Local boxer Caleb Truax is one fight away from a shot at a world title, and he still trains at this grassroots gym

"We got no hot water, and the roof leaks, but we got some tough guys."

Jared Goyette
April 11, 2019 - 3:27 pm
Categories: 

When Osseo native Caleb Truax takes on Peter Quillin in a nationally televised boxing match Saturday at the Armory, the two men will trade blows, but they'll also share some common ground.

Both are former champions, and neither can afford to lose.

"This is a crossroads fight for both of us," Truax told WCCO Radio's Henry Lake during a recent visit to the gym where he trains in Coon Rapids. "We're both 35. The winner gets a title shot. The loser? Who knows where the loser goes."

The fight, which will be carried live on FS1 starting at 9 p.m., is expected to be close, and at least one boxing expert has Truax as a slight favorite. "It's a big fight. The stakes are high. I think both men are going to bring it and I'm going to come out on top," Truax said.

While Truax is confident, the truth is that, win or lose, he has a remarkable story. To understand why, it helps to see the place where he trains—a nondescript, one story concrete box of a building tucked by Highway 610 in Coon Rapids. (See the video aboove this story for a tour.) 

WCCO's Henry Lake with Caleb Truax

The gym, Lykes ACR Boxing, is run by Ron Lykes, a veteran trainer and coach. He's a member of the Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame and Truax's manager.

Lykes spotted Truax's in a backyard "Toughman Competition" in 2003. Truax ,19 at the time, had been a football and a basketball star at Osseo Senior High School and was new to fighting, but soon afterwards, he started training with Lykes.

It would be a productive partnership. Truax went from losing his first Toughman Fight in 2003 to becoming the  Upper Midwest Golden Gloves Champion only three years later. A counter puncher with a "cerebral" and methodical style, he would eventually turn pro, and claim the IBF World Super Middleweight title in a dramatic and unlikely fashion in 2017, when he traveled to London to face British boxer James DeGale.

At that point Truax was an experienced pro but had lost a couple of close fights, and DeGale was expected to cruise to victory. The Sun, the famous British tabloid, was bullish in its prediction. "DeGale is the huge favorite and this is merely a tune up fight as he awaits a super fight against either Chris Eubank Jr or George Groves."

Truax won in one of the biggest upsets of the year.

Lykes recalled just how shocked the crowd in London was that night. "They didn't believe us in London. They thought, 'Who are these guys? They had 20 guys in the other corner, and we're over there, the four of us, from Minnesota, which is not a boxing state anyhow."

DeGale would win the rematch, but Truax had made a name for himself in way that no would would have expected from someone who trains in a Coon Rapids gym that's smaller than most TGIFridays.

Truax still trains at ARC. A banner marking his title hangs from the ceiling, and there's a poster board by the entrance with snapshots going back to his days as an amateur.

"It's cool to come in and look at all the memories that we've had because this group is a real close knit group," Truax said. "Pretty much everyone who is on that posted is still in the gym today. We've been together for 15 years basically, training every single day and working hard together."

The space may be small, but the coaches know what they're doing.

"We got a little bit of heat. We got no hot water, and the roof leaks, but we got some tough guys," Lykes said.