Caleb Truax went to Virginia State to play football until a lingering injury he first suffered at Osseo High School led him to give up the sport.
He transferred back to his home state, where he attended the University of Minnesota. That's when he saw a newspaper advertisement for a "tough guy" tournament, a boxing competition in a sports bar.
He hasn't stopped boxing since.
Truax, now a professional boxer, defeated James DeGale to win the IBF super middle-weight championship, handing DeGale his second professional defeat. Truax will encounter DeGale again in a rematch at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Saturday at 9 p.m.
Truax said he has to do better when he faces DeGale the second time around.
“I have to try that much harder, be in that much better of shape and that much more prepared to go out and get the job done,” Truax said. “I took his belt, so he is going to want to come get that back.”
Truax won his first amateur tournament in 2005, amid a crowd sitting in chairs and bleachers of a basketball gym. Now, Truax's fight against DeGale is cofeatured as the main fight in the April event and will be broadcast on Showtime.
Rob Southerling said he has been Truax's friend since the late '90s. The two started boxing at the same time. Southerling still supports Truax, going to his matches whenever he can.
"It’s just crazy to see him go from boxing in a little basement or a little armory, and now he's in Vegas," Southerling said. "It just shows how his dedication and persistence has pushed him to this level."
Truax defeated DeGale in December of 2017 at the Copper Box Arena in London, the first match in the U.K. for DeGale in three years. Truax won the match with scores of 116-112, 115-112, 114-114.
“I feel very positive about the match,” said Michelle Stocke, Truax’s longtime girlfriend. “When he is very confident, it makes me very confident in him. It’s nice to know that he has already fought this guy, so he knows what he is going to get himself into.”
Truax graduated from Minnesota with a major in sociology and a double minor in political science and African American studies. The boxer said he has always been interested in how people interact, which aligns with his interest in the history of civilizations.
After he graduated, Truax needed a way to pay off his student loans. He did so by competing in boxing matches. It took him until 2016 to finish his final payment.
“I was finally able to do that,” Truax said of the 2016 accomplishment. “Boxing has had a huge impact on my life in general and obviously being able to pay off student loans at a fairly young age is huge, especially when so many people are drowning in loans after college.”
Truax's victory over DeGale for the 2017 title was considered an upset.
DeGale, a British Boxer, held the IBF super middleweight title from 2015-2017. He also represented Great Britain in the 2008 Olympics, leaving with a gold medal in the middle-weight division.
After claiming the IBF title in 2015, DeGale became the first British boxer ever to win both a gold and a professional world title, with 23 victories, two loses, one tie. Truax (29-3-2) heads into his matchup against DeGale with 18 victories via Knockout. DeGale has 14.
"[He] was recognized as the best super middleweight boxer in the world prior to [Truax] beating him, so I expect the best James Degale to show up,” Truax’s promoter, Tony Grygelko said. “[Truax] is the type of guy when you give him rounds, the more he is going to figure you out, and that’s going to spell a lot of trouble for DeGale.”
Truax is the oldest boxer in the ESPN top-10 rankings for the super middleweight division. He is ranked No. 6, and started boxing when he was 19.
After the age of 30, aspects of the typical body begin to decline, such as bone density and muscle flexibility. Additionally, the metabolism slows and the ability to gain and retain muscle mass decreases. Truax sticks to a rigorous workout and nutrition plan to combat these effects. In recent years, Truax paired with Body Evolution owner Josh Hutton to work on staying fit.
Truax said it has become difficult to stay in shape as he gets older. Stocke said she isn't worried.
“I know that he started later, so I know he doesn’t have as many years of wear and tear on his body, compared to someone who started much younger who would have a lot more damage to their body,” she said.