Up North: Redemption in the Ring

Dan Williamson
December 20, 2017 11:20 PM

Duluth, Minn. - Sports are about participation and competition, but they can also be about redemption. A young man from Duluth is finding his with boxing gloves.

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In a small building on Duluth's Observation Hill, dozens dream big. Cal Mars is among the hopefuls who train at the Jungle Boy Boxing Gym. For the last four weeks, four times a week, he's turned up for workouts and and he's turned some heads.

"He (Cal) is quick and has great reflexes and good balance and good foot-work and the fundamental foundation is there," says Zach "Jungle Boy" Walters, a boxing trainer and coach who runs the Jungle Boy Boxing Gym.

"He (Cal) is starting to get more power and getting his range down," says Mike Bockovich, a coach with the Jungle Boy Boxing Gym.

"All this hard work that I have put in here in the gym is going to come off in the ring and a win isn't everything, but that is definitely what I am hoping for in my first fight," says Mars.

The bright lights of fight night haven't happened yet, but this 19-year old is no stranger to battles.

"(Four years ago) I boxed for a year and then took two years off. I went through a hard time and had some problems with substance abuse. I had a few run-ins with the law. I really didn't have a horribly rock-bottom moment, but I realized that I was losing a lot of people around me and it wasn't only affecting me, but it was affecting my family and it was time for a change and boxing gave me that. This is my re-do," says Mars.

Cal's a graduate of Duluth's Area Learning Center, for students who meet at-risk criteria.

"I am originally adopted and being adopted and trying to find my identity and trying to overcome that - that was definitely a struggle and that lead to substance abuse and being almost nine months sober, it has been amazing," says Mars.

He doesn't have to look far for inspiration. Before a 29-fight, 24-win pro career, Walters" had his own issues he overcame.

"Having 'been there, done that,' I know the lingo and I know where he has been and I can relate to him on a personal level on what he is going through and what he is thinking," says Walters.

"It is not what you've done, it is what you become that matters and he (Cal) is doing a wonderful job and it is really nice working with him, says Bockovich.

It is one day at a time for Cal, but he's committed to the cause and he's taking each day one combination at a time.

"Boxing is a beautiful metaphor for life - things don't come easy," says Walters.

"Everybody goes through something, but people have to understand that it is not too late to change," says Mars.

Mars is hoping to his first amateur fight sometime during 2018.


Dan Williamson

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