The Golden Age – November 20, 2009
By: Laura Zink
Photos by SnapLocally.com
WBF Champ, Caleb Truax, Courtesy SnapLocally.com
From start to finish, last night at the St. Paul Armory electrified the crowd and kept them screaming for more. The house was packed. And loud! Fans chanted for their hometown favorites, yelled and booed at their challengers, and hollered instructions like the entire room were working the corners. And by far, the loudest and most emphatic of all of those fans were the ones who came for “Golden” Caleb Truax…and they came by the busload.
“I can always feel it,” Traux said in the locker room after the fight. “Osseo, man, those are my people. They came with two party busses full of people and there was a ton of my friends and family here. They always support me.”
Clearly, that support at first did not extend to his challenger, Kerry Hope. Before Hope even entered the ring, he was showered with boos as the fans began to stand up and surround the ring yelling epithets of various colors and strengths at the Welshman. Hope, looking unaffected as he disrobed, looked over to the doorway where Truax would enter. And before Truax could even get out of the door, fans too turned their sights to that same threshold and began cheering and whistling vociferously, flooding the room with their support to shower it over their entering champion. Well, he wasn’t the champ quite yet…he still had to get past Kerry Hope, a man who was ready to take Truax into the deep and foreign waters of a ten round battle.
“I am glad it was a hard ten rounds because now I know what it takes to go that way,” Truax said after the fight.
From the start, Hope kept the pressure on Truax, walking him down and keeping him moving with jabs. Truax kept cool in the opening rounds, weathering Hope’s storming busyness, moving around him and finding openings for counters which had much more power on them than any of Hope’s constant advances.
Truax (right) Courtesy SnapLocally.com
“He’s tough man,” Truax said after the fight. “He came to fight; I knew he would. Just being out there with him for that week I knew that he was in great shape. I thought I boxed him well.”
But in the third round, boxing gave way to bashing. Just as Hope was working his way out of one of Truax’s advances, an awkward clinch resulted in a pretty colossal head butt, which halted the match and sent Truax over to the doctor for a significant tear over the right eye. Hope, who had suffered a harsh gash on the right side of his head, stood in the neutral corner and waited for his turn with the doc as blood streaked down his neck and shoulders, dripping down in tiny rivers all across his chest.
“I’ve gotten stitches before,” Truax said in the locker room after the bout as the doctor prepped his eye for stitches, “I’ve gotten hit with an 80 mile an hour fast ball before.”
The cut did take some of the steam out of the end of that round, but in the next 3 rounds both men picked up the pace, Hope relentlessly moving in, and Traux finding more openings for his relentlessly more powerful punches. But as the high-activity and rounds wore on, Truax began to look more and more tired, and clearly, Hope just didn’t.
“I think in 7,8, and 9 he came on and he was pushing it,” Truax said after the fight, “and then I thought I went back in and got it in the tenth round.”
But Hope definitely did not make that 10th round easy. With Hope’s corner screaming “C’mon! Keep punching Kerry!”, Hope landed a shot which bloodied Truax’s nose. Yet Truax, wanting to ensure his victory, kept pushing himself on through Hope’s advances, pushing Hope against the ropes and landing shots to the head and body. Hope, crafty and conditioned in his own right, landed a couple of flurries of his own in response. And in the final 10 seconds, Hope’s final advance was clinched out of existence. With three scores of 97-93, Truax was declared the WBF International Middleweight Champion by unanimous decision.
Before the Truax bout, fans got to see another soon-to-be WBF International champion step into the ring, “The African Assassin” Mohammed Kayongo. As his challenger, Welshman James Todd, was introduced to Kayongo by entourage: Ugandan-styled dancers entered the ring before him to dance to that nation’s rhythms as he waited for his challenger. Todd looked on from his corner as he stood before the Welsh flag held behind him by men in black suits. As the dancers parted and Ugandan traditional music gave way to hip hop, Ugandan flags, men with congo drums, and his fellow Ugandan fighters made their way to the ring. Todd, smiling at his corner and even dancing to Kayongo’s music, saw Kayongo, donning a white Mike Meyers facemask, leap over the top rope to enter the ring. But as the entourages, costumes, and flags were all put away the two men faced each other and put on a truly brutal fight.
With conga drums sounding solitary beats of encouragement to Kayongo, Kayongo took the lead in round one with a lightning fast uppercut. Todd covered up and tried to work his jabs to keep the pressure on. But as Todd began to land more jabs and straight rights, Kayongo began sensing his timing and ripping past Todd’s advances with powerful and fast counters. Tough and intent on keeping the pressure on, Todd tried to stay tight and move in with straight shots to the head, landing two nice shots in the middle of the round. But this tentative testing began to shift toward the end of the round as Kayongo led an exchange which sent Todd back to his corner at the bell with a swelling left eye.
Kayongo landing on Todd, Courtesy SnapLocally.com
Round 2, however, shifted the fight permanently for Todd. As Kayongo began to unleash more punches, Todd experienced a left hook which sent him to the canvas. Clearly stunned and foggy from the hit, the ref asked Todd if he wanted to continue. He nodded and walked back to center to finish the round.
