by David P. Greisman
Minnesota middleweight Caleb Truax is hoping that 2014 brings him a shot at any of the world titleholders at 160 pounds. But before that can happen, he’s going to kick off his new year with a co-feature bout on the season premiere of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.”
Truax will face Derek Ennis on Jan. 3 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. The televised main event will be a 130-pound title fight between Argenis Mendez and Rances Barthelemy.
Truax, 30, last fought in September, scoring a technical knockout over Cerrosso Fort and moving to 23-1-1 (14 KOs). Ennis, 33, lost a majority decision to Jonathan Gonzalez this past January and dropped to 23-4-1 (13 KOs).
Truax spoke with BoxingScene shortly after the announcement went out about the “Friday Night Fights” season premiere.
BoxingScene.com: How do you feel about fighting on the season opener of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights?”
Truax: “I think it’s great, man. It’s an opportunity for me to get back on TV and just showcase my skills and work my way towards a title fight.”
BoxingScene.com: You were on “Friday Night Fights” this past June when you stopped Donovan George. What did that win do for your career, and what would a win over Derek Ennis in January do for you?
Truax: “I think the win against George kind of announced that I was here. A lot of people thought the fight with Jermain Taylor [a unanimous decision loss in April 2012] was just kind of a fluke knockdown [scored on Taylor], that I was just a club fighter. But I learned from that and just worked on some things I needed to improve and made some adjustments. That fight with George was just proof that I got better and belonged in the mix at middleweight and was kind of my coming out party, if you will.
“I guess this fight with Derek Ennis is just a showcase again, I guess. I hope to get ESPN back — there’s talk of them coming back two more times after January to Minneapolis this next year. I need to win and do it in an impressive fashion and just continue my climb in the middleweight division.”
BoxingScene.com: Is this fight with Ennis going to be at the 160-pound limit, or slightly over it?
Truax: “I believe it’s going to be 162. It’s not going to be for the USBA title that I just won. I think it’s a 10-round non-title bout because of the 130-pound IBF championship that Mendez and Barthelemy are fighting for. That kind of took up a lot of the budget and the time frame only called for a 10-round bout.”
BoxingScene.com: How much do you know about Ennis?
Truax: “I’ve seen him fight. I’ve got some tape on him. I’ve seen him live on ESPN a couple times. We obviously got some DVDs of his past fights. He’s a shorter dude. He used to be a junior middleweight. So I’ll be the bigger man, and I plan on using that to my advantage. But he’s crafty. He moves pretty well. He throws some tricky shots. But I think my pressure, my jab and body punching will negate his slick, crafty style. And I plan on stopping him.”
BoxingScene.com: What are you walking around at, weight-wise, right now?
Truax: “I try to stay below 180.”
BoxingScene.com: The reason why I ask is that while it’s cool that you’re starting the season for “Friday Night Fights,” it’s also a time of year that people like to eat. How do you handle training — not just eating-wise — but prepping for a significant fight with Thanksgiving and Christmas going on?
Truax: At this point, I’m used to it. I’ve fought right around the holidays, I think my last three or four years. Last year, I fought the week before Thanksgiving. So that was nice. But it’s just about being professional. You’re not going to see me giving up 20 percent of my purse, like Edwin Rodriguez did last week, that’s for damn sure. Of course he’s paid a little more than I am, so he might be able to afford it. It’s just about being professional. I’m getting paid to be at 162 or 160 pounds or whatever it is, and that’s what I’m going to be. I’m not going to disrespect the sport or the other guy or the fans or anybody by coming in overweight.”
BoxingScene.com: Are you able to spend as much time around your family while also training for the fight?
Truax: “Yeah. It’s all about just balancing. I’ll still eat on Thanksgiving. I’ll still eat on Christmas. Maybe on New Year’s I won’t be able to eat too much. It’s all about balancing.”
BoxingScene.com: This is your sixth straight fight in Minnesota. What’s it like for you to be able to fight in front of a hometown crowd?
Truax: “I love it. All my family and friends get to come out to the fight and support me. The crowd here in Minneapolis is very knowledgeable and it’s growing. We’ve got a lot of momentum. Over this last year, every single fight we had was over 3,000 people. I think the one with Matt Vanda was close to 5,000. This one they probably expect there to be more at the Target Center, which is a cool venue, and Mike Tyson is involved with the promotion, so that’s a selling point. It’s cool, man. A lot of people kind of get nerves and feel the pressure when they’re fighting at home, but I’m used to it. I love it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
BoxingScene.com: ESPN has a televised main event coming on after you, but in the arena, you basically are the main event that night.
Truax: “It’s me, man. There’s no question about it. The people are coming in to see me, and I know that. I think the main event will know it, because half the crowd will probably leave. Hopefully they’ll stay around to look good on TV. I took the fight knowing that I would be the co-main.
“I could’ve tried to push for main event status, and they were willing to work with my promoter, Tony Grygelko, and I on putting me as the main event. But I said, ‘You know what, that’s a title fight.’ As long as they come back and show me some love and give me the main event the next time around.”
BoxingScene.com: You and I spoke after the Donovan George win last year, and you were telling me you wanted a shot at Golden Boy’s and Top Rank’s guys. What do you need to do to get those shots?
Truax: “My promoter actually just finalized a deal to work with Warriors Boxing. That should be a good step in that direction. They have Leon Margules and Luis DeCubas, they have pretty good connections at Showtime and HBO. I just got to keep on winning, man. I got to do what I do in the ring, and that’s all I can control. If I’m going to get the shot, I’m going to get it. If I’m not, I guess I’m not. All I can do is just keep on winning and impressing and making fans want to see me again and put pressure on the titleholders and the networks to put me back on.”
BoxingScene.com: Is there a certain titleholder you want more than any of the others?
Truax: “I’d love to get a shot at any of them. I’d love to fight Darren Barker for the IBF title. I think he’s probably going to stay over in Europe for a while, so I don’t know if I’m going to get that shot. I’d love a shot at Peter Quillin. We sparred before. He’s a good champion. I’d like a shot at his title. ‘Triple G’ [Gennady Golovkin] eventually. Sergio Martinez. Whoever I get, I just want my shot.”
BoxingScene.com: Realistically, how far away do you think you are from a title shot?
Truax: “I hope to get one by the end of 2014. Like I said, I think ESPN is going to come back two more times after January. So I hope to fight on TV two more times and then hopefully get that shot. If it comes up before then, then great. If not, I’ll just do my thing on ESPN.”
BoxingScene.com: Jermain Taylor is coming back again and fighting on a Golden Boy undercard. What’s it like for you to see a guy that you had a fight with — you knocked him down, had your only pro loss against him — to see him still get a spotlight, even if it is a lesser spotlight for him?
Truax: “It just burns, man. It makes me work harder and try to just keep pushing forward and get to a spot where I can either get a rematch with him or else get a bigger fight. I dream about getting a rematch with him, so I can knock him out this time. He ain’t getting back up if I get another shot at him. It’s just all motivation and just drives me to improve everyday in the gym and just work that much harder.”
BoxingScene.com: Anything else you want people to know?
Truax: “Thank you for all the support, and I hope to see everyone out on Jan. 3. It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere, different from most ESPN shows. They get kind of stale sometimes, but this one will be wild.”
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or on Amazon U.K. at http://amzn.to/11mYGZI . Send questions/comments via email at [email protected]