LAASE'S BOXING DREAM BECOMING A REALITY
BY RAY KILGORE
no-nonsense mindset keeps RJ Laase's passion fueled in the turbulent
world of boxing
It seems that early on in RJ Laase's life, he knew instinctively that
life would give him up-and-down battles from time to time. He came from
a somewhat difficult upbringing and at only 24years old, the fighter
has, over the past several years, encountered struggles in the sport
that have left him baffled at times. But in the end, the 147-pounder
has seemed to come out wiser, more determined, and more emotionally
Laase's real name is Ronald, and he was born in West Duluth. From a
distance it's easy to conclude that he's a guy with no time for fruitless
chit-chat and silly games. But the opposite is true. I met with him
one day during training camp for his match against Don Tierney, whom
Laase stopped by TKO in round one in April of this year. Leading up
to the fight, Laase would drive three hours one way from Duluth to Minneapolis
to train at Uppercut gym. One day during a training session, he was
seated on the ring apron during a one-minute break and he teased his
new trainer, Jason Henderson, about a variety of topics. The more Laase
joked with Henderson, the more the two men seemed to enjoy each other's
But Lasse and Henderson were both aware that each was there for one
reason: to take care of business, getting ready for Tierney. Love it
or hate it, Laase doesn't whitewash his thoughts or feelings, and for
this interview he talked openly about many topics. One topic we discussed
was why he cut his amateur career short, foregoing the possibility of
taking it to the next level.
"Growing up, the plan from my first fight was to be a professional
boxer. I wasn't worried about capturing a Golden Gloves title or going
to the Olympics," said Laase.
"I had 40+ amateur fights by the time I was 18 years old. Why fight
for trophies and medals? No offense to any fighter that does. I didn't
get burnt out. I didn't get punchy. I was always trained to fight the
pro 10-point system. The amateurs wouldn't have suited my style when
it comes to the scorecards."
Like any sports figure, Laase envisioned the perfect setup for his career.
But a few years ago, the dream got foggier, and things turned bleak
for a while. "That was a very ugly time in my life," said
the fighter, whose record is 8-1-0 (5 KOs), as he reflected on his first
professional defeat to Hector Orozco in 2009. "A lot of personal
issues arose, weeks prior to the fight. I lost focus in the most crucial
time of training camp. Bad sleeping conditions and poor choices. Excuses
aside, that's not my style. I took the fight regardless, as a true fighter
does, and lost."
Laase avenged the defeat by outpointing Orozco in 2011, and once again
Laase jabbed his way along quite smoothly, winning his next three until
he was hit with yet another unexpected blow--this time not in the ring
but outside it.
"When Chuck [Horton Laase's first trainer] announced his retirement,
I was oblivious to it," said Laase. "I had people calling
me Sunday afternoon asking me, 'Who's going to train you now that Horton
retired?'" I was lost." Why didn't I get a phone call or been
told to my face?" the fighter asked rhetorically.
But boxing is about finesse and putting situations into perspective,
and this is what Laase did. "I grew up in this business. I've already
seen the good, the bad and the ugly," he said. "I looked at
it as a blessing in disguise. It opened the door to many more opportunities
and control over my future."
Laase reemerged in a way which represented the most tangible expression
of his career since turning professional in 2007.
"It was a lot of work," the fighter said about his decision
to form his new boxing company, T-Rex Promotions. "The same effort
I put in the gym and training was equal effort that I put into the promotion
side. My first show wasn't about making money," he said. "It
was about creating a movement. I think it worked." In fact, the
show was a success, as he drew over 1,000 fans in April of this year
to the Wessman Arena in Superior, WI. The event was filled with flashing
lights, hip-hop dancers, a beautiful young girl who sang the National
Anthem, and a good boxing card.
Laase appeared to have mounted on the pressure by first charging only
$10 for tickets and then fighting against Donny Tierney in the co-main
event that saw Andy Kolle defeat Michael Walker by a unanimous decision.
"I used all the distractions as motivation," Laase said. "Kind
of like when someone keeps telling them they can't do something. They're
going to do it just to be rebellious and prove their worthiness. I think
I shut up a lot of doubters on the 7th [the night of his first boxing
show] after the turnout I had; I knew it was just the start. So much
work goes into the whole thing, not to fight on it."
Since Horton's retirement, Laase has teamed up with Jason Henderson,
a move the boxer says has been worth the effort and which helped to
erase a lot of the sting of the Horton situation. "Jason is young,
eager, and ready to work and learn new things. He has a great eye. Plus
he's tough as shit."
Laase says he hopes to be out of boxing by age 30, but for the time
being, his plans are to stay focused and take control over his division
the only way he knows how: with an attitude that focuses on getting
the job done.
"I'm a very confident fighter. I won't lie; I get pre-fight nerves,
but I know once the bell rings you can't show that fear. It's go time,"
he said. "I plan on continuing the climb. I take my training as
serious as I can
when it comes to work on the bag, mitts, or sparring.
It's work time!"
Once again, love him or dislike him as a boxer, Laase isn't going to
care one way or the other what others think. He's a young man who has
dreams and works hard at achieving them. His confidence is where it
should be, given that he's involved in a sport that demands a certain
level of toughness. But most importantly, the RJ Laase show has moved
on at a good pace because the fighter has learned to put boxing, life,
and all situations into perspective. "Stress
kills. I mean,
if you spend time on stressing over something, you're wasting time on
how to figure out how to eliminate the cause of the stress," he
said. "If I can't make it to a title or big money in 12 years,
then it's not meant to be. I want to be remembered as a guy that fought
tough fights. Gave it my 100 percent, and be the fighter that future
Duluth fighters want to outdo," he said.
"I think people see me as an intense guy because I'm serious about
finishing the task at hand. I am human. I laugh, I smile, I cry, I have
emotions. I want people to know me or of me as a respectable person
who means business but also has a good time." And as hard as he's
working to be a success in this demanding field, he'd better be having
a good time, because he definitely means business.
You can catch RJ Laase back in action (and promoting)
on September 15th at the Wessman Arena in Superior, WI.
Laase takes on veteran of over 30 fights Tyler "The Punisher"
Ziolkowski (15-16) of Saint Joeseph, Missouri. Also on the card will
be Rob Brant, Joe Lorenzi, Winston Anderson, Dustin Mason.