Caleb Truax laughs. It’s not a nervous laugh, nor one of derision to my ignorance – I mean, I have just asked him to walk me through the relatively straightforward process of ice fishing. It’s wholesome and genuine; relaxed and welcoming. There is an aura of calm exuding from the former IBF super middleweight champion as he sits in his car surrounded by a blanket of powdery snow. He takes a deep breath, and the adrenaline caused by his second workout of the day subsides.
“I love Minnesota, man. It’s low-key, like myself,” he admits to Bad Left Hook, gazing out of his foggy windows. “The weather makes everyone tough here, whether they like it or not. But it’s home.”
Truax (31-4-2, 19 KO) hasn’t fought away from his home in Minneapolis since 2018. The world was a different place then. “Golden” fought James DeGale twice over the course of four months, trading leather for 24 rounds, and exchanging the IBF title at 168 pounds back and forth in the process. Now, at 37 years of age, he’s been handed one last chance at regaining that title, taking on Caleb Plant (20-0, 12), on Jan. 30 inside the Shrine Exposition Center, Los Angeles.
“Plant is a very good boxer,” he explains. “He’s got good speed, good accuracy, a high ring intelligence and throws good combinations. I’ll have to break those up and negate his speed with my own timing and pressure. I’m expecting a tough fight, man, similar to the one with DeGale. I’m going to have to bring the fight to him and make it more of a slugfest.
“I’ve got that added incentive of trying to win my belt back – that’s been a massive goal of mine ever since I lost it. I understand that I’m the underdog again, but that’s what I thrive off. I really embrace people doubting me and getting the opportunity to prove them wrong.”
It’s not been plain sailing for Truax. A mixture of injuries have blighted the Indian Summer of his career, including an Achilles problem following a nasty cut against Peter Quillin and heat exhaustion in the run-up to his cancelled fight against Alfredo Angulo.
“Ah, that was such a disappointment,” he added. “I’ve never suffered like that previously in preparation for a fight. I passed out during the weight cut and got real sick with flu-like symptoms. This would have been a winnable fight for me, and I was worried that this was going to cause a major setback in opportunities.”
Truax is attempting to benefit from the school of marginal gains. Recovery between training sessions is a key focus of his now, with yoga a new string to his bow.
“I was badly mistaken in thinking it was a light workout,” he confessed. “I’m just not very flexible at all. A friend of mine introduced it to me but it turns out it’s really hard work! Still, it helps me stay fresh and healthy. I’m not as young as I used to be.”
Caleb and I were happy talking boxing, but it became abundantly clear throughout our conversation that the 37-year-old had more than half an eye on his life away from the sport. This isn’t to detract from his commitment to the cause on Jan. 30 – he predictably referenced his “awesome” training camp and indicated that everything had “more than gone to plan” – but simply to suggest that every achievement from now on is his career would be considered a bonus.
He’s happy; content in admiring the fruits of his career, unshackled from the day-to-day pressures of a prizefighter. Boxing no longer defines who he is, with the bucolic bliss of the Minnesota simple-life his true passion. And it’s a joy to indulge.
“So, basically, first, you’ve got to wait for the lake to freeze over,” he expanded on for my benefit. “Then you’ve gotta walk out on the sections that are thick enough, and drill a hole in the ice. You plop your line in and then wait. Hopefully, you’ll get lucky. It’s just magical out on the lakes. In the summer we’d catch some fish and stick them on the grill, have a few beers. Ah, it’s great man.”
Oh, speaking of beers, he’s crafted one of his own. Why wouldn’t he? Out of the Lupulin Brewing Company, Big Lake Minnesota, ‘8 Count’ is produced and shipped across the United States.
“It’s an IPA with fruity notes, a bit of orange and coconut in there,” he said, ostensibly excited about the project. “It’s great. Boxing and beer kind of go hand in hand so it made sense!”
We discuss his family life, his two young children — neither of which he likes to watch him fight – and his preference for a quiet life outside the ring continues to penetrate the conversation.
“All I need is their support,” he confirms. “I’m not that guy who needs a bit entourage or loads of support ringside. My girlfriend used to watch, but now she can’t stand to. All she wants to know is that I’m safe after each fight, which I understand.”
There’s clearly less boxing ahead of Caleb than there has been in his past and his thoughts are easily turned towards retirement plans.
“I might want to get involved in government, just at a local level. I’m interested in public policy and trying to make peoples lives better. Working for a council or a city, maybe? Let’s see. Saying that I’d still like to stay in the [boxing] game in some aspect. Not as a coach or a manager, but as a commentator or analyst.”
Conversation naturally gravitated around the scenes of the Capitol riots at the start of the month. His embarrassment was obvious but managed to convey his emotions articulately to an “outsider” Brit.
“January 6: it’s a day that will haunt myself and the USA forever. It was an embarrassing display for our country and I would be lying if I were to say I was surprised it was going to happen. That’s been the climate for the last four years now, and I’m glad it’s changing, that’s for sure – as, I’m sure, is the rest of the world.
“I couldn’t help but think as I was watching on the news: what would have happened if those people looked like me, or Muslim? It was an incredibly sobering moment for our country. I know I mentioned getting involved at a local level, but that’s the kind of thing makes you want to stay out of politics. The climate is so ass-backwards at the moment that it makes you want to go nowhere near it.”
Truax convinces me he is well prepared for Jan. 30 and I believe him. But a part of me feels that the hunger and desire for the good, simple life in Minnesota burns just as deep as any more boxing accolades. He’s happy to admit that this is a “last chance saloon” at a world title and, perhaps, this is the last time we see the former world champion grace a ring.
“I want to be remembered as a fan-friendly fighter and one that always gave an honest effort. One that never cut any corners, had fun along the way and treated the sport with respect. I’ve approached boxing like I approach life: always trying to get the most out of it.”
“I think people that watch my career identify with that and that’s why I have a pretty big and loyal following. I’m just a regular dude. I don’t do anything crazy or any flashy shit – I’ve never had any controversy in my career. Just a normal guy.”
He’ll be looking to achieve something abnormal in two weeks time, reversing the 15/1 odds that say he won’t be able to prize his former IBF title away from Caleb Plant.
But if he can’t, something tells me that he’ll be okay. He’ll head back to Minnesota, crack open a cold one, and carry on enjoying the simple life, surrounded by love.