Outside the Ring with Matt Vanda

Boxing is not usually a rich man’s sport.  At least they don’t start out rich.  Usually.  So when someone dangles a big fight in front of you, one where you could have a huge payday, it’s hard to say no.  But what about when the decision is stolen from you?

Just ask Matt Vanda.  The ultra-tough boxer went up against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. back in July of 2008.  Vanda was by far the underdog, many said it would be a slaughter and he had no business getting in the ring with Chavez Jr.  It didn’t take long to see who was delivering the punishment.  

Round after round Vanda went at him, wearing him down to the point that Chavez Jr. couldn’t even stand up after the final bell.  While Vanda paced and bounced in the ring waiting for the decision, the crowd cheered him; the man everyone assumed was the winner.  

But it was not to be.

The decision went to Chavez Jr.  The crowd was stunned and they turned, fast.  They threw water bottles, trash, coins, and anything else they could find at the ring.  It was robbery.  And not just for that fight, but for what could’ve been.  Had he won, Vanda could have gone on to a huge payday.  Instead he refers to it as his hardest loss.

When asked about the toughest guy he’s ever boxed, Vanda has a hard time picking just one.

“There’s a lot of ‘em!  Caleb (Truax) for sure, Jesus Velverde back in the day, Tony Bonsante, all the instate guys were tough.  They gave me everything they had and I gave it right back.”  

Duluth, Minnesota boxing trainer Chuck Horton refers to Vanda as “The toughest S.O.B. I’ve ever met”.  When Vanda hears this he chuckles.

“You tell that S.O.B. he’s a tough S.O.B.!  He probably thinks that because I never give up, I just keep coming at ‘em.  I guess that’s why they call me The Predator.”

I’d go along with that.

Duluth, Minnesota boxing trainer Chuck Horton refers to Vanda as “The toughest S.O.B. I’ve ever met”.

Duluth, Minnesota boxing trainer Chuck Horton refers to Vanda as “The toughest S.O.B. I’ve ever met”.

But he’s not all brawn and no heart.  When he was first getting into the pro circuit, Vanda had a fight in Indiana one night.  Afterwards he was in the hotel bar celebrating.  He admits he was probably too young to even be in there, let alone to be drunk in there.  He saw a guy in the lobby “smacking around” a woman and there was no way he was going to let that continue.

“I saw the guy, and I went over there and told him to lay off.”  Vanda recalled, “he said go F— yourself.  I knocked him out and took his baseball hat.  My coach took it off my head and wrote on it.  It was to celebrate my second knock-out of the night.”  

And they say chivalry’s dead.

However, the Sweet Science isn’t all sunshine and daisies.  Before Vanda fought Caleb Truax in early 2013, he said it would be his last fight.  But when Truax delivered the loss, it wasn’t how Vanda wanted to go out.

“It wasn’t what I wanted.  It was such a good fight, and I was rejuvenated.  When I got the call for Black Bear (Casino in Carlton, Minnesota), I thought I could beat (Brooke) Welby and go out, it was good money.”

It sounded good in theory.  And then this happened.

After the win over Welby, Vanda got an offer for a fight in New York against Sean Monaghan. 

“I got the call, and I couldn’t turn down one more fight at Madison Square Garden, it’s such a good venue.”

But that fight wasn’t meant to go Vanda’s way, either.  An awkwardly landed hook left him with a torn bicep in the first round.  Unlike the match he fought with a broken hand, he was unable to continue with this injury.  He was done, dropping to his knees and pounding the canvas in frustration.

This would not be his big payday.  This would not be Vanda’s win.

Author: Roxanne Wilmes

Roxanne is a freelance writer, author, ghostwriter, and avid boxing fan. She first met Chuck Horton when she ran his wife’s campaign for MN House of Representatives. Past experiences have led her to be a strong advocate for anti-bullying and substance abuse issues. You can reach her at roxannewilmes@gmail.com or @rocketwilmes on Twitter.