Sports column: Local boxer Sands wins with KO, prepares for next fightGoing into a Feb. 8 bout at St. Paul’s Crowne Plaza in St. Paul, Al Sands of Duluth had a record of 6-1 with six knockouts in six years of boxing. His opponent, JJ Corn, had stats of 47-25-3 and 26 KOs in 28 years of boxing — two years longer than Sands has been on the planet, let alone in a boxing ring.
Going into a Feb. 8 bout at St. Paul’s Crowne Plaza in St. Paul, Al Sands of Duluth had a record of 6-1 with six knockouts in six years of boxing. His opponent, JJ Corn, had stats of 47-25-3 and 26 KOs in 28 years of boxing — two years longer than Sands has been on the planet, let alone in a boxing ring.
Sands — “The Haitian Sensation” — got the victory, and another KO.
“It was a great fight,” Sands said. “I hit him in the jaw in the first round and he looked at me like nothing had happened. I wanted him to respect my power.”
As the fight went on, Sands’ power grew as his corner kept shouting out combos that they thought could knock his opponent out. “The last time I threw a combo, it landed perfectly,” Sands said. “I was able to put him into the ropes and finish him off.”
Sands, his corner crew and his fans erupted into cheers as all their hard work had paid off.
“It’s surreal,” said Sands on the feeling of winning. “It’s a feeling of euphoria that everything you have put in has paid off. It’s absolute excitement and fulfillment.”
Sands felt ready, going into his fight with Corn. “I felt relaxed, I felt great,” Sands said. “I’ve had a great training camp and I’m very confident. It’s been tough, but everything is coming along.”
Sands trains with Zach Walters, coach and owner of the Jungle Boy Boxing Gym in Duluth, and had worked hard for months to prepare for his fight with Corn.
“Al’s been in camp for about two and a half months, right through the holidays,” said Walters. “His opponent changed, but to Al, it was no big deal. The strategy changed, but he still put in the same hard work.”
The reputation of the Jungle Boy Boxing Gym is one that Sands is very fond of, and why he came to train with Walters, a retired boxer himself. “The fact that he’s done all this before is huge,” Sands said.
Adds Walters: “It’s great being able to work with guys and see what I’ve done and what I should have done … I want them to be better than me.”
Hard work is what has made Sands one of the top professional boxers in the state.
“I’ve always been athletic and active,” Sands said. “But I wanted to be in something different; that’s why I came here. With boxing, you get out of it what you put into it. I’m interested in seeing how far I can take it now that I’ve dedicated my life to the sport.”
His life is dedicated to not only learning the sweet science, but to a healthy way of life and teaching others: Three nights a week, Sands teaches a boxing-type conditioning class and also works on nutrition and meal planning; without proper nutrition, the rest doesn’t matter, he said.
“I’ve got a core group of guys coming to the class and they’re getting results,” Sands said. “Some of them are losing up to five pounds a week.”
Sands’ next fight is scheduled for March 15 at Grandma’s Marathon, and he is excited to be showcasing his skills in front of his hometown crowd.
“I didn’t even get hit,
I didn’t have to take time to recover, so I can just go right into training camp again,” Sands said. “Why would I pass up an opportunity to fight in my hometown, in front of my crowd, at the place where it all began?
“When I heard Zach wanted me to fight at Grandma’s, my face lit up.”
Duluthian Sarah Packingham writes about sports for the Budgeteer. Contact her at budgeteersarah @gmail.com.