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The 'Jungle Boy' is about to be unleashed

On Feb. 23, under the bright lights and loud music of the University of Wisconsin-Superior's Health and Wellness Center, Zach "Jungle Boy" Walters will touch gloves with Carl "The Squirrel" Daniels. The two men will fight for the World Boxing Cou...

On Feb. 23, under the bright lights and loud music of the University of Wisconsin-Superior's Health and Wellness Center, Zach "Jungle Boy" Walters will touch gloves with Carl "The Squirrel" Daniels. The two men will fight for the World Boxing Council-African Boxing Union title.

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Walters' opponent changed from originally scheduled fighter Marlon Hayes (23-11, 10 KOs) to Daniels (50-11, 32 KOs), a former World Boxing Association junior middleweight champion and current light heavyweight contender.

The sudden change in fighters will put Walters (21-2, 16 KOs) to the test.

Daniels' professional record overshadows that of Walters. Daniels has faced top contenders such as current light heavyweight champion of the world, Bernard Hopkins. In his last bout, Daniels defeated Minnesota light heavyweight Fred Moore (30-8). On top of that, Daniels is a veteran left-handed fighter -- Walters' only two losses came at the hands of a southpaw.

Trainer and manager Chuck Horton is confident of Walters' talent.

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"We're gonna flip the script," he said. "By the end of the fight, he's not gonna know if the guy is left handed or right handed, because Daniels is gonna eat both of Zach's hands."

This is not the first time Walters has dealt with adversity. He grew up a missionary's child in Madagascar. (This is why he can fight for the African Boxing Union title.) At age 11, Walters traveled to the United States, where his family moved from small town to small town.

"The hardest part was moving around and making the transition," he said. "Madagascar is a Third World country, life is so much different. Life (in the U.S.) was so different -- learning to fit in was tough."

At age 14, Walters found a home in the ring while attending Fergus Falls High School. In the beginning of his career, boxing was a way for Walters to deal with his stresses.

"I never thought that boxing would become something that I could use to make a livelihood for myself," he said. "I always thought to get money, you had to work a job; I never thought I could box and get paid for it."

Walters is doing just that with the support of the Twin Ports community. He has sold out the DECC and UWS and filled plenty of seats at fights in the Twin Cities and Grand Casino-Hinckley.

"It's a wonderful thing that we get to fight in the Twin Ports area, Zach's home, which he loves, and be able to represent the place where he grew up, Madagascar," Horton said. "I call that the best of both worlds."

Walters has spent most of his adult life in Duluth. In 2006, he graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a degree in psychology, and decided to take his existing professional boxing status to the next level: going full-time.

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His degree has not gone to waste. Walters, now 27, uses his schooling in and out of the ring.

"(I) analyze my opponent, see where he is at mentally," he said. "I have (also) compartmentalized my life. I turn on the switch and it's practice time; I leave the gym and now it's time to focus on my fiancée."

Hosting the fight in Superior solidifies Walters as a contender. As he is currently ranked 35th in the world by the WBC, taking the title on Feb. 23 will boost his standing substantially.

Horton says his young fighter is ready.

"It's Jungle's time," he said. "This is it!"

News to use

Zach "Jungle Boy" Walters will fight Carl "The Squirrel" Daniels at the University of Wisconsin-Superior's Health and Wellness Center Saturday, Feb. 23.

Doors will open at 5 p.m. and the first fight will begin at 6 p.m.

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For tickets, visit www.jungleboywalters.com .

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