The Shakopee boxer's victory over Matt Vanda earned him a likely shot at the IBA champion.
By Rachel Blount, Star Tribune
Last update: January 13, 2007 â€“ 12:56 AM
With barely one minute left in their 10-round match, as Matt Vanda crumpled to the canvas, Anthony Bonsante jumped up and down and beat his chest like a man possessed.
The Shakopee boxer, 36, had told his family the night before Friday's long-anticipated match with Vanda that he would quit fighting if he did not win. He never doubted that he would. Hewing to a disciplined game plan set by trainers Bill Kaehn and Lisa Bauch, Bonsante controlled Vanda for much of the fight and won a unanimous decision at Target Center before an announced crowd of 8,872.
Bonsante retained the Minnesota middleweight title he won with a November victory over Troy Lowry, and won the International Boxing Association Americas middleweight championship. He also gained a likely date for a Madison Square Garden bout against IBA world middleweight champ John Duddy of Ireland. The fight is scheduled for March 16.
Bonsante knocked Vanda down with 1 minute, 5 seconds remaining in the fight with a series of three hard rights.
The fight was scored 98-92, 98-91 and 98-91, all in favor of Bonsante.
"I wanted to stick him with the jab as hard as I could," said Bonsante, whose children paraded his title belts around the ring. "The more he ate, the more I could go after him with the right. He counted on me getting tired, but in the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th, that's when the Bullet gets going."
Bonsante improved his record to 29-8-3. Vanda, 28, of St. Paul, is 35-3.
"He won the fight," Vanda conceded just before the scores were announced. "It was a great fight."
Vanda entered the ring in full warrior mode. He and his handlers were decked out in camouflage T-shirts and bandanas, and Vanda sported camo trunks. Bonsante wore the gear made famous in his stint on the reality TV show "The Contender": the slogan "#1 Daddy" on his cap and waistband, his nickname "The Bullet" on his black trunks.
As they were introduced, some longtime boxing observers at ringside talked about how many years they had waited to see this fight. A thundering cheer of "Vanda! Vanda!" was met by an equally loud response of "Tony! Tony!"
Bonsante dictated much of the action through the early rounds. He said before the fight that although he was eight years older than his opponent, he felt he possessed the energy and drive of a younger man -- and Bonsante demonstrated that by connecting with several solid combinations.
Vanda returned fire in the fifth, landing several stinging jabs and a hard left hook to the ribs. But Bonsante reestablished himself as the aggressor, staggering Vanda near the end of the sixth and driving him repeatedly to the ropes with powerful combinations. With the crowd on its feet bellowing -- and Vanda's cornermen growing more tense by the minute -- Bonsante continued to pound away at his opponent.
Early in the fight, Vanda's trainers had called, "Take that old man's legs away from him!" and "He's too slow for you, baby!" By the eighth round, they were exhorting their fighter to find his own legs and to dig into his heart. Bonsante's trainers -- including 83-year-old Kaehn, who was lifted into the ring by a pro wrestler friend -- chomped their gum and appeared confident.
"Our game plan was to box him until we had an opening," Kaehn said. "In the latter part of the fight, Tony was able to take him apart piece by piece. Tony followed the plan perfectly."
Minnesotans Allen Litzau, Raphael Butler, Joey Abell, Wilton Hilario and Kenny Kost all defeated out-of-state opponents in undercard bouts.
Rachel Blount â€¢ [email protected]