bags, do heavybag work, and spar for the passers-by. This is too loaded of a question for me to answer fully here.
M…. Is there anything you would like to add?
Jake…. Yes, I enjoy meeting true fight fans, so please come up and introduce yourselves to me when the opportunity arises. Also, Denny Nelson and I are working to make an official Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame where past great Minnesota fighters can be truly honored for their accomplishments and contributions. It will be cool and we have solid backers as well. It’s a few years out though.