In December 2017, Caleb Truax shocked the boxing world when he won a majority decision over International Boxing Federation (IBF) Super-Middleweight Champion James DeGale. Although he lost the title to DeGale in a rematch last spring, Truax has compiled 30-4-2 record with 19 knockouts since turning pro in 2007.
The Osseo native is currently prepping for a fight against former World Boxing Organization (WBO) Middleweight Champion Peter Quillin at the Minneapolis Armory on April 13. He hopes a victory over Quillin will lead to another title bout.
I chatted with the affable Truax late last month for an upcoming Minnesota Score magazine feature and learned a few things about boxing in the process.
DZ: You staying warm?
TRUAX: Hell no, man, it’s freezing. It’s warmed up to negative two in my car, according to my temp. I woke up to go work out this morning, it was like negative ten, man. I’m cool on that.
DZ: I’m with you. Well, you’re a lifelong Minnesotan so you’re used to this, right?
TRUAX: Yeah, I’m used to it, man.
DZ: Well, I just want to talk to you a little bit about the fight coming up and then just some other general questions about your career. First off, with the Quillin fight in April, how’s the training going?
TRUAX: It’s been going real well so far. I haven’t really done too much. It’s still almost three months out, so you have to kind of pace yourself so you don’t burn out or leave some in the gym. You want to peak at the right time. From January 1st until about, probably the end of February, I’m working out every day but I’m not doing super intense stuff. I’m sparring maybe once a week and then when March comes around, that’ll give me about six weeks to the fight. That’s when I’ll really pick things up and start sparring more often, maybe three times a week and bring some sparring partners in to kind of emulate Peter Quillin. Right now, I’m working out hard but not too intense. In about six weeks I’ll really pick it up.
DZ: I also want to talk to you about the DeGale fight, when you won the title. It’s been just over a year now. Just looking at the overall storyline of that, this Minnesota kid, you’re going to London on his turf. He’s the champ, the gold medalist, you’re a heavy underdog. It kind of looks like a movie script almost. When you look back on that, what stands out to you?
TRUAX: You know man, it’s still kind of a blur almost. Obviously, I went over there with full confidence, knowing that I could do it even though some people had me as a 41-1 underdog, I think. 35-1, or 41-1 is what I was hearing. But I was fully confident, my team was confident, and I just knew I had to go over there and put on a great performance and hopefully get a decision, you know? Thankfully the judge got it right and gave me the victory. I don’t know, man, I can’t really put my finger on anything that stands out, other than just going over there and getting the job done.
DZ: Then you did fight him again, I think it was last April…You went the distance, but the decision didn’t come out in your favor. How disappointing was that?
TRUAX: It sucked, man, because I thought that I did enough to win. He didn’t really do too much besides hold and headbutt me. He kind of fought dirty. I didn’t have my best performance so that made it a little bit more disappointing. At the same time, I thought I deserved the win. I try not to dwell on anything in the past, so I’ve moved on and hopefully someday, we can get to fight a third time to kind of settle the score. He’s got a big fight coming up in February against a British rival, Eubank, Jr. If he gets past that test, hopefully we can fight again in the future sometime to settle the score.
DZ: I kind of have a general question about boxing. Just being an average guy, average people don’t really get punched too often. I can’t remember the last time I got punched, probably like in middle school or high school and then it was-
TRUAX: Keep it that way. Keep it that way, man (laughs).
DZ: (Laughs) How do you gear up for that mentally? Do you get used to it eventually? How does that work?
TRUAX: I tell everybody that asks that question, it’s not a good thing to get used to. Eventually, it’s just part of your sport. It’s the same as getting cracked in hockey or football. Actually, I shouldn’t say the same. It’s worse than that. You just get hardened to it, and it’s part of the game.
DZ: What’s the recovery time like from a fight? Especially a long one that goes the distance?
TRUAX: It varies, man. I’ve had 12 round fights that I’ve been fine two days after. I’ve had 10 round fights where I was sore for three weeks after. It just depends on how the fight goes. If the opponent is a guy that brings a lot of pressure and makes you fight and makes you really work hard, then obviously the more grueling. The fight’s going to be more grueling. The recovery’s going to be a little bit longer. It just depends on how the fight goes, man.
If you get cut, then you have to – I got cut over both eyes in the second fight with DeGale, so that always adds a little bit more recovery time. Swelled up over my eyes and had to get stitches and stuff. It just all depends.
DZ: Has it changed at all as you’ve gotten into your 30’s versus when you were a real young guy in your early, mid-20’s?
TRUAX: You know, not so much. I don’t think so. I’ve got smarter when it comes to preparing for the fact that I’m going to have to recover. I do a lot more stuff, I guess, preemptively to get my body ready for it as far as massages and foam rolling. Recovery stuff prior to the fight that’s going to help me feel better afterwards. I spend more time on that now that I’m a little bit older and smarter about training. I guess the main difference that age has brought is just being able to go at it in training.
When I was younger, I could go out at night and do whatever I wanted and wake up the next morning at 6:00 and still do whatever I wanted. Now I have a hard day training, I go home and go to sleep at 8:00 and still I’m tired when I wake up in the morning. As far as the actual fight goes, there’s not too much of a difference there. I haven’t noticed it anyways yet.
DZ: Your next fight’s in the Armory. There’s a lot of history there, a lot of tradition with both Lakers and Golden Gloves back in the day, and Prince with the ‘1999’ video. What’s it going to be like fighting there?
TRUAX: It’s fantastic, man. They’ve done a great job of renovating it and turning into a national attraction for both concerts and now boxing. Premier Boxing, my promotional company, they signed a four-fight deal with the Armory to host four major televised fights in 2019. The first one being February 23rd, where Jamal James from Minneapolis, he’ll fight in the co-main event, and then mine will be the second on April 13th. I have two more this calendar year, and hopefully they’ll continue that relationship in 2020 and beyond.
