By Francisco Salazar
Caleb Truax and the word ‘complacent’ do not go together. If they did, he would have been complacent to just be a contender, make decent money in boxing and move on from the sport when he finally hangs up the gloves for good.
Instead, Truax put all his energy and determination into winning a world title belt, probably the furthest thing many boxing fans thought would have happened when he squared off against James DeGale almost four months ago.
Truax is now in the driver’s seat. Even though he will be defending his IBF super middleweight title against DeGale, he is a betting underdog.
That is fine with Truax, who has embodied that his whole career.
Truax will defend his IBF title tonight against DeGale at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 12 round bout will precede the world junior middleweight unification bout between WBA titleholder Erislandy Lara and IBF titleholder Jarrett Hurd and is a part of a three-bout Showtime telecast (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).
On Dec. 9, Truax traveled to suburban London and won the IBF title from DeGale with a majority decision victory. The 34-year-old Truax, who resides in the Minneapolis suburb of Osseo, has won his last three bouts since losing to the likes of Daniel Jacobs and Anthony Dirrell.
Truax (29-3-2, 18 KOs) knows he may or may not have seen the best DeGale in December, considering the British fighter claiming he suffered a shoulder injury.
“I’m prepared for a better James DeGale,” said Truax earlier this week. “I took his belt and I know he’s going to come back hungry. I expect him to give it his all to get it back. He’ll be in top form.”
“As far as I know, I’m still an underdog for this fight. A lot of people think I was a fluke the first time around, so it’s up to me to prove them wrong. I’m ready to silence the critics and silence DeGale.”
Truax has had that mentality growing up. He used that focus and grind to earn a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and to pay off his student loans. Truax has been a ‘fighter’ so to speak, in and out of the ring.
It was the balance of being an underdog and having a confident ‘can-do’ mentality that allowed Truax to believe he would defeat DeGale in their first fight.
"I felt like I was going to win the whole time, but a lot of people said it was one of the biggest upsets in British boxing history. It still hasn't really sunk in. Nothing has really changed. I'm a busier man but I still keep it really low key.”
Truax believes he can duplicate that performance with another solid performance tonight. Feeding off the skepticism and critics who believe DeGale will win tonight, Truax is more than motivated to make a statement.
"I've been through a lot in this sport. I've fought top guys in big fights but it finally came together last December. It meant a lot to me and now I'm prepared to put on an even better performance. My trainer put together a great plan to help me improve and prepare for what DeGale is going to improve on. I'll be ready for him to be 100 percent.
"I just want to get to Saturday night and put on another great performance to retain my belt. I'm going to give it my all to bring that belt back home to Minnesota."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing