Boxing: Trusting his training
In the final seconds of a three-round fight for a spot in the Golden Gloves Upper Midwest Tournament of Champions, Ezra Anderson wasn't sure if he did enough to beat the two-time defending regional champion.
As the bell sounded, both fighters stood in the ring, waiting to see what their fate would be. The referee grabbed his wrist and hoisted it in the air.
On March 16, Anderson officially became a force to be reckoned with.
Six months ago, the 22-year old welder and part time corrections officer from Fergus Falls was looking to reconnect with an old friend. Corey Thomson was opening up a boxing gym in Alexandria.
"I trained Brazillian jiu jitsu with Corey several years back in Wadena," Anderson said. "When I saw that he was opening up a gym in Alexandria I had to try it out. I went and I loved it."
Before Thompson had a building for his gym, he was training Anderson and 19 others at Anytime Fitness. He called it his Nordic Warriors Boxing Academy. In December, Thompson moved into a building on 7th Avenue West in downtown Alexandria. (A story about Thompson ran in Wednesday's Echo Press).
Anderson's previous experience with combat sports brought him in the door, and the people that push him to get better get him to stay. An old friend had become his new boxing trainer.
The biggest fight of Anderson's young career came last month. His opponent, Avery Miller, was the two-time defending Region IV champion. At stake for both fighters was the chance to compete in the Upper Midwest Tournament of Champions, with that winner representing Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota in the Golden Gloves national tournament. Anderson's training prepared him for the fight of his life in the 201-pound weight class. Thompson was impressed with how hard he worked.
"The guy is an animal," Thompson said. "He set his mind on working harder and becoming better. I pushed him harder and he responded every time. He has a lot of fight in him."
Anderson had a few amateur fights in his past, but the experience of fighting against a veteran opponent put him at a disadvantage before he even stepped into the ring. When the time came to strap on the gloves, Anderson relied on his training to do the work for him.
"I was confident in myself because I had the training to win that fight," Anderson said. "Corey taught me so much. I knew that if I trusted him and myself that I would do just fine."
Each match lasts nine total minutes. Three three-minute rounds would decide the Region IV UMGG Tournament champion.
"I didn't know what to expect when it was over. It was a pretty even fight I'd say," Anderson said. "I ended up winning a split decision. Corey helped me game plan for the fight and I'm happy we pulled out a win."
In just his fifth fight, Anderson had won what many Golden Gloves boxers will never come close to winning. His opponent was fighting in his 31st bout. Even though the odds were stacked against Anderson, he didn't feel the pressure of losing.
"I wasn't nervous because I wasn't expected to win," he said. "I knew I had what it took and Corey did, too. I just wanted to go out there and make my family proud."
When Anderson's arm was raised high in the air, Thomson saw something that was bigger than sports.
"I watched him look at his wife in the crowd after he won that fight," Thompson said. "It was an emotional moment. We were all so proud of him and all of the work he put in to get to that point. That's what's so special about boxing. Hard work will pay off, and it did for Ezra."
The work for Anderson isn't done yet. On April 26-27, he will have a chance to represent the three states if he wins the Upper Midwest tournament in Walker. The preparation for Anderson begins with a tuneup fight in Duluth.
"This guy had an opponent back out on him at the last minute. I said to myself, 'Hey, I'm ready to fight now," Anderson said. "It'll be a good chance for me to clean up some of the technical things. I still have a lot to learn, so I'll take these fights when I can."
While Anderson is riding high, reality is keeping him grounded. He knows that he can't get complacent if he wants to keep his run going.
"I know there's always going to be a better fighter right around the corner," he said. "I need to find a way to beat those guys. I know what I need to work on and what my strengths are. It could be a really cool thing to represent the Upper Midwest at nationals but right now I am just taking it one fight at time."
Six months ago, Anderson didn't expect to be in the position he's in today. With the help of his training and the support of his family, his future in boxing is greater than he anticipated.