It’s great, man. It looks great on TV. It feels great, the atmosphere is great while you’re in there. The sight lines are awesome for fans, the acoustics are awesome for fans. The bar is huge so nobody really has to wait to get a drink or anything like that. It’s just an overall great venue. Being that it’s at home in Minneapolis is that much more of a plus for me because I have to drive 30 minutes to get there and all my friends and family can hop in the car and drive downtown and park and come check me out.
DZ: There’s not a lot of boxing tradition in Minnesota. I read that you were the first world champion since the early 1900’s, so basically almost like the first one ever. Is that something you look to build on after you retire, or maybe even now?
TRUAX: Well actually, there is a lot of boxing tradition in Minnesota. It just kind of fell by the wayside because it’s not a major sport. If you go back to the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s, St. Paul was one of the boxing meccas of the world. We have a ton of – You have to do some research, man. There’s a ton of fighters from St. Paul that were world challengers. There’s two champions back around, like the 1900’s, 1920’s something like that. Their names escape me right now. Two world champions. In the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s, St. Paul was a mecca for boxing, like I said, throughout the whole world. We had a ton of great fighters, and then it kind of cooled off in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
Right now, there’s a resurgence with myself and Jamal James and Robert Brant. It’s cool to be a part of. Hopefully, we’re able to kind of bring it back to the forefront here in the state. Right now, we’re kind of flyover territory for the country, and even in our own state, there’s all four major sports. There’s the U of M, the Lynx, there’s just a ton of competition for sports fans in the Metro area. I think the Armory’s done a great job, I’ve done a great job, my promoters have done a great job of just bringing it up to the forefront and garnering a little bit more attention than it had these past couple decades.
Actually, 2005 I believe, was the last time there was a world champion. His name was Will Grigsby from St. Paul. He won a flyweight title twice, IBF flyweight title and WBO flyweight title, I think.
DZ: Okay, I didn’t see that. I looked online. Cool, thanks for the info.
TRUAX: Will Grigsby in 2005, I think.
DZ: You’re 35 now, which in the grand scheme of things, you’re a young man, but athletic-wise-
TRUAX: Not in boxing.
DZ: Yeah, exactly. Pretty much any sport. You’ve got an education (A Sociology degree from the University of Minnesota) to back you up. I read, doing some research on you, it sounds like you’ve got a big picture view with money and everything. What are your future plans?
TRUAX: Right now, I’m focused on just finishing out the last few years, however long I have left in my career. Like you said, I’m 35 and I know that it’s a young man’s sport. That being said, I feel good. I don’t have a lot of wear and tear on my body. I didn’t have a super long amateur career like some of these guys have where they had 100 or 200 amateur fights that really wore on them and adds a lot of mileage to their odometer over the years.
I’m 35, I take care of myself pretty well. I feel great, I’ve never had any injuries or anything like that that have caused me to miss a long amount of time. I feel like I’m a young 35 as far as boxing goes, but at the same time, a young 35 in boxing is still an old man. I’m focused on the sport for now.
I would love to stay involved with it after I retire, whenever that is, as far as commentating or just helping out younger boxers or even amateurs or whatever. I’m still going to always stay in the gym, but I’d love to contribute to the sport somehow and make a living off of it even when I’m retired from being an active fighter. I’ve kind of taken some steps to start that journey in just learning how to work with media and trying to start a commentating career, that type of thing. We’ll see how it goes, but for now, I’m just focused on fighting.
DZ: Just a couple quick things. I also saw you had a minor in political science. You’ve got some name recognition and media experience. Would running for office be anything you ever see yourself doing?
TRUAX: Originally, I had thought about that and I kind of had aspirations of running for local office, nothing major. But with the political climate as it is right now, man, I think I’m cool on that. I’m going to chill. I don’t need everybody digging up all my crazy stuff from the past. I’m going to relax for a little while on running for office.
DZ: I get that. One last thing. Obviously, concussions have been a big storyline in the NFL and even in boxing and other sports. Is that something you’re concerned about long term?
TRUAX: I’ve been fortunate enough to not really have any problems with concussions or anything as far as head injuries go in boxing. Obviously, it’s a contact sport and you get hit in the head, so it’s something that can happen and every fighter … You’re not worried about it, because if you’re worried about it then you’re focusing your energy on something that you can’t control and if you’re worried about it, you’re probably not competing to your full potential.
I take proactive steps to make sure nothing’s going on. I go to the Cleveland Clinic every year, which is, I think they’re like number one clinic in the world as far as head trauma and neurosurgery and stuff like that goes. They do a lot of testing and I’m part of a study there where they look at boxers and see if their motor skills are waning, or if there’s any adverse effects from your career. They can measure that and basically let you know that it’s time to be done before anything worse happens. So, I’ve done that for about four years in a row now, every spring, just to make sure there’s no problems, and that gives me peace of mind and more importantly, gives my girlfriend peace of mind that everything’s okay.
Like I said, it’s something that there’s a possibility of happening but if you’re worrying about it, you’re in the wrong sport.
DZ: Well, that’s all the questions that I have. Just wish you good luck in the fight coming up and try to stay warm this weekend.
TRUAX: Yeah, thanks, man. No ice fishing for me this weekend, man.
Via text a week later…
DZ: A quick follow up, when you had the IBF belt, where did you display it? Any good stories about it?
TRUAX: When you win a title, you are given a belt that’s yours to keep forever…I don’t have it displayed yet, but I’m planning on having a display case made soon.