Q & A with RJ “T-Rex” Laase (10,1) Duluth Minnesota’s pride, fights tomorrow in Hinckley..

RJ Laase (left) Jones (right) photo courtesy, Jesse Kelley, MinnesotaBoxing.com

Tomorrow night, Duluth Minnesota’s, RJ “T-Rex” Laase (10,1) steps into the ring in Hinckley, MN for the second time. Nobody can forget his thrilling bout against then undefeated Justin Jones. In that fight Jones was the aggressor and Laase was the master. Non stop action with RJ winning by UD.. Many calling it early candidate for fight of the year! This time out T-Rex is granting James Wayka (16,11) his wish. Wayka has asked to fight Laase and the two were set to fight last October before Wayka pulled out. There has been some gamesmanship leading up to the fight and tonights weigh-in may be interesting… They fight tomorrow night, March 15, Hinckley Grand Casino! Below is a Q & A we had with T-Rex Laase.. Follow MNBoxingLeague on facebook and twitter. We are still working on our twitter, but FB is very active…

Many have said your fight with then undefeated Justin Jones is early candidate for fight of the year, what are your thoughts on that bout?

Laase….The Jones fight was a very fan friendly fight. To have people talking about MN fight of the year is a cool. We both left everything we had in the ring that night. I started out strong early, he came rallying back midway through and I shut the show down at the end.

 

How did it feel to go 8 rounds of live action?

Laase….I learned A LOT. I worked my butt off last camp as I do before every fight. I put in many more miles to prepare for those extra 2 rounds that I’ve never seen before. I’ve been sparring 8 straight with rotating fresh sparring partners for these last two camps to prepare for anything that might be presented in front of me.

You and Jason Hendrickson have been working together for over a year and a half, the progression has been noticeable, what has Jason brought to the table to bring your game to another level?

Laase….Jason couldn’t have been anymore of a perfect match for me. He knows what I do well and what I don’t do so well. Though he has really made a point to correct my mistakes he has never neglected on keeping what I do well polished. He has a good eye on catching mistakes my opponents make and we work on what to do to capitalize on those mistakes.

Uppercut boxing gym in Minneapolis and Lorenzi’s Boxing in Duluth have been your primary spots for training, how much has all the different types and sizes of sparring partners helped you grow in the ring?

Laase….I think it has helped me tremendously. I’ve been in with some of the best fighters the state has to offer. Better opposition brings out the better in you.

James Wayka (16,11) asked to fight you in October of 2011, and now he gets his shot.. How much do you know about Wayka and what should fans expect to see from your fight?

Laase….I’ve watched all the footage there is available on him. He’s been known to be a crafty boxer at times. He’s got the experience record wise on me, but I’m younger, hungrier, and overall believe I’m a better fighter than him. He may be the “bigger” guy but I’m confident that my conditioning, speed and power are on a whole other level right now. As for every fight I expect a win. No matter if it’s a KO or goes to the cards I vision my hand being raised as my name is announced.

Aside from your fight with Wayka, you’ve also been working on promoting a show in Superior, WI at Wessman arena. While you are not fighting on the show, how do you maintain focus on two very time consuming tasks and the pressure that comes with them?

Laase….The first two shows I promoted I fought on. I think some would agree I handle pressure quite well. The nice thing about the April 13th show is that I’ve been working on the show since the Monday following the Jones fight. I have a lot of stuff already taken care of way ahead of schedule on this show so I can really focus on my March 15th showdown with Wayka. The week before the fight I block out RJ the promoter and focus 100 percent on RJ the fighter.

What made you decide not to fight on your show?

Laase….A few different reasons; 1, I want to be able to sit back and enjoy the product I put together for once. 2, If I can’t see the mistakes or good things from the show first hand I won’t be able to fix what needs to be done. 3, I want to see how well a show does with out me on it. I don’t plan to fight forever and promoting is a second passion of mine that I want to continue to do after I hang em up. I need to make sure it’s something I can do successfully with out being the “draw”.

March 15, aside from your fight what should fans be looking forward to?

Laase….Another stellar show from RDS Boxing! Fort and Green on any card is always worth catching.

