Boxer Caleb Truax “Cuts No Corners” on His Way To Being World Champ

Caleb Truax pulls no punches on the secret to his boxing success. The 34-year-old Osseo native calls this his mantra—cut no corners. It’s one of the hashtags he uses on social media. That simple phrase, he tells youngsters when speaking at schools, is hard-hitting advice in and out of the ring.

“I’m a guy who didn’t start boxing until I was 19, now I’m world champion,” says Truax, who was featured in the April 2010 issue of Maple Grove Magazine. “Most people think you have to start doing something like boxing when you’re a kid. That wasn’t the case with me. I had to make up for experience with hard work and not cutting any corners and doing things the right way.”

Truax credits that approach with helping him reach the crowning achievement of his boxing career last December in England when he beat James DeGale in a majority decision to win the International Boxing Federation (IBF) super-middleweight title. The fight was one of the biggest boxing upsets of 2017. Truax was a huge underdog—the betting odds anywhere from 16–1 to 41–1—against British boxer DeGale, a former Olympic Gold medalist and reigning International Boxing Council (IBC) champion.
“I imagine a lot of people over in Britain think it was just a fluke,” he says. His win drew comparisons to James “Cinderella Man” Braddock, who beat the heavily favored Max Baer for the heavyweight championship in 1935. The 2005 movie, Cinderella Man, is based on Braddock’s life. Truax wants none of that. The veteran fighter never counted himself out. And he never doubted he could be champ. “I don’t think of it that way,” Truax says. “I think it’s a culmination of 14 years hard work and sticking to it and doing what I love to do.”

Leading up to a planned rematch, Truax was confident he can beat DeGale again. Truax, however, lost that rematch April 7 in Las Vegas. DeGale won by unanimous decision, but the fight was a fierce, close battle. Afterward, Truax posted a photo on Twitter of himself and DeGale—both battered but smiling—in an ambulance. “Bloody fight last night,” he writes, “but at the end of the day boxing is a gentleman’s sport.” He teased the possibility of a third fight by adding a new hashtag: rubber match. It is only the fourth time a Minnesotan has won a “legitimate” world title, he says. St. Paul native Will Grigsby, who won the IBF junior flyweight title twice between 1998 and 2006, is the last boxer to do it before Truax.

“Boxing is 90 percent mental,” he says. “When you get to the level that I’m at, everyone is elite. What separates boxers is what’s going on in their head.”

Constant battle

Truax jabs at a heavy punching bag, aiming his right glove at a swathe of duct tape, located about chest high if it were another boxer. Despite being champ, he blends in among the other fighters at Lyke’s Anoka-Coon Rapids Boxing Gym. “Just working on different combinations, thinking about the guy I’m going to fight next,” he says between punches.

Named for its head coach Ron Lyke the nonprofit gym is old school. “People make the gym, the gym doesn’t make the people,” says Lyke, who is also Truax’s manager. “It’s a gym straight out of Rocky,” Truax says. “It smells, the ceiling is leaking, there are mice in here. Everything that [could go] wrong with this place probably has, but the people in here are great, and we got all the stuff to make world champions.”

Lyke is proud of how Truax fought to win the title, what he calls one of the biggest upsets ever. “It wasn’t even that close of a fight,” he says. “He kicked his butt. He should be getting more credit. I don’t know if people appreciate him as a fighter and what he did in England. He needs to be exposed more.”

Lyke has been a constant in Truax’s boxing career. The Coon Rapids resident says Truax is the easiest kid he’s ever trained. “He is what he is because he’s smart,” Lyke says. “A lot smarter than your average boxer. He thinks things out. He’ll throw a combination, and he’ll do it over in his mind, and he’ll go back there and do it.”

As Truax readily admits, his persona is different when he’s fighting. “You have to have a switch that you turn on in the ring,” he says. “I’m low-key and laid-back out of the ring. In it, you have to be focused, and you want to hurt people. That’s against my nature outside the ring. I don’t know how the switch goes on, but it does.”

Training to be the best, Truax says, is a constant battle. He works out twice a day, every day—Lyke’s in the afternoons and Be-Fit Body Evolution Fitness or Life Time Fitness, both in Maple Grove, in the mornings (if he’s not running outdoors). “I don’t like having to make weight. I don’t like being sore all the time, but I love competing,” he says.

A one-two combination consisting of his competitive fire and a way to provide for his family fuels his boxing ambitions. He and his girlfriend, Michelle Stocke, live in the house they bought last year in St. Michael with their daughter, Gia, 2. “I know if I win this fight, and especially if I win a couple of fights in a row, that’s my windfall for my family and me,” he says before the rematch. “It allows me to provide my daughter and any future children a better life than I did.”

Getting hooked

Truax played football and baseball at Osseo Senior High, where he graduated in 2002.

He went to Virginia State University to play football, but a high school knee injury never improved. After a year, he transferred to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he earned a sociology degree while also “falling into boxing,” he says.

Truax stepped into the ring for the first time in a Toughman Contest. After about 35 amateur bouts, he turned pro in 2007. His boxing nickname is “Golden,” a nod to his alma mater.

One of his original goals of turning pro was to pay off his student loans, which he did last year.
“Boxing is different from any other sport I’ve played,” he says. “It’s just you against the other guy, and there are no teammates to fall back on. It’s lonely out there in the ring, but it’s rewarding when you get the job done.”

At 34, Truax knows he’s in the later rounds of his boxing career. But, he figures the wear of fighting on his body is less than most boxers his age since he began his career at an older age.

“I don’t want to be one of those guys who fights too long and takes damage just to make money at the end of my career,” he says. “It’s a young man’s sport, and I want to fight for a couple more years, cement my legacy and sail off into the sunset.”

Truax’s talked in the past of running for political office after hanging up the boxing gloves. Now? “Maybe. I’m not sure I want to in the political climate we have right now,” says Truax, who minored in college in political science and African-American studies. “If I can string together a few wins, my goal would be to retire and volunteer my time, speak at schools and help kids here in the gym.”