Superior proves boxing-worthy
The question of whether Superior was big enough to host two boxing cards on the same night was answered Saturday.
The Night of the Rising Stars pro event at Wessman Arena and the Battle by the Bay amateur event at Barker's Island both had strong turnouts on Saturday. The question of what comes next for Twin Ports boxing, however, remains to be seen as two local boxing camps essentially have been created, where once they all fought under the Horton's Gym banner.
"I'd say this is a success," said longtime promoter Chuck Horton, looking around at the crowd at Barker's Island. "We could probably squeeze more in here, but then we'd get in trouble."
To be sure, the big show was the pro card at Wessman.
The venue at Barker's, which was being used for boxing for the first time, was small, going three or four rows deep around the ring. Some notables were in attendance, including veteran trainer Jack O'Brien, former NFL player Tom Burke and St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg. In all, maybe 200 to 250 people filled room.
The pro shows, featuring more experienced boxers fighting without head gear, are always the bigger draw, and roughly 1,200 to 1,500 people came out to Wessman for the six-bout card headlined by Duluth boxer Andy "Kaos" Kolle and featuring the promotional debut of 23-year-old R.J. Laase, who also boxed on Saturday's card. Some fight fans even showed up at Barker's and turned around, realizing they had the wrong show.
"Duluth supports their own," Laase said on Thursday, confident a strong crowd would show up, adding that he was transitioning from promoter mode to boxer mode in the week leading up to the fight. His manager, Todd Bechthold, and others, would handle more of the day-to-day grind in the days leading up to the fight.
Indeed, Laase got raucous support before his welterweight bout with Donny "Drama" Tierney in Saturday's co-main event, with the crowd chanting, "R.J., R.J.!" and "T-Rex, T-Rex!"
Laase (8-1, 5 KOs) didn't disappoint, dropping Tierney (4-4, 1 KO) at 1:57 in the first round with an inside right uppercut.
Laase thanked the crowd afterward, saying "if it weren't for all of you, we wouldn't be here."
Horton basically created the blueprint for staging local pro shows, a winning formula that Laase's crew followed on Saturday, with better than average between-fight entertainment.
The Barker's Island bouts had less flare, with a more laidback feel that is more common with amateur bouts. The 10-bout amateur card was announced just two weeks ago and staged by former headliner Zach "Jungle Boy" Walters, Horton's protégé who now manages his old gym, now called Jungle Boy Boxing Gym.
The brevity of the Laase fight drew into the pre-fight criticism from Horton, who predicted the pro bouts would be lopsided, and most of them were, with three done in one round and a fourth done in two. However, the main event lived up to the billing.
After the completion of two amateur fights at Barker's, Horton said, "We just had two closely contested bouts, and that's two more than they'll have at another place I know."
To be fair, Horton's bouts didn't always come down to the final bell, either, including cards that featured mixed martial arts fighters who struggled in their transition to the ring.
Back at Wessman, there was nary a mention of the shows at Barker's Island.
Nelson Aponte of Fightnightpresspass.com attended his first boxing event in the Twin Ports and came away impressed with the crowd at Wessman.
"A lot of the fights I go to, fans don't show up until just before the main event, but they were lined up here from the get-go. Amazing," said Aponte, who lives in Eau Claire. "They obviously love boxing up here, and I'm super impressed with Laase putting this on, at just 23. I'll have to come back up here for another fight, definitely."
Dustin "Bulldog" Mason, Aaron "Gorilla" Green, Winston "Warrior" Anderson and Tyler "Hitman" Hultin were also victorious in Saturday's pro bouts.
Local favorite Andy "Kaos" Kolle got all he wanted and then some from journeyman Michael "Midnight Stalker" Walker of Chicago on Saturday night at Wessman Arena, but he prevailed by unanimous decision.
Kolle improved to 25-3, while Walker, a late addition to the card who came in heavier than Kolle, dropped to 18-13-3, including losses in 12 of his last 13 bouts.
Pro fights announced
Jungle Boy Boxing Gym announced the Welcome to the Jungle professional boxing card for June 23 at Black Bear Casino in Carlton.
The card will be Zach "Jungle Boy" Walters promotional debut and include "Haitian Temptation" Al Sands, a cruiserweight who fights out of the Jungle Boy camp.
For tickets, go to www.ticketfly.com or call 877-4-FLY-TIX or call Walters at 218-940-8927.