For nearly two months middleweight boxers Anthony Bonsante and Matt Vanda have been embroiled in a war of words.
Come Friday night at Target Center, that war will spill over into the ring as the talking stops and the punches fly when "The Bullet" squares off against "The Predator" for the Minnesota Middleweight title. The winner will also earn a shot to fight International Boxing Association middleweight champion John Duddy in a pay per view fight.
"Vanda has said some pretty disrespectful things about my family," Bonsante said. "He can say what he wants about me but leave my family out of it. I've wanted this fight since I was 28 but his handlers wouldn't go for it. All he's done is fought locally to build up his record.
"He's not a classy guy and he doesn't have the ability to carry a conversation. We were on live radio recently and he drops an f-bomb. On Friday I'm going to shut his mouth up once and for all."
Tony Bonsante vs. Matt Vanda
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis
Boxers: Tony Bonsante (28-8-3, 17 KOs) of Crosby-Ironton and Shakopee vs. Matt Vanda (35-2, 21 KOs) of St. Paul.
At stake: The Minnesota Middleweight championship and a chance to fight IBA champion John Duddy on pay per view.
Tickets: On sale at the Target Center box office, Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or may be charged by phone (651) 989-5151.
Prices: $25, $50 and $100. VIP tables available.
While Vanda, who owns a 35-2 record with 21 KOs, may be younger at 28 years old and a bit faster and stronger than the 36-year old Bonsante (28-3-3, 17 KOs), the Crosby-Ironton native has experience and boxing smarts on his side.
"He's got a better record than me because he's fought a lot of non-credible opponents," said Bonsante. "We call them tomato can opponents. I'll use my boxing smarts and wisdom to beat Vanda. My trainers, Bill Kaehn and Lisa Bauch, have a great game plan and as long as I execute it I'll win the fight."
Bonsante really made a name for himself a couple of years ago when he was a part of the NBC reality show "The Contender." Bonsante won his first match on the show by knocking out Brent Cooper but was then TKO'd by Jesse Brinkley.
While Bonsante didn't walk away with the $1 million prize, he become best known for wearing his "No. 1 Dad" hat and his love for his kids, Brittany, 13, and Derek, 9.
"Being on "The Contender" really gave me some name recognition," Bonsante said, "not only in Minnesota but nationally as well. We'll be out to dinner and I have people come up to me and say, 'Hey, you were on The Contender?' and I'll sit and talk with them.
"And I always wear my "No. 1 Dad" hat and people may not always remember my name but they remember the hat. I'll take that title any day."
Minnesota had been without a professional boxing commission until this past November and Bonsante, who KO'd Troy Lowry in that fight, was honored to be a part of boxing's resurgence in the state.
"The fight in November had about 5,100 people at it," Bonsante said. "We're expecting around eight to 10 thousand fans for Friday's fight. Boxing is back in Minnesota. There's a solid fan base in the state and fans are able to be up close at these fights. There are promoters who are working hard for boxing in the state and as long as the governor supports the boxing commission with the necessary money, boxing here will thrive."
One of the most asked questions Bonsante receives is whether he has enough gas left in the tank to continue fighting. His response is as quick as one of his jabs.
"When I start losing to guys like Vanda, then I'll think about getting out of the sport," Bonsante said.
But when the day comes to hang up the gloves, Bonsante said he'd like to remain active in the sport, whether serving on the boxing commission or training up and coming fighters. He also said he'd like to throw his hat in the political ring and serve the state that has given so much to him.
Bonsante also said that without all the support he receives from family, friends and especially the people of Crosby-Ironton, he wouldn't be where he is today. So for the future, Bonsante plans to continue bobbing and weaving inside the ring.
"Age is just a number," said Bonsante. "In my head I'm still 26."
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865.
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