Good Friday Night Fights – Grand Casino Hinckley: April 2, 2010
By: Laura Zink
Photos by SnapLocally.com
Ah boxing…one of life’s great opportunities to relish the thrill of the unexpected…
The fights at Grand Casino Hinckley on Friday gave us a taste of the unexpected. There were tough fights fought rougher than ever expected; there were fights that were electrifying and shorter than projected, and there were rematches with outcomes more convincing than previously contested. Let’s just put it this way, almost everyone there that night, from the fighters, to the fans, to the promoters, to the Casino itself – we were all in for a night full of surprises.
To kick things off, middleweights Tyler Hultin and Tim Taggart both knew that they were getting into a tough fight. Having battled it out in the amateurs, both fighters were aware of the other’s talents.
“I knew that he was a tough fighter,” Hultin said about Taggart. “He was one of those natural athletes that you know that he is going to be strong no matter what.”
“I knew that it would be a battle coming into it,” Taggart said about fighting Hultin.
Both of the men were coming in to the fight looking to make a decisive statement about their skill and toughness, and both had a clear plan about how that statement would be made. They went to war to try to prove that point – Hultin using his boxing skills, and Taggart using his size and strength.
“I was definitely trying to get a signature out of it,” Hultin commented about his intentions for the fight. “I wanted to make a stand that I am going to be a force to reckon with. So I put the time and energy into the training and learned some totally new stuff. And it was working great. Going in there, I knew what I had to do. Not all of it worked, but a lot of it did.”
“Well,” Taggart said with a short laugh, “it wasn’t the whole plan to keep it active like that. Once we got in there emotion took over. I should work on that a little bit. But going through it, it was a lot about heart. I couldn’t let him beat me in my own town. I had to go all out. I went all out.”
And as the rounds went on, endless barrages of punches in bunches ensued from both sides. The crowd was electrified by the performance until the final round where both went at each other, Taggart against the ropes and both men tossing everything they had left at each other at close range until the bell.
“For the first round, I was definitely wanting to come up the middle, keep it tight with defense, tight arms in and throw straight down the middle,” Hultin explained. “And I was. I was making him miss. It was working. So then I got some encouragement from my corner to come out a little more wide and tee off and mix it up with a lot more punches. Everything that they told me to do was working. I felt that the first two rounds were great. The third round was questionable for me – just with the way that I was feeling and getting tagged with a couple of punches. In the fifth and final round, I thought that there was no question that I outscored and outpunched…everything.”
“His punches, he didn’t hurt me very much,” Taggart commented. “That first one maybe, there was a kind of shock, kind of like ‘Oh, ok.’ But his punches didn’t hurt me. I think I hurt him though. I think he felt my punches for sure, especially my jab. I was snapping them out there pretty good and connecting them very well. I think he felt mine a little bit more than I felt his.”
And after all of that hard work, the fight was declared a draw, a decision clearly unexpected by both fighters.
“Obviously the outcome was definitely a shocker for me,” Hultin said. “As a fighter, when I was fighting him, I maybe gave him one round that I felt that he over-edged me on. Other than that, I was doing great. I was doing what I was told. I was landing clean shots. And I thought my defense was at the top. I got head-butted a few times, but other than that… His punches weren’t that effective, so I don’t know how they were scoring it as they did. It was definitely one of those things that I have to go back to and watch the fight and maybe see what other people were seeing that I didn’t. But I am happy with the fight. I want to thank Tim Taggart for taking the fight with me.”
“I mean, after the fight, I was tired and exhausted…and I was still a little mad about the draw,” Taggart said.” I thought it could have went my way. But now, I am feeling happy about it. The fans have come up to me and said, ‘Wow. That was a hell of a fight.’ I mean, that’s who it’s for. Yeah, it can advance my career, too, but these guys are the ones we fight for. I am glad. I am proud. I was in there and had that kind of a fight. I think that we will probably fight again in the future if management goes well. That was a fight worth seeing again, I believe.”
