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LAASE'S BOXING DREAM BECOMING A REALITY


BY RAY KILGORE

8.30.12

 

A 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 grounded.

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 company.
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.