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Duluth boxing promoter suspended

Boxing trainer Chuck Horton is interviewed in this Telegram file photo. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Chuck Horton received a text message from a friend Monday night saying the Duluth boxing promoter had just been fined and suspended by the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission.

Horton thought it was joke.

The reality of Horton's $5,000 fine and six-month suspension for staging an unsanctioned boxing card last week in Duluth, levied at the commission's bimonthly meeting on Monday in Blaine, Minn., hit home Tuesday after Horton received confirmation from Matt Schowalter with the commission.

But Horton is coming out swinging.

"I don't care if they fine me $5 million or 5 cents. Either way, they're not going to get it," Horton said. "I'll fight them in court. The bottom line is the commission had knowledge we were doing this, and they didn't say one word. The proof is in the pudding. If we would have known we were doing something wrong, we wouldn't have done it. It's as simple as that."

Schowalter deferred comment to commission chairman R.D. Brown, who couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday night.

According to a report from mixed martial arts blogger Kyle Shiely, Brown cited Minnesota statute 341.35, which states that any person who engages in a public combative sport, without commission approval, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Commissioner Pat Fallon said at the meeting that Horton "willfully ignored the advice of the commission" not to hold the event, something Horton denied on Tuesday, calling it "slander."

Horton countered by producing a series of e-mails between boxing matchmaker Cory Rapacz, Schowalter and Brown that appear to show the members of the commission were aware Horton still planned to stage a boxing event last week at Grandma's Sports Garden, even without commission sanctioning, calling them a "public workout showcase."

"I don't understand why they waited for the event to happen instead of trying to prevent it when they were told exactly what was going on," Rapacz wrote to Horton.

A sticking point to last week's event was finding a suitable opponent for Horton's Gym headliner Andy "Kaos" Kolle. The commission apparently turned down Ivan Ledon, who had lost 10 straight fights, so Horton enlisted St. Paul boxer Matt Vanda to fight Kolle in an exhibition. The boxers agreed to wear larger gloves and knew the outcome wouldn't count on their records.

"If (Vikings quarterback) Brett Favre breaks his ankle on Thursday, does that mean the game isn't played on Sunday? Of course not," Horton said.

Horton avoided a $1,500 sanctioning fee by staging his own event. He said Brown invited him to Monday's commission meeting but didn't tell him the bulk of that meeting was going to be about him.

In addition to Horton's fine and suspension, veteran referee Bobby Brunette was suspended for six months for his participation and fined $300, which was stayed for two years unless he violated the commission's authority again, according to Shiely's report. All the fighters on the card were given 90-day suspensions and $500 fines, both of which were stayed for two years, while the corner men were given $100 fines and six-month suspensions.

Carinda Horton, who is running for a State House seat in District 7A and co-owns Horton's Gym, was not mentioned in the report.

Chuck Horton didn't rule out moving his fights across the bridge to Superior, as he has done in the past.

"Whatever it takes to feed my family, man," Horton said. "They're trying to take away my livelihood, and I'm going to fight for everyone involved in this. This kangaroo court has already tried and convicted me. Where's my due process? We'll find out."

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