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Duluth boxing features war of words

What started with a seemingly innocuous comment has turned into a mini-Facebook brouhaha between local boxer Joe Lorenzi and boxer-turned-trainer Zach "Jungle Boy" Walters.

Joe Lorenzi and Al Sands
Boxers Al Sands (left) and Joe Lorenzi talk inside Lorenzi's Lincoln Park gym on Monday, July 22, 2013. (Screenshot from video courtesy of Jungle Boy Boxing Gym)

What started with a seemingly innocuous comment has turned into a mini-Facebook brouhaha between local boxer Joe Lorenzi and boxer-turned-trainer Zach "Jungle Boy" Walters.

In a recent post, Walters expressed frustration over not being able to find an opponent for star pupil Al "Haitian Temptation" Sands, Minnesota's state cruiserweight champion, for a Sept. 6 card at Grandma's Sports Garden. Lorenzi, the state's third-ranked cruiserweight, responded thusly:

"There are plenty of cruisers in THIS state that would love to step in there," with a subsequent post reading, "Nothing is easy but I feel I would be his toughest fight since TJ ... how did that end again?"

"TJ" is T.J. Gibson, a former kickboxer managed by Lorenzi who earned the only boxing victory of his career via technical knockout of Sands in September 2011. It also was Sands' only professional loss.

After the initial war of words, things got interesting.

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On Monday, with Walters videotaping, Sands strolled into Lorenzi's Boxing on West Superior Street and confronted the gym's owner with a Jungle Boy Boxing bout agreement for Sept. 6. Lorenzi, however, already has committed to a Sept. 13 fight at Wessman Arena in Superior. Contractually, Lorenzi said, he can't agree to the Sept. 6 card.

Lorenzi claims Walters knew that before Tuesday's impromptu drop-in, the video of which is generating heaps of buzz on Facebook and other social media sites.

"They have a show in October (at Black Bear Casino), and I'd love to compete on that card," Lorenzi said.

In the video, Sands is shown outside the gym, where he presents the bout agreement to the camera . Once inside, he thrusts the agreement at Lorenzi and the two shake hands. Shortly after, Lorenzi says, "I don't want you guys in my gym."

"My problem is just the way they went about it," Lorenzi said Tuesday. "I thought it was extremely disrespectful. There are kids in the gym. I told them numerous times, they can contact my manager."

Reached later Tuesday, Walters said catching Lorenzi on video served two purposes: to speed up the process of orchestrating a Lorenzi-Sands fight and to document the confrontation.

"It was a way to kind of like brace ourselves for any crap that might come out of it from their end ... like I'm a horrible person or whatever," Walters said, adding, "These guys have a history."

Of Lorenzi's commitment to the Sept. 13 fight at Wessman on promoter R.J. Laase's card, Walters said: "He can choose to get out of it. It's (a potential Sands fight) not a big purse, but it's a title fight."

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Walters admitted he's struggling to find an opponent for Sands on Sept. 6. After knocking out Justin Howes of West Virginia at the Patriotic Punchout at Black Bear earlier this month, Sands is 10-1 with 10 knockouts. He's won eight straight bouts.

"It's tough to get a local fighter. He's beat everybody, he's knocked everybody out," Walters said of Sands.

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