Auburn’s young Haugen vows to fight for own identity

The young, tenacious boxer knows he won't be able to avoid the comparisons or escape the long shadow cast by his legendary father.

Under the tutelage of his famous father

The young, tenacious boxer knows he won’t be able to avoid the comparisons or escape the long shadow cast by his legendary father.

Yet Brady Haugen is ready to step into the pro ring and decide for himself if he’s worthy to be part of such a crazy sport. He wants to determine if he can proudly follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Auburn’s Greg “The Mutt” Haugen, a former four-time world lightweight champion and World Boxing Hall of Fame member.

“I’m going to take it as it comes,” said a quietly confident young Haugen before his workout at the Vision Quest Sport and Fitness Center inside the SuperMall. “I want to do this, I want to do it for myself, and I want to do this in my hometown.”

With his father working in his corner, the prodigy will make his pro debut Saturday night at the mall in a scheduled four-round welterweight bout against Oregonian Aaron Schupp, part of an eight-bout card promoted by Greg Haugen and associates.

After just three amateur fights, the 21-year-old project is fit and ready to face a young fighter of similar credentials. A quick study, kid Haugen would rather get paid for taking a punch.

Greg Haugen insists this is his son’s call. He has closely trained him in the gym for two years, transforming a “fat” and raw 165-pounder into a more disciplined and skilled 143-pound force displaying natural footwork and good range.

“I’m not pressuring him into this … this is his own thing,” said Greg Haugen, a tough, gritty fighter in his glory days, one of the best at his craft. “It’s up to him on how far he wants to take this.

“He’s not me, he’s never going to be me. He has his own style,” he added. “He’s smart. He’s picked things up quickly. I’m proud of him.”

Still, comparisons will be made. The kid is a chip off the old block, a second-generation fighter from a hard-nosed, blue-collar family that’s every bit Auburn.

But the young boxer thrives on pressure and the expectations of others. He vows to make a name for himself.

“It’s tough sometimes,” Brady Haugen said of carrying the family name. “I’ve had to work harder to prove myself. I’m fighting in my father’s shadow – I understand that – but we’re two different fighters.”

Stellar career

Greg Haugen began to box at age 5, had more than 325 amateur fights, won a bronze medal in the Olympic trials, won his first 19 professional fights and four world titles. He was the first man to defeat Hector “Macho” Camacho for the WBO junior welterweight championship. He beat many boxers physically bigger than him. He beat many of the best fighters, including Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Vinny Pazienza and Jimmy Paul.

He retired at age 40 with a record of 43-10-3 and 19 knockouts.

Today, the 49-year-old Haugen stays in the game, training, managing and promoting local fighters, including rising heavyweight Jonte Willis, a cousin to San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis. The heralded heavyweight is scheduled to fight in Saturday’s main event.

“I’m trying to stir the local interest,” Greg Haugen said. “This is a chance to see local kids’ fights. That’s what it is all about.”

Like his father, Brady Haugen has been around the sport since he was a little boy. He used to tag along in the gym as early as 4, but was too young to attend many of his father’s major bouts.

“I didn’t understand it then,” he said. “For a kid, it’s tough seeing your dad get hit like that.”

The 5-foot-8 Brady Haugen stands two inches taller than his father. He might have greater range, but admits he isn’t as aggressive as his father. However, when tested, he has proven he can take a powerful punch.

In his first amateur fight, Brady Haugen tore his left bicep in the first round but went the distance, losing a close decision. He responded with a pair of unanimous decisions in his next two fights.

Making steady gains

Since then, he has dramatically improved in the gym. It is his dad’s voice he hears clearly through all the noise in the gym.

Boxing remains a part of his young life. He is attending Green River Community College and holds down a steady job as a welder, a trade to fall back on.

“I’m going to take my time with this,” he said. “I have to concentrate on school and work. It’s busy, but it’s important to me.”

The lessons will continue between the ropes.

“It’s not an easy game,” the young fighter said. “But it’s a great thing knowing I have a dad with world-class experience in my favor.”

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For more on Saturday’s fight night at the SuperMall, visit www.hccpromotions.com.

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ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter
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