Caleb Truax will fight as a world champion for the first time Saturday night against an opponent he defeated by majority decision back in December. And yet Truax has been designated the underdog.
“Good question,” Truax said. “I saw that I was a 6-1 underdog to start. I’m not an expert when it comes to odds, but if I was making them, I wouldn’t have me as the underdog.”
Apparently, the pride of Osseo has to prove boxing’s oddsmakers wrong again before gaining proper respect. Truax granted a rematch to former IBF supermiddleweight champion James DeGale in a title bout televised on Showtime in the fight capital of Las Vegas.
This is the biggest fight of Truax’s life — in purse, prestige, stage and for his future. He intends to prove his first victory over DeGale was no fluke, a claim he has heard repeatedly in the buildup.
“When you win a title, you automatically get 25 percent better because your confidence goes through the roof,” Truax said. “I earned it and I don’t want anyone to take my title away from me. I know if I don’t win that’s going to hurt my pockets [financially] and I don’t want that either.”
He is not going to complain about getting his first chance to fight in the bright lights of Vegas, but if he had his druthers, he would defend his title here in his hometown.
Truax said DeGale wanted no part of that, even though Truax fought DeGale in his native England in their first bout. “I was kind of hoping for the same reciprocity,” Truax said.
He even had the location picked out — the Armory in downtown Minneapolis. Truax first noticed the historic building when he had jury duty about 10 years ago. He parked in a garage next to the Armory.
“It was all busted up, junky old building,” he said.
Truax toured the renovated Armory this past December, a few weeks before the Super Bowl, and was blown away. He immediately thought to himself, “Man, I’ve got to get a fight here.”
That will have to wait until later. His first priority is to retain his belt against an opponent that he expects will take him more seriously this time. DeGale basically treated Truax as an afterthought before their first fight and Truax shocked him and the boxing world.
Truax carries a “target” now as the champ, and DeGale probably won’t use the same game plan. Truax anticipates him making adjustments so he has worked on different scenarios in training.
“I don’t expect it to be easy this time around like I thought it was last time,” he said. “He’s going to be hungry to get his belt back and kind of erase the shame that he felt for losing to a guy he wasn’t supposed to lose to.”
Truax didn’t suffer any injuries or significant punishment in their first bout so he was able to resume training two weeks after returning from England. Or, as he joked, he didn’t “sit around on the sideline and drink too much beer.”
He had the longest training camp of his career. He trained twice a day, sometimes three times. He flew in two sparring partners from California that are Southpaws like DeGale and can emulate his style.
Truax traveled to Vegas earlier this week upbeat about his preparation. He doesn’t have a bombastic personality. He talks with self-confidence but not cockiness. He doesn’t spend every second of interviews spewing praise of himself.
“It motivates me seeing that I’m the underdog going into the fight,” he said. “Seeing that people are calling the first fight a fluke, hearing him say that I’m not on his level, it’s all motivation. I just want to silence the critics and shut him up.”
This opportunity has been a long time coming for Truax, who made his professional debut 11 years ago Friday. He hit bottom in 2016 when he nearly quit boxing after losing to Anthony Dirrell by technical knockout in the first round.
Now, at age 34, the boxer who goes by the nickname “Golden” will fight in Vegas as a world champion. A golden moment for him, indeed.
Chip Scoggins • firstname.lastname@example.org