With my last show of the year behind me I feel a huge sense of ease.  My priority now is to enjoy these last couple of months with my family.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner and I’m blessed to have two cute kids and a sweet wife at home.  To tell you the truth, without a solid home life supporting me in my boxing adventures my life would be a train wreck!

This time of year I get a more reflective mindset and enjoy looking back.  Sure there are plenty of folks wondering what’s next, and those events surely will come.  But for now I am reflecting back and enjoying a successful year of boxing.

Zach Walters examines all that happened in the past year.

Zach Walters examines all that happened in the past year.

In 2014 I had obligations to put on eight Professional and Pro/Am Boxing Shows.  I’m glad to say at this point it was a good year and they all came together well.  Along the way I’ve been able to work with numerous boxers on all levels who were fighting to make the best of their efforts in the ring.  Along with keeping my fighter, Al Sands, moving along in his Pro career, I’m glad to have been in a position to help so many Minnesota boxers stay busy and get their careers going, too.  

When I think about this list of names it’s really pretty impressive!

  • Ismail Muwendo improved to 16-0
  • Corey Rodriguez got three solid wins and had the opportunity to show everyone how good he really is
  • Tony Lee captured the NABU Lightweight Title
  • Dalton Outlaw had his first two pro fights
  • Jonathan Perez won the State Title
  • Damien Hill kept busy with a 1-1 showing on our shows
  • Rondale Hubbert won a TKO victory over the tough Jacob Fox
  • Markus Morris sprang into the local boxing scene and made a lot of noise
  • Don Tierney picked up a nice win after a long layoff
  • Cerresso Fort improved to 18-3 with a stunning performance on the Fall Brawl II card
  • Dustin Mason had his one fight of 2014 on our card
  • Stephen Watt went 1-1 on our shows and shocked many observers with his athleticism and toughness
  • And surrounding boxers like Duarn “The Storm” Vue who is now 3-0 1 KO

When it comes to Al Sands, let’s look at his year again.  He boxed his first Main Event in January, captured the NABA-US Cruiserweight title in April, defended his MN State Title in June, and then boxed and won the most dangerous test of his career in October by defeating the gate keeper, Andres Taylor, by a 10-round unanimous decision.  What a year!

I count each day in boxing a blessing.  In my reminiscing I remembered why I started coaching boxing in the first place.  I was in the first few months of boxing retirement and I was not happy.  In fact, you could say I was downright depressed.  I thought about all the years I spent engulfed in boxing and now wasn’t using a bit of it.  It seemed like such a waste.  Not only that, but my career as an insurance agent was just getting started and every month (regardless of how hard I pushed) I was behind the ball with bills.  I didn’t give up, though, and now have a very comfortable insurance career going.  But that’s not the point.

Horton called the boxers to attention and announced that he’d just turned the gym over to me.  We didn’t have a name for it yet, but it was no longer Horton’s Gym; even though I planned to not make big changes.

“Horton called the boxers to attention and announced that he’d just turned the gym over to me. We didn’t have a name for it yet, but it was no longer Horton’s Gym; even though I planned to not make big changes.Horton called the boxers to attention and announced that he’d just turned the gym over to me. We didn’t have a name for it yet, but it was no longer Horton’s Gym; even though I planned to not make big changes.

While searching for something to make me happy again, I wandered into my old gym, Horton’s Gym, and asked Chuck Horton if I could help out by teaching the new guys.  He said of course it would be okay, and I didn’t have to ask.  So I started filling in wherever I could.  A few weeks later Gary Eyer started training for a serious fight and Horton asked if I could take on Eyer’s role as full time amateur boxing coach while he trained.  I agreed.

A few months later Horton gave me a call to talk.  We went for a walk and along the way he expressed that he wanted to pass on the gym to me.  He was getting out of boxing; I was shocked and honored at the same time.  I thought this opportunity may not come around again, so I agreed to take him up on it and we went to the gym.

The gym was already in session when we arrived.  Horton called the boxers to attention and announced that he’d just turned the gym over to me.  We didn’t have a name for it yet, but it was no longer Horton’s Gym; even though I planned to not make big changes.  After this Horton walked out the door and I was left standing there with a couple dozen faces looking to me for what was next.  I called training back to action and returned to work with the newer boxers.

We had moved into a new location in Observation Park and Sands and I were getting a good rhythm going.  I didn’t know much about boxing from a managerial perspective, but I knew I made him a promise to help him have the best career I could give him.  At that point he was idle at 2-1, having lost his last fight.  That didn’t look like a fulfilled promise to me.

I called around until finally reaching Rick Calavera who made a spot for us on his card out in Minot, ND.  It was the momentum we needed and we took off.  I knew where I wanted to get him and I had a few plans of how to get there.  Then came the opportunity to promote shows at Black Bear Casino.  I knew this could help me get Sands the platform needed to grow.  I had help from a good friend of mine, Craig Samborski.  He had a lot of experience and knowledge from the music business and passed that on to me as I learned the promotions side of things on the first couple of shows.

From there the casino offered me a six-show agreement as a matchmaker.  The deal offered a year and a half of security to help further pioneer boxing into the Northland.  At that point I had a simple plan to get as many Minnesota boxers on my shows as possible, do my best to match them against out of state opposition, and build back the local fan base by steering Sands toward becoming a Main Event boxer.  I believed this would give Black Bear Casino what they wanted and fulfill my promise to Sands about building his career.  

Looking back I am glad to see we’ve done both. The casino has now hosted a good number of Minnesota boxing talent and they are definitely regarded as a legitimate boxing destination in our state.  Horton has stepped back in as a trainer for Sands, who’s now a top-rated boxer in his division, solidifying himself as a major attraction in the state.  Each show also gave me an opportunity to meet up-and-coming talent as we filled the cards to build good events.  Because of this I have been able to match and maneuver some of the best boxers in our state.

So now at the end of 2014 I realize I’m coming out of being neck-deep in boxing.  I got involved with boxing as a coach simply to get happy.  I started playing around in the pros simply to help fulfill a promise to a friend.  I never did it as a business move; I got into it so I could do my part to give back to the sport that gave me so much.

Sure there are some shows that make a few bucks, but there are others that lose money at the gate, too.  Any honest boxing promoter will tell you the same thing.  Boxing promotions as a business is a really tough gig.  To keep doing it you have to be one that honestly loves the sport.  In the end, I always remind myself that’s why I’m doing things.  Does boxing still make me happy?  Yes.  Have I been doing my best to honor a promise to a friend?  Yes.

Will I do more shows in 2015?  Probably yes.  But for now I’m going to enjoy my family and the Holidays ahead.  I’ll keep showing up to the gym to train my amateur fighters and do my best to guide them right in the ring and in life.  A big thank you goes out to my advisor, Chuck Horton, and all those who have helped me pull off the shows.  There’s no way I’d have been able to do all of this on my own.  Every event has a network of help with very important things to do and I’m thankful to each one.  You know who you are!  God bless you.

Have a great Holiday Season!