The Road to my 4th Pro Fight

There was a lot of questioning going on in my mind between my 3rd and 4th fight. What was I doing in the pro’s anyway? Chuck Horton and I continued to work toward getting the pro boxing picture up and running in the Twin Ports, but our advances continued to be slow. During this time we held over 13 small shows, all of which didn’t go on my record. We packed little venues to the wall in Superior, WI and the surrounding area. Places like Tyomy’s Bar and Fat Daddy’s Bar in Superior Wisconsin, couple at Solon Springs Community Center, The Pit Stop in Proctor, Fergus Falls Armory, shows right in the gym, and even a big show at UMD Romano Gym. Some of the shows were exhibition fights and some of them were straight up fights that didn’t get documented in my professional record. The goal was to fight as much as possible and get in front of a crowd as much as possible. I kept an “off the record” type record book that documented my fights and the results. Some of the boxers used aliases and others didn’t. It was a fast-paced saturation of boxing shows with me as the usual main event of the night. The shows usually drew a few hundred people and a loyal fan base of support started to develop as we did more shows. Sometimes we had a mix of MMA, Kick Boxing, and Boxing all on one night. Crazy…, but we just wanted to keep pushing ahead. The shows were always different and exciting.

 

Zach Walters, who is now a family man and head trainer of Jungle Boy Boxing Gym, talks about the path to his fourth career fight as a professional boxer

Zach Walters, who is now a family man and head trainer of Jungle Boy Boxing Gym, talks about the path to his fourth career fight as a professional boxer

During this time Minnesota still didn’t have their boxing commission. Any fight that was to count on the books needed to have an out-of-state commission come in to sanction the event. There were commissioners from Colorado, Iowa, or Oklahoma that would frequently come up to sanction the fights. This was an additional cost on top of paying the boxers to compete on the cards. The local crowds were still growing, but not enough to justify all the additional expenses of an out-of-state commission.

Other boxers in Minnesota were turning pro the same time I was. It was like we were a graduating class of boxers chasing our dreams into the pros.  Jason and Allen

were two of the boxers that were active in my amateur days. These two characters could really fight and were very successful amateur boxers. I had known them for quite a while and never forgot the day I met them. It was my first time at the 4-State Silver Gloves Tournament. The tournament was held in Fergus Falls and all the boxers were staying in the Best Western Hotel down the road. I lived in a neighboring town at the time so I too stayed at the hotel. The weekend was insanely snowy and many teams couldn’t make it. The ones that did were the few that came early to dodge the storm. Anyway, I was passing through the pool area on my way to my room when I walked by Jason and Allen Litzau and

Zach remembers his first encounter with the Litzau brothers

Zach remembers his first encounter with the Litzau brothers

Antonio Johnson. Jason asked me what weight I boxed and when I told him I was 140lbs he said I should be glad I wasn’t in his older brother Allen’s weight class cuz he’d ‘whip my ass.’ I was shocked! I didn’t know how to take this. Jason must have been about 90lbs at the time and his brother couldn’t have been more than 106lbs. Both were littler than me so I thought they were kidding. They were not. I brushed it off as a joke and continued on. Those two would go on to become top-10 rated amateur boxers in the USA. We eventually became friends as we continually attended tournaments. They were always a lot of fun! They always had a lot to say and where not afraid to back it up in the ring. Anyway, I had known them for quite a while by the time they were in the pro’s. They had become a promotional piece called “The American Boys”. They were a package deal. They had stuck together since their early days of boxing and nothing was to separate them. That was that. If you were to see Jason, you were sure to see Allen too. They had both turned pro in 2002, and then took showcase fights in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Antonio Margarito vs Andrew Lewis (WBO World Title Fight) undercard a few months earlier. What a cool opportunity!

This show they were on would be their second show at the St Paul Armory. It was set up as a huge homecoming type event. There was a big buzz about these two and I was glad to be on the card.

