By Drew James
Professional boxing returned to the DECC in Duluth, MN on Saturday for the first time in fourteen years as Minnesota light heavyweight champion, Zach “Jungle Boy” Walters made his hometown debut against “Iron Jaw” Jesse Sanders. A crowd in excess of 3,000 showed up to support their local hero as he took the biggest step of his young career. The fight started slowly with both fighters throwing but neither landing anything significant. As they reached the middle rounds, it looked as if the “Jungle Boy” seemed to have found his groove and began landing the left hook and uppercut regularly. Walters, was the aggressor for most of the bout, keeping Sanders outside with his long left jab. Sanders, 11-3, (10 KOs), of Oskaloosa, Iowa, was bleeding from the nose and forehead after two accidental head butts in the early rounds, but continued to stand toe-to-toe with his opponent and exchange all night. Walters suffered a cut of his own after an accidental head butt in the seventh round. Sanders threw a lunging right hook and heads collided, opening a small gash over the left eye of Walters. "It was unfortunate I got a head butt, but I feel great about the night," Walters said. All three judges had it for Walters by scores of 79-73, 80-72, and 80-73.
Despite fighting without regular trainer Buddy McGirt in his corner, Walters showed good discipline and was able to fight the fight he wanted outside instead of giving into the crowd and slugging it out inside. After the fight, Sanders got on the mic and showed true class by thanking the fans and congratulating his opponent on his victory. “I’d like to start off by saying that all you people in Minnesota have been great. When Zach’s manager called me to take the fight I was hesitant because I had just gotten back from Montreal where I was fighting someone in his own backyard and the people up there were ruder than hell. Coming to Minnesota to fight Zach was probably the best decision I‘ve ever made. I had no idea this boy could take a punch like that! I hit him with everything I had but he just kept coming forward. Everybody in Minnesota better support this guy because he‘s a hell of a fighter and he‘s going places.”
Both fighters showed tremendous respect for one another as they hugged and raised each others hand before leaving the ring. After the show, Walters was escorted to the local area hospital to receive stitches for his cut. Walters improves to 11-1 (9 KOs).
In other action…
North Dakota’s Andy “Chaos” Kolle maintained his undefeated record as he stopped late sub John Turner in the third round of their super middleweight contest. Kolle (4-0) had no problem landing his straight left upstairs throughout the fight and used his southpaw stance to keep Turner off balance. In the second round, Kolle landed a devastating straight left and followed with a flurry of punches that sent Turner though the ropes and onto a press row table but somehow Turner was able to beat the count and continue. Things would only get worse for Turner as Kolle landed yet another left hand that dropped him again in the third round. To Turner’s credit he would get up again and try to continue but a flurry of punches from Kolle would force the referee to step in and stop the fight. Kolle improves to (5-0) while Turner falls to (2-6).
Undefeated welterweight prospect Scott Ball of Minnesota used a Hatton-esque body attack to wear down the very durable Kane Pudwill of North Dakota. Ball (4-0) started slow in the first but began landing vicious shots to the body late in the round that had his opponent cringing. In the second, Ball landed a lead uppercut that would drop Pudwill for the first of three times throughout the fight. Pudwill (5-7) was knocked down twice in the third and veteran referee Denny Nelson stepped in after the second knockdown of the round and stopped the fight. Scott Ball improves to 5-0 (5 KOs) while Kane Pudwill falls to (5-8).
Ultimate Fighter turned boxer Travis Fullton kept his perfect knockout record intact with a KO of late sub Rory Prazack in the second round of their heavyweight contest. Prazack replaced 2003 Golden Gloves super heavyweight champion Rafael Butler who was originally scheduled to be the co-feature but suffered a devestating upset loss in Colorado just three weeks ago. Both men had their moments early on but Fullton would eventually overpower his man and knock him out with a solid right hook to the head. Fullton improves to 12-9 (12 KOs) while Rory Prazack fell to 0-2.