Fight 7: Jumping Back In – Zach Walters
My first loss hurt my confidence. I wasn’t that I didn’t believe in my ability to fight, it was this feeling of letting everyone down that had believed in me up to that point. ‘Was I really cut out to be a world champion?’ I thought. Before the call from Chuck Horton regarding a comeback plan, my mind was blank. I was simply going through the motions of life without any real ambition.
After my final class at UMD that day I flew home to the garage to meet Chuck Horton. When I walked in the back door of the garage Chuck Horton was already inside pacing around while talking on the phone. He looked up with a shark’s grin to acknowledge my arrival and continued talking on the phone. After he hung up he said; “Kid, we go you another fight!” I was thrilled.
The phone call Chuck had just hung up with was a call with Jesse Garza. Jesse had a show coming up only 2 weeks away at The Grand Casino in Hinkley, MN! This casino was just a short one hour drive down from Duluth. The business arrangement was a small percentage of tickets sold. In the end, it was a two way favor between me and Jesse Garza. A 6-round fight was on the table and I knew I could sell a bunch of tickets so I wasn’t concerned there. Not only that, but my fight was slated as the Co-Main Event of the night! What a great opportunity. I knew it was a tall order to throw together a fight in short notice like this. Chuck Horton must have really pulled some strings. I had plenty of motivation. I wanted very badly to rid myself of the sour taste of losing my last fight. Making money was not high on my list at this point. Getting back in the ring to show I was better than my last fight.
I raced around Duluth with an envelope full of tickets filling seats at my next fight. In a short time had turned the envelope of tickets into an envelope full of money. I knew only a small portion was mine, but I didn’t care. I understood what the fight was for and I wanted to get as many people to the fight as I could. I wanted show them what I could do. At this time, I didn’t know who my opponent, but with the limited time available to make a fight happen I didn’t care. I was willing to fight anyone.
With tickets sold and a week to go I found out my opponent, Wayne Bogard from Kokomo, IN. My first thought was ‘Who the heck is Wayne Bogard?!” I did my research and found out my information on him. He had ten fights but hadn’t won since his pro debut. He had a string of 9 consecutive losses…. A 1-9 boxing record. What a terrible record. Boxers like Wayne Bogard can be spoilers to fight. They have terrible records but have faced good opposition along the way so if they wanted to could draw on experience to make problems. Bogard had lost by the decision and only once had been stopped in the first round. I quickly saw my responsibility as having to deliver a beating to this guy like nobody had done prior. I had to whack this guy out faster than the boxer that stopped him in one round. Sure he’d lost, but I wanted to stand out so I had to be impressive; nothing else. I needed to look good so I devised a thrashing game plan with a pedal to the floor type mentality. I wanted this guy out of there and I wanted to do so quickly.
The weekend of the fights was upon us. I drove down to Hinkley to meet with Jesse Garza before the weigh-ins. Chuck Horton stayed back that night with plans to meet up on fight day. I got to the casino and ventured my way over to the hotel front desk to call Jesse Garza. The air was full of cigarette smoke and the noise of slot machines. I hadn’t been in the Grand Casino before so this was all new to me. I thought people couldn’t smoke indoors. This was obviously not the case here. Jesse Garza came down to the lobby to meet me. He sauntered over with the swagger of a major player. He was casually dressed, but I knew he was the one running the show so I showed respect. We went back to his hotel room and settled upon tickets sold. My remaining portion of the money was just a little more than enough to cover my travel expenses for the weekend. Jesse Garza gave me a few buffet vouchers to help with my meals and that was that. He was impressed with the amount of tickets sold and I was happy for the opportunity.
Following our meeting I checked into my hotel room and went down to the casino floor to find out where the weigh-ins would be. The casino didn’t have the new ballroom addition they have now. There was a hall that hooked left after passing through the poker tables that led to a decent sized conference room where the fights would be held and across the hall were two dressing rooms. One was used for the weigh-ins. I saw a few familiar faces there and felt the welcome of being around fellow boxing folks. The scene was a cluster with little organization. The commissioner had flown in from Colorado but was a familiar face in the MN Boxing scene since there weren’t any local commissions at the time. It was a one-man show; just a single commissioner there from out of state to regulate everything.
I scoped out the room and laid eyes on a boxer about my weight. He was introverted backwoods looking fella dressed in as classic red flannel and blue overalls. He also wore a super thick glasses on. His eyes looked like the kind goldfish have when he stared back at me. When I was sizing him up he looked at me and tried to make a mean face, but the look of his eyes behind the thick lenses of his glasses made him look more comical than scary. It was like a scene of the comic pages of the Sunday paper. Anyway, he was there with another boxer from Indiana who looked about the same weight so I figured one of them was Mr. Bogard.