I trained hard for the fight. At this point in my pro career I was fighting guys I had no idea what they were made of. I didn’t know how to read a pro record. You see, in the amateurs it’s all about “how many fights you have”, not so much what your record was. If a boxer had 20+ fights he was considered an experienced boxer. In the pros it was different. A boxer with three fights could be 3-0 but be a serious threat. Or a boxer could have 20 fights but a mixed record of say 5-15 and you could see that he may not be as much of a threat. Anyway, I was matched with a guy that was 8-47-3. 50+ fights! I didn’t know what to think of this! Granted he’d lost most of his fights, but you could also say he had tons more professional experience. I thought to myself “if this guy decides to draw on his experience he could be a threat.” I just trained hard and did my best to be ready for anything. I had an official record of 2-0 1KO with 1 NC (No Contest) so this was my third official fight for my record. I had about 9 fights that weren’t on my record, but that just made me feel more confident in front of a crowd. I was familiar with showmanship by now and knew what the crowd wanted. They wanted KO’s.

Bill Plum was the one in my corner for this fight. He and Chuck Horton had trained me together for years and I was very comfortable with both in my corner. I was fully confident with my corner and in my ability to beat my opponent. I was happy to be on a card with a fight that counted toward my official record and now it was time to get in the ring and prove I was as good as I thought I was.

I got warmed up and walked to the ring. My fan base was still small at this time, but there were still enough people there to cheer me into the ring through a tunnel of cheering fans. It was great to get this reception outside of Duluth. My opponent was already in the ring pacing around with a scowl on his face. I got in the ring and took a lap around to feel my space. The first bell rang and it was time to box. I started off behind a stiff jab. My reach was a huge factor in this fight as my opponent was short and more muscular. He tried to cut the ring off with movement, but I was able to throw a fast combination and dart out of the way back to the middle of the ring. This cat and mouse game took up the first two rounds until I got caught with a big shot. I wasn’t hurt, but it looked bad. I got back to my corner where Bill Plum yelled at me and asked; “Why are you playing around in there. Don’t embarrass yourself. Get in there and do your job!” I never thought of it that way. You know… like I had a job to do. Boxing was always something I did because I liked it. It was never a job. But Bill Plum had a point. I was down there to show I was an up-n-comer so the point was clear.

The next round I took more initiative to attack Gerald Sheldon. Instead of backing up and leaving jabs behind to set up counters I marched him down with my jab and landed power shots behind. I hurt him a few times in the third round, but he hung in there tough. He tried fighting me off a few times, but I shut down his attacks with a greater one. The third round wrapped up with me pummeling him into the ropes at the final 10-seconds bell.

Bill Plum was more pleasant in the corner this time. He even had a grin on his face as if he was amused at the thrashing I had put on my opponent. He was short and direct this time. He said; “There we go. That’s more like it. Now you have one round to put this guy away, or you can consider this trip a waste of my time.” He knew how to light a fire under my butt. I would have been happy winning on points if not for him. The next round I finally caught Gerald Sheldon with some clean shots and hurt him bad enough to drop him. He got up, but it would have been better for him to stay down. I rushed in with a lead right over his lead jab that staggered him back. I continued to follow him as he fell backward with a few jabs and finished things with a slamming right had. He crumbled to his knees in the corner and the ref stopped the fight. I won via TKO-4. My official record improved to 3-0 2 KO (1 No Contest).  I was happy with my victory and thanked my opponent for the fight. Following the fight, I got paid with an envelope of crisp $100 dollar bills. It felt pretty good.

I didn’t know how far boxing would take me, but in these days I was happy to be able to make a few bucks for doing what I loved to do. When I got back to my temporary home at the gym it all seemed worth it. I thought to myself, “This sure beats washing dishes at Red Lobster!”  My college schooling was back on track and I had my first appearance on the Dean’s List that spring. I was still on probation and in the Drug Court program, but that only seemed like a formality I needed to complete to get my life back. I saw the program as an opportunity more than a consequence. I felt like these were people that cared about me and just wanted to help if I let them. It seemed like so long ago, but as I write this story those times still feel like yesterday.

It’s amazing how fast life moves on. How at the start of something it seems so long, but when it’s over it feels like a flash. What I’m trying to say is, savor the moments as they happen because they go so fast.

I am thankful one of my professors gave me that advice early on. I started keeping a journal about my life and times. Doing this gave me a moment to step outside myself to see my life from a third person perspective. Writing about my life as it happened helped me to savor the unique times of my career.

That being said, in the grand scheme of things my 4th pro fight could be looked upon as just another fight, but for me it was a brick in the foundation of something big I was working to build. Something I had no idea how big it would become, but I had a feeling it was going to be pretty cool in the end.

Author: Zach Walters