How would you like to see 2013 play out for T-Rex and T-Rex Promotions?

Laase….The goal is to stay healthy, active and get that 15th win. Which means a busy 8 months. As for the promotion I want to make my return to the twin ports on my September Wessman show.

Green and Butler prepping for BIG fights!

Aaron “Gorilla” Green (8,0) and Raphael “The Silencer” Butler (35,12) getting some great work in at Uppercut Boxing Gym last night. Mr. Green is getting ready for his big January 25 fight, while Butler is preparing for his WBU title shot February 9. Follow MNBoxingLeague on Twitter. and MNBoxingLeague on Facebook.

Green (left) Butler (right)

Q & A with Jason Hendrickson, Trainer to some of the Midwest’s top pros and amateurs….

Jason Hendrickson has worked with professional boxers; Andy “Kaos” Kolle (25,3), RJ “T-Rex” Laase (8,1), Winston Anderson (1,0) and others. He also trains several amateurs out of Uppercut Boxing Gym in Minneapolis. Below is a Q & A we had with Jason about himself and the regions boxing scene….

RJ Laase, left, with trainer Jason Hendrickson

What first sparked your passion for boxing?

I’ve always been a boxing fan.  After I graduated from college I got fat and I found a boxing gym in Wadena, MN which was close to me at the time.  I went there and after my first day of training I was as sore  as I’ve ever been in my life.  A couple weeks later I starting sparring and this kid Frank Orsello laid a brutal beating on me.  My competitive nature took over and all I could think about day and night was what happened in the ring with Frank and making sure it didn’t happen again.  Boxing puts you in tough situations and the way a person responds to those situations is what makes them fail or succeed.  That’s what made me fall in love with boxing.

How long have you been active in boxing? And when did you start coaching?

I started fighting 8 years ago.  I started training fighters 4 years ago.  When my wife and I were expecting our first child I knew it would be difficult to put the same amount of time into getting myself prepared to fight.  I love the gym and couldn’t stay away so I started helping with some of the kids in Uppercut’s teen program and took off from there.

This being your first year involved in cornering professional fighters, what have you learned? And what do you feel you bring to the table?

You never stop learning in boxing and I’ve learned a lot over the last year about the professional side of the sport.  It’s definitely not a place for the faint of heart.  One of the main things I try to remind the fighters I work with is that we all do this because we enjoy it so I do what I can to try and make sure that we get the most out of every day we’re in the gym and have fun doing it.

How do you see the overall landscape of boxing in Minnesota, both professionally and in the amateurs?
Minnesota has had a bad run of late on the National level.  I do think there are a lot of promising young fighters that can change this over time but it’s not going to happen overnight.  I loved seeing Caleb prepare for his fight by going to many different gyms and working with the best fighters around.  The Minnesota boxing community is small so this is the type of approach I think we are going to need to take if this is going to change.

If you were talking to somebody about boxing in this state, who would you tell them to watch for?

The first thing I’d do is tell them about all the fighters I work with.  The other names I would bring up are Caleb Truax, Aaron Green, Robert Brant, Ismail Muwendo and Manny Contreras.  Most of these guys are just starting out as professionals and they are all stand up guys.  If you’re a fight fan in Minnesota I think the next few years will be fun getting to know these guys and following them as they go through the rest of their careers.

You and RJ “T-Rex” Laase have built quite a trainer/fighter bond.  Why do you think you and he click so well? What has helped in building this new improved T-Rex?

The first time I held pads for RJ I left the gym thinking man this dude has fast hands and can really crack.  The main thing we’ve worked on is his balance and making sure he is in a position to land a punch at all times.  I think the progression RJ has made is really in the way he is setting up his shots and taking what’s open rather than always going for that big punch the opponent can see coming.  One thing is for sure if RJ hits you clean on the chin you’re going to be put to sleep.  During our first camp I told him that there is an Ali quote that sums up my philosophy on getting ready for fights.  “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”  We are on the same page with this and know it’s not always going to be rainbows and butterflies in the gym getting ready for a fight.  This approach allows us to communicate during those rough times and figure things out together so that he is ready to shine when the lights are on and the T-Rex fans are going crazy.  We don’t do things his way and we don’t do things my way.  We talk about things, figure it out together and do things our way.