The next unexpected chain of events happened not because of a fight, but in spite of one. After considerable effort by the Midwest Sports Council and the Grand Casino Hinckley to stage what may be the biggest selling fight in Grand Casino boxing history, the unthinkable happened – the ring collapsed.
Creaked, shifted, bowed, and fell in with fighters Dan Copp and Dion Tierney still in the ring awaiting their decision. It seemed as if April Fools’ Day came one day late this year for Minnesota boxing. And as the ring announcer called Don Tierney winner by spilt decision over Dan Copp, Gary Eyer, who was warming up for the next fight of the night, got the following surprising news…
“Yeah, they just came into there and they were like, ‘The ring collapsed. It’s going to be awhile,’” Eyer said. “Everybody just looked at each other all quiet. And they were just like, ‘Go look for yourself.’ I had to get my gloves off and put on a shirt and just, I went to check it out…just like everybody else.”
By the time everybody else was out there, the ring had a concave center. The staff at the Grand Casino worked fervently under the ring to try to bring the canvas back up. They brought in cement blocks to stabilize the ring posts, hauled in heavy stage boards to create an unshakable platform for the ring to rest on, they brought in wood planks to reinforce the base. They fought with the ring, trying to rebalance it, re-raise the center, and flatten out the bows and bumps on the canvas to provide a safe and stable surface for the fights to continue. And while they worked to try and save the fights, Eyer returned to his dressing room to regroup and refocus.
“It messed things up a little bit,” Eyer explained. “I was psyching myself up getting mean, and then all of a sudden the ring collapsed, and I had to get nice again. It’s not easy. I think what helped was that there was a TV in the dressing room and the guys turned it on and we watched Friday Night Fights in there. That calmed everybody down.”
And when Eyer came to the fight, he was intending to use the fight with Patraw as an opportunity to win a match by a more lengthy display of skill, throwing the crafty combinations he had been training himself to utilize in this bout. But as he was finally able to go out to fight, he had the following things on his mind…
“When I was jumping up and down in the corner getting warmed up, I felt a real loud noise and I thought that it was collapsing again,” Eyer said. “But then it got strong again. I was kind of shocked a little bit. And then the bell rang, and just…they got me a little paranoid back in the dressing room that I can’t win a decision, so I just blanked out and went crazy.”
Brad Patraw (left) Gary Eyer (right), Courtesy SnapLocally.com
In round 1, Patraw started off the bout as the aggressor, using his jab and even sneaking in a stiff right uppercut that sent Eyer’s head flipping back.
“I know that he started out with a good jab,” Eyer commented, “and then he threw a good right uppercut. It got me square on the chin and I was like, ‘Ooo, I’m gonna be in a good fight.’”
Eyer responded to Patraw’s uppercut with a right hand that sent Patraw back onto the canvas. And even though it was a good shot, the result was still a surprise to Eyer.
“I hit him with a right hand, just a little right hand, and then it ended up hurting him and I just stayed on him,” Eyer explained. “I was kind of surprised. I didn’t think I put everything in it. But it got him and for some reason it just hurt him.”
Both fighters exchanged until a left and a right from Eyer caused Patraw to almost fall rear-first through the ropes, a circumstance which earned him his second 8 count. Patraw, mouthing “What the f*$k?,” was seemingly under the impression that he did not understand why he was being given an 8 count.
“There should have been no standing 8 count,” Patraw stated after the fight. “He gave me a standing 8 count for no reason at all when he specifically said before we fought that there were no standing 8 counts. We are not amateurs. Let me fight. If I am exchanging punches, I should be able to exchange punches. You don’t come and stop it. You stop it if I am on the damn ground. It is as simple as that. That is all I have to really say.”
But whatever kind of 8 count it was, Patraw was hurt in that first round. After that round, the fight did not last much longer. Patraw did his best to turn the tide at the beginning of round two, but his legs just didn’t seem to be under him anymore. At 1 minute and 16 seconds into round 2, Eyer landed 2 right hands that sent Patraw back on wobbly legs. The ref stepped in and called the fight and Partaw, enraged, protested the stoppage. And Eyer was a bit surprised that Patraw was so surprised at the outcome.