First to the scale was the main event. This was JJ Corn and incidentally vs the other guy from Indiana. That left the backwoods fella as Wayne Bogard. We walked to the scale and he kept his mugging stare. He was put together better than I had assumed. He was actually kinda ripped. Under his flannel and overalls was a well-conditioned body fight for a fighter. I was in good shape too so this only made sense. After all, it was a co-main event. Wayne Bogard didn’t break character throughout the weigh-ins which let me think he may be a pain to fight the next day. Then I reminded myself of his record and my responsibility in the ring the next day. I quickly snapped out of it and got back to thinking straight. There was no way I was going to let this guy steal my show. No way! I was there with one thing on my mind; the redemption of my record and getting a win behind me. Period. “Wayne Bogard looks well prepared? Good. I’ll have even more fun.” That was my mindset.
The next day I met Chuck Horton in the hotel lobby. I filled him in on my observations of my opponent from the day before and we made plans on how the day would play out. It was always important to have a plan all the way to the ring to fight. No surprises. With no questions about the day, I had mental space to focus on my fight. No, questions.
Before I knew it I was in the dressing room getting my hands wrapped and warming up to fight. The night was going fast and there were only 5 fights on the card. As I punched the air to warm up I shadow boxed my game plan for the fight. I had prepared myself to demolish my opponent in each round of the fight till he was out. If it took one round. Good. If it took two or three rounds. Fine. My plan was to keep the fate of my fight out of the hands of the judges. My mentality was to aim for a KO in each of my future fights to seal the victory. No more letting the judges dictate the future of my career.
Then it was time for my ring walk and we were off. The familiar music of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n Roses filled the air and I felt more alive than ever. We made the quick walk across the hall to the conference room and through the room to the ring. Wayne Bogard was in the ring mugging at the fans and then at me as I neared the ring. I was lit up. I wore a mischievous smirk into the ring. There was a good amount of fans there to see me. It was a nice reception for my first fight back in MN since the three fights in Tacoma, WA. During the introductions, I noticed Wayne taking his stance a few times. He stood very square. I though “Uppercut”. I was always looking for clues on my opponents as I entered a fight. How they walked. Their posture. Everything they did was like a window into what to expect. I took note of my final observation and waited the start of the round.
“BING! BING!” The bell rang to start the first round. I rushed to center ring. Soon as we met Wayne Bogard threw a lunging jab to start the fight. I took a fast side step to my right of his jab and launched a wicked right uppercut up the middle. The shot caught him clean in the throat. Wayne Bogard staggered back to the ropes choking in pain as he tried to catch his breath. Rushed after him and led my next combination with a lead right uppercut to his body followed by a left hook to the head. Wayne Bogard had not yet gathered himself from the opening exchange when I caught up to him. The uppercut doubled him over and the left hook took him off his feet as his head spiked into the canvas. The ref stepped in to deliver an 8-count and Wayne Bogard valiantly decided to continue, but it was not a good idea. I rushed across to finish things. I didn’t let him leave his corner. I was right on him like a nightmare. I twitched a faint which froze him enough for me to land a final right-left-right combination to his head. Wayne Bogard bent forward and staggered back in a daze. I shuffled up and once again through a hard packed right uppercut. This time it caught him right in the mouth and nose, and I don’t know if the pain made him jump or if it was the punch that landed just right, but Wayne Bogard’s feet left the floor like I launched him off his feet when I hit him. He flew back at an angle with his butt leading the way through the ropes. Most of his body fell through the ropes, but his knees caught on the middle rope and one of his arms tangled the upper rope enough to save him a trip onto the judges table. When this ref saw this he ran at Wayne Bogard waving one hand in the air to stop the fight while extending the other to help Wayne get back into the ring. That was it. BAM! Mission complete! TKO at 1:18 of Round-1. That stands to this day as the fastest anyone has dispatched Wayne Bogard. I made the statement I wanted to make and separated myself from the others that had beaten him. That was my goal and I did it. What a good feeling!
I ran across the ring and jumped on the ropes in the corner and threw a glove into the air in victory. I got a standing ovation from the crowd. Boy was I happy! The friends and fans that had come to support me filled the aisle as I walked back to my dressing room. I was back! I was a hit and I felt the feeling I loved so much. ‘Victory’! At that moment, I didn’t care what was next. I was a winner.