Tristan Kalkreuth: A Tall Texan Making Waves in the Squared Circle


By Arne K. Lang

Tristan Kalkreuth, a cruiserweight from Carrollton, Texas, turned 22 yesterday (Nov. 8). To celebrate, such as it were, he planned to go bowling. Anything more lavish would be inconsistent with his daily regimen. Like all prizefighters who take their sport seriously, Kalkreuth has no interest in the party scene.

As an amateur, Kalkreuth -- who is German on his father’s side – was a two-time USA national champion in the youth (under 18) division. He was a gangly kid back then, winning his first title at 138 pounds and his second at 152. Nowadays, he carries a shade over 200 pounds on his six-foot-five frame. He’s a cruiserweight ripening into a heavyweight, perhaps with a stopover at bridgerweight if he chooses to go that route. (When we broached this possibility to him, he was intrigued.)

Kalkreuth was 17 years old when he inked his first pro contract, signing with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy operation. He was the second-youngest fighter signed by Golden Boy following in the footsteps of Vergil Ortiz Jr who attended the same high school as Kalkreuth.

Ortiz, now 25, made his pro debut at age 18. Kalkreuth beat him to the punch in that regard. Tristan was 17 years and nine months old when he had his first pro fight, dispatching his opponent in the opening round.

In Texas, Kalkreuth refined his game under the noted trainer Ronnie Shields, but in December of last year he and his parents moved to Las Vegas where there is a more ample supply of high-grade sparring partners. His new trainer is Cromwell “Bullet” Gordon who is also the head trainer of WBA 140-pound title-holder Rolly Romero. Tristan’s father Sean Kalkreuth, Tristan’s original trainer, serves as Gordon’s assistant in the corner and Larry Wade has become an integral component of the team.

If Larry Wade is on your team, then you are in the big leagues.

An assistant coach with the women’s track and field team at UNLV (the head coach is his wife), Larry Wade, once a world-class hurdler, is internationally recognized for his work with sprinters and hurdlers, male and female. He’s far less known for his work with prizefighters although he has served as the strength and fitness coach for many fighters including such notables as Shawn Porter, Badou Jack, Caleb Plant, and Jake Paul.

Wade is something more than a conditioner. “He’s a therapist too,” says Kalkreuth. “As he’s getting your body in shape, he’s getting your mind in shape. Boxing is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical. He transformed my mind to become a wolf inside the ring.”

Kalkreuth encountered a speed bump in his ninth pro fight, losing a 6-round decision to Demetrius Banks, a journeyman from Detroit who was twice his age. Three months earlier, he had scored a frightful knockout of another journeyman, Dustin Long, who was taken to the hospital by paramedics (although released that same night).

We were curious if the Long incident preyed on his mind and affected his performance in his subsequent fight.

“Not really, although it was very concerning,” he says. “I let Banks get in my head a little bit and when I hurt him, I got impatient. What I learned from that fight is that I need to stay mentally poised and never make things personal.”

Since that mishap, Kalkreuth has won four straight, most recently a fifth-round stoppage of Aaron Casper on a Golden Boy/DAZN card at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. That triumph advanced Tristan’s record to 12-1 (8 KOs).

Kalkreuth has surprised onlookers by celebrating his wins with a backflip, a maneuver seldom seen by an athlete as tall as he is. Going forward, he doubts he will continue it. “My bone density is still evolving,” he says, “I don’t want to hurt myself.”

Of all the major promotional companies, Golden Boy has done the best job of harvesting strong prospects from Texas where the boxing soil has become more fertile in recent years. Austin lightweight Floyd Schofield and Houston light heavyweight Darius Fulghum, fast-risers in their respective weight classes, come quickly to mind. Tristan Kalkreuth may ultimately prove to be the best of the bunch.