“I was thinking ‘Why didn’t they just stop it after the first round?’” Eyer commented after the fight. “I mean, he was pretty hurt. Why didn’t the corner stop it or the ref? I was a little shocked there. He wasn’t going to recover. I wasn’t going to give him a chance at all. It was going to be like that every second of every round until he was gone.”
And in another surprise that night, Hector Orozco staged a convincing upset over Jeremy McLaurin. Orozco proved to fans not only is he willing to take on stiff competition, he can beat them, too.
Hector Orozco, Courtesy SnapLocally.com
“I only have 16 fights overall,” Orozco explained. “I only had 5 amateur fights. In our gym, we don’t take slouches. The best way to improve is to improve fast. I know I am pretty young, 22, but before I get old I want to reach the top as quick as I can. And the only way that you can do it is take on the best. What’s the point of taking on guys that you can easily knock out?”
“I am feeling as confident as hell,” Orozco said. “I mean I am already improving from the last Jeremy fight to this Jeremy fight, I improved a lot…in only a two month span. I am ready to improve a lot more now. I am still going to take on the best. I am going to be a better boxer. Everyone thinks that I am just a brawler, but actually you are going to see a boxing brawler. And I am just going to improve and take on the best. You are only going to get better by taking on the best. And I am not scared of the best. I am not scared to take a punch from one of the best. I would actually like it to see how good they really are. The only way to find out is to get in the ring with them. All you are going to see from me is improvement and more exciting fights. I am never going to give you a boring fight ever.”
But with all of the surprises that night, there was one fighter whose night went almost exactly to plan – that fighter was Minnesota State champ, Andy “Kaos” Kolle.
“We worked on that ever since the first fight,” Kolle explained about his game plan with Vanda. “That is the way that I should have fought him the first fight. I have proven that I can fight with Matt Vanda and box with Matt Vanda. I opted for the fighting route and made it hard on myself the first time. This time, I was like, ‘I am going to do my best and box smart and keep it out.’
And the fight did go almost exactly to plan, Kolle using his jab and straight 1,2’s which tagged Vanda and stifled many of Vanda’s plans to land a right hand, left hook on Kolle. Kolle outboxed Vanda so convincingly that Vanda himself took the last 10 seconds of round 10 to hug Kolle and congratulate Kolle’s on his victory.
Kolle and Vanda, Courtesy SnapLocally.com
“I think he definitely used his jab a little bit more,” Vanda said about his fight with Kolle. “I think he was more cautious early on. He didn’t want to get caught maybe, but he boxed good. And he fought the last couple of rounds good. I give him all the credit in the world. He kept fighting. And it takes a man to fight me two times. Most people wouldn’t do it. It takes a man to get into the ring with me two times. And I will give him all of the respect in the world because he knew that I wanted to knock him out, and I tried, and I couldn’t do it. He’s a tough, tough kid. My hat’s off to him. Whatever he’s got in the future, I hope he does good. We’re done. Me and him are done. I feel good about it though.”
And what’s next for Vanda? Any surprises in store for fans in the future?
“Ah….you know….I don’t know what’s up after that. That might be it,” Vanda said in the side room after the fight. His face turned serious and he took a brief pause.
“Just kidding HAHAHAHAHA!” Vanda laughed. “I fight ‘til I can’t fight no more. I might take a little time off. I fight so much, it don’t really matter. But I will be back in there sooner or later. Right now, I am drinking Jack Daniels and getting ready to have a good time tonight. Whatever. I don’t give a f*$k!”
So maybe some of the events at the Grand Casino were unexpected, but, hey, that’s boxing. That night all of the fighters and the Grand Casino proved that boxing is about adapting to the unexpected and fighting it out for the fans. We were given a hell of a show last Friday night and everyone worked together to pull it off. Heck, what would the fights be without the thrill of the unexpected?