“He doesn’t even know where the hell he is!” one crowd member screamed.
Todd, tough though obviously shaken punched and clinched his way through the rest of the round.
“He caught me with a left hook and I just don’t remember really recovering from that,” Todd explained after the fight. “I stuck in there and gave him a fight, but he kind of out-classed me in the end.”
That out-classing in round three took the form of body shots and bloody noses. Kayongo pounded at the sides of Todd’s body with hooks. Todd stayed tough and stayed in the fight, even going head-to-head for some close range brawling with Kayongo. Towards the end of the round, Kayongo went on a head-hunt, trying to seal the deal in the third, but a knocked out mouthpiece and a brief rest toward the end of the round made Kayongo have to wait until the 4th.
Between rounds ref Nelson warned Todd that he would have to “Start landing some damaging punches.” Todd swollen-faced, nodded and said that he would. He got back up and went in for the fourth but once the bell sounded, it was clear that Kayongo would get his wish from the previous round. As Todd was trying to keep his pressure game going, Kayongo resumed the head hunt from the previous round and by 2 minutes and 35 seconds of the fourth round, Kayongo landed 2 punishing straight shots which sent Todd over sideways like a falling tree. Ref Nelson waved his hands over Todd’s head, stopping the bout and hailing in Mohammad Kayongo as the new WBF International Welterweight Champion.
“I knew he could punch,” Todd said after the bout, “so I was just putting the pressure on him to break his heart, and when I tried to do that, he caught me with a left hook, and after that I didn’t really realize what I was kind of going through kind of a thing. He caught me with a good shot and it shocked me, and that is just the ways it goes. That’s what it is. This is boxing.”
“They said that this guy was coming forward, but I fight different styles so it really didn’t matter what style he was bringing in, and I was ready for anything,” Kayongo said after the fight. “He was kind of a one-dimensional guy. He was coming forward and I gave him different angles and I made him respond to my angles. That’s when I picked him apart and that was it. I just brought it in. I brought the whole package. I brought the speed. I brought the power. I did my job. I picked him apart, and just…that was it.”
“This title is big,” Kayongo continued. “This is an international title. It puts be in the first spot for contending for the WBF world title. And this is going to put me in top 20 WBC and IBF and WBA, so this is a really good title for me. It gives me some leverage.”
Michael Faulk, Courtesy SnapLocally.com
And before the crowd got riled up and played amateur corner for three quick finishing MMA bouts, Micheal Faulk took on Ryan Soft (and to a certain extent, some very loud Ryan Soft fans) in the first professional boxing bout of the night. Faulk went out looking to use his guard and land straight shots, but Soft, with aggressive looping attacks threw that plan off. Johnny Johnson began yelling for Faulk to attack the body. Faulk dug in and began to land body shots but one accidently went low. Soft’s fans booed as Soft scrunched his face and tried to walk it off. After a short breather, Soft’s brow lowered and he glared at Faulk. For the rest of the round, Soft threw punches with a vengeance, even landing one as the ref tried to separate them after the bell. Faulk threw one back, letting Soft know the intentional dirty play would not be tolerated.
“Well Ryan Soft turned out to be hard as heck,” Faulk said after the fight, “You know he wasn’t soft at all. I always tell people that I do things that are more convincing with guys that throw jabs, strait right hands a left hooks, but he was coming with the big wide punches and it was really hard. I mean, I tend to look for the big haymaker too, but when they are looking for the big haymaker I just have to sit up there with my hands up and pick my shots a lot better. I was tending to duck and slip a punch and get out of the way, so I would not be in a position to counter and I would get tangled up. I would end up grabbing him. It was kind of messy at the beginning.”
There were a lot of tangles in the beginning, and Soft’s fans had plenty to say about it. As the ref separated them during one of their clinches in round 2, a loud voice from the crowed screamed “Lay the f*&k down Faulk!” But as Soft kept advancing with his wide shots and bad intentions, Faulk weathered the storm, showing no indication that he would ever follow their advice. As Faulk began to pick up the pace in the fourth round, he threw as many shots as he could, in tangles, out of tangles, and the storm of Soft weather began to settle down as his efforts in the first couple rounds began to get the better of him. Faulk finished up the fourth strong, even landing the final combination at the end of the round. The scores, (which were very difficult to hear over the bassy pops of the microphone) were 39-37, 39-37, and unfortunately an inaudible third score, which were all in favor of Faulk’s victory.
“You know, I really felt pretty burned out and tired after the second round,” Faulk said after the fight. “But I felt that after about the fourth round, I felt like I got a little space in, and I felt like he slowed down. That’s what I always tell people: if a guy isn’t that fast and he is not really that good, after the first two or three rounds, he is not going to be fast anymore. He’ll kind of have that adrenaline in the beginning, and they tend to be real fast and quick with those heavy punches, but after those first two or three rounds, if you are not really quick, you are not quick no more. So I got that space I wanted, so even though I was pretty burned out and tired, I was able to nail him and hit him with a lot of good straight punches and a lot of clean shots and that is what got me the W for sure.”