You are known for stepping in the ring and banging with the guys you train, are there things you feel you can better teach by actually being a part of the action? Is it just the fighter inside you that wants to hit and be hit? I think it adds a greater respect level, does that play in to things?

I’m a trainer first and I feel I can see things better and coach better from outside the ring.  I also feel that people learn best by doing so I want the fighters sparring as much as possible.  If there isn’t any sparring available I’ll gear up and give them work.  As soon as that bell rings I become a fighter and no longer a trainer.  I’m not in there to play patty cakes and expect the same in return.  Training and getting ready for fights together does build a sense of camaraderie and for this next training camp I’ll be a trainer first but doing all the strength and conditioning work with the fighters for a fight of my own in August.

How important do you think it is for a fighter to travel and change up sparring and scenery?

I don’t think the traveling and scenery change is what is important.  What is important is to constantly be challenged in sparring and to be in with the best fighters available.  That often means traveling to get that sparring.  “What got you here won’t get you where you want to go” is something I’ve always told fighters as a reminder to keep pushing forward and challenging them.

Minnesota’s Caleb Truax was the latest from the region to hit the big stage as a professional, losing a UD to Jermain Taylor. He had the whole state jumping from their seats in the 9th by putting Taylor down. What was your over-all assessment of the fight?

I’m a big fan of Caleb and his trainer Tom Halsted.  They do things the right way.  In that fight Caleb was just a bit hesitant early in the fight which is to be expected for his first time on the big stage.  I think that fight was great experience for Caleb and that he will be back fighting in big fights soon.

There are three professional boxing cards coming up near to home, two in June and one in July.

It’s great to see all these fights taking place.  They feature some great boxer vs. puncher matchups that should be very entertaining.  I hope the fans come to support them all and that the boxing scene continues to grow locally.

From your perspective, what can the upper midwest’s boxing scene do to increase interest from the average sports fan?

Being good at boxing and having great fights isn’t enough to sell tickets and grow the sport.  Everyone involved in the sport needs to constantly be thinking of new ways to market the fighters and events to get the word out about the strong local scene we have here.  I think if people got to know some of the stories behind these fighters and the fights that boxing will grow.  RJ got off to a great start with the way he promoted his first card and I hope things only get better from there.

You train fighters primarily out of Uppercut Boxing Gym, ( I love this place, huge space, two rings, all kinds of bags, great ownership, and lots of help). What brought you to uppercut? And why would you recommend this gym to fighters of all levels?

Uppercut is like home for me and my family.  I actually met my wife there during a sparring session.  She also trains fighters out of there so you can find us there basically every day of the week.  I started training there because it was closest to where I work but from the first day I knew it was the right place for me.  I don’t think you’ll find many other places where people with more diverse backgrounds all come together for the same reason.  Uppercut Gym is a great place I and would recommend it to anyone.

Any final thoughts?
Thanks for taking the time for this interview and I hope to see everyone at an upcoming local boxing show!!!

Camp is going great for Caleb “Golden” Truax.

I had the opportunity to watch some of Golden Truax’s sparring with Alfonso Vazquez last night at Uppercut Boxing Gym. Purely from a spectators standpoint Truax is looking sharp and strong mid way through camp. Caleb said he was feeling great about how camp was going up to this point and he and trainer Tom Halstad were confident in their strategy for April 20th’s bout with Jermain Taylor.

 

Caleb Truax (left) getting work in with Alfonso Vazquez

 

 

Results from Region 1 Tourney at Uppercut Boxing Gym, Mpls MN.

Region 1 Champion’s from the tourney at Uppercut yesterday. Results from Jason Hendrickson.

123 – Xavier Griffin (COD)
132 – Mitch White (Savage)
141 – Delorien Caraway (COD)
152 – Rondale Hubbert (Anoka) will fight Veshawn Owens (COD) for this title at the Region 2 tournament next weekend
165 – Anthony Rose (Uppercut) Trained by Jason Hendrickson, Jason also works corners for Pros, RJ Laase and Andy Kolle
201 – Ryan Watson (Twin Ports Boxing, Duluth MN)