You may have noticed an increase in the number of Iowa-based boxers taking part in professional fights in the state lately and wondered what the reason for it is.
The truth is that the local bouts featuring fighters like Tristan James are largely due to the presence of some highly-dedicated trainers and a successful promotions company in Des Moines, so what are they doing and what can we expect from this boxing program in the future?
Who Is Tristan James?
The best example of the current attempt to bring boxing success to Iowa, Tristan James is a 6 foot 5 boxer with the nickname of Tree. He trains at Peña’s Boxing game which is based on the south side of Des Moines. James is currently the USA Mid-America light heavyweight champion following his successful defense against Kevin Engel earlier this year.
The fighter has a record of 7-4-2, with 4 of those victories coming by knockout. His last fight in April this year showed how the sport has progressed in Iowa. With 12 bouts on the card, there were 9 boxers from Des Moines listed.
Tristan has lived virtually all of his life in Iowa and says that when he was growing up and then fighting as an amateur there were no professional boxing programs here at all. He said that he remembers seeing a single fight, at Prairie Meadows, but that it couldn’t have been a success, and no one organized anymore after this. Thankfully, the times are changing. The boxer says that amateur bouts are always going on, while the pro boxing scene is picking up now.
He was a basketball and athletics star when he went to high school in Valley, before heading to university in Missouri. His switch to boxing came almost by accident when someone spotted him shadow boxing and encouraged him to give the sport a try. Tristan then went on to win the Iowa Golden Gloves title four times and reached the semifinal stage of the national competition.
The boxer turned pro back in 2017 and trains at Peña’s Boxing, where Pepe Peña is his personal coach. Pepe comes from a family with a strong boxing tradition, as his grandfather Alvino opened a gym in the 1960s. Pepe moved to Des Moines at the start of the century, at a time when no one in the city was talking about boxing. However, he’s seen interest grow in the last few years.
Give the man his belt. 🏆 Tristan James just did WORK inside the ring. 👊 pic.twitter.com/I8XxYBIxZZ
— Spectation Sports (@SpectationNet) February 20, 2022
Who’s Behind the Changes?
Part of the reason for the recent increase in pro boxing activity in Iowa is the emergence of Extreme/Maximus Boxing. This is a boxing promotional company that is based in Des Moines and is dedicated to making the sport here grow. Former journalist Monte Cox is one of the key members of the team.
Scott Tolzmann is the other person involved in promoting boxing in Des Moines and the rest of Iowa through this company. In fact, Extreme/Maximus recently organized the Defense of the Belt night in Cedar Rapids, with local fighter Mitchell LeConte among the star turns.
The promoter’s website also includes stories such as that of Steve Carl of Belle Plaine. Steve has a background in MMA and won the World Series of Fighting welterweight championship. His 21-3 record in the sport made him one of the fighters in the world. But said that he “got burned out” and decided to move to boxing.
Lance Williams is another Iowa native who could make a big name for himself in the near future. Hailing from Muscatine, Williams has a 9-13-1 record and recently won his last fight, in Cedar Rapids, having lost against LeConte back in April. Expect to see him appear on the bill in other Iowa fight nights from now on.
Is Boxing the New Trend in Iowa?
It’s no secret that the sport has been on the decline in recent years. TV audiences for the biggest fights have been falling, as boxing has failed to keep up with the likes of football and basketball. The popularity of MMA has also had an effect, as many fans follow this sport instead of boxing.
Yet, there are signs that this program in Iowa is bearing fruit. The new generation of boxers coming through in Iowa looks like they could help the sport to regain some of that lost popularity. For example, an event labeled as Return to Des Moines put the city back on the boxing map at the end of 2021.
This was the first time since 2013 that a pro boxing event had been held in Des Moines, and the pro debut of local boxer Antonio Mireles helped to attract spectators to this night of fighting. If this surge of interest in boxing in Iowa is maintained, it should lead to more youngsters taking up this sport. This will help to create a genuinely sustainable boxing culture in the state.