CROSBY -- As a high school quarterback and point guard, Tony Bonsante was the general of his teams, an extension of the coach, a leader of his teammates.
He now stands alone in the arena of athletics. With no teammates to lead or rely on, he stands alone in the roped square of a boxing ring. If he wins or loses, he has only himself to point to.
The former Crosby-Ironton Ranger has been absent from team competition since he graduated in 1989. But he's returned to the sport where his glory started. With padded gloves and 15 years of experience, the crafty veteran is still knocking people out, just not with his throwing arm or his shooting touch but with his fists.
"When I get my gloves on ... they're so small," said Bonsante. "It's almost like you're wearing a snowmobile mitten and when you hit someone I can feel it through my glove.
"I don't know if this sounds bad or sadistic or what but it feels real good to hit them square on the mouth and they drop like a tree."
Bonsante started boxing as a member of the Golden Gloves in Brainerd. In 1991 he was the national runner-up. The 168-pound Super Middle Weight now fights out of Shakopee where he holds a record of 14 wins, two losses and two draws. The quick right-hander has eight wins by knockout.
His last fight against Rob Bleakley of Oklahoma City was supposed to be televised on ESPN2. In the Jan. 12 bout, Bonsante beat up on the southerner to set up his next fight.
On ESPN2, Anthony "The Bullet" Bonsante will tangle with Billy Mastrangelo at 8 p.m. Friday in Kentucky.
"This fight coming up is a huge fight for me," said Bonsante. "This fight is on TV. The kid is 18-2. It will be a good test."
The Bullet, as he's known in the boxing industry, has been around boxing rings for most of his life. When he was 21 he decided to call it quits, though. Four years later he couldn't sit around any longer.
"I saw a couple of guys on ESPN that I had beaten as amateurs and they won," said Bonsante. "I thought if they could do it, I can do it."
So Bonsante gave trainer Bill Kaehn a call. He was actually in semi-retirement from boxing but he took the Bullet on.
"I boxed amateur for 10 years with Tom Herron, who is the coach in Brained," Bonsante said. "He was the best amateur coach you could have. He told me if I ever went pro there's only one guy to go to, that's Bill Kaehn.
"Bill has helped me become more of a boxer. Before I was more of a puncher. I would stand and go toe to toe with somebody. Now I have the ability to stand on the outside and box the guy. Slip and move and jab."
Bonsante and Kaehn decided to work on a six-year plan. They both decided that once Bonsante, now 30, reached 33 his career as a boxer should be over.
With heart, determination and will power, which Bonsante said are his strengths, he has lofty goals set for those three years.
"I've been running my butt off," said Bonsante. "This is the best shape I've been in since I went to the national golden gloves tournament in 1991 where I got second. That was only three rounds, this is eight."
Times haven't always been this advantageous for Bonsante. When he first started, signing a fight was a big deal. He started out training every day but was frustrated with the number of fights coming his way. The former Ranger dropped down to training three times a week at the Bloomington Karate Center until something "popped."
Now he runs every day and trains for two hours every day. He's hoping this fight will lead to bigger things.
"If I win this one, things will start happening," said Bonsante. "It was supposed to be a 10-round fight, but it got bumped down to eight because the main event is a 12-round championship fight. They didn't know if they could get them all on TV or not so they bumped me down to eight.
"I told them that's fine, bump me down to eight but make sure I get on. Last time they promised me I would get on but I never got on."
Bonsante, who has two children, daughter Brittany, 7, and Derek, 3, said if things start rolling the money will be a lot better and he will get better fights. Bonsante, however, is not in for the money.
"The money really isn't an issue for me," said Bonsante. "It's more of a pride issue. To be able to say, 'I'm a champ.'
"Right now the money is pretty decent," Bonsante said. "I'll get about $2,500 for this fight. Out of that my coach gets a cut. My match-maker gets a cut. Right now the money isn't the greatest but if I win this one it will start getting better. This is a huge fight for me. It's a make-or-break fight for me."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.