Patience is a trait not always required of heavyweight boxers — a couple of well-landed punches usually does the trick.
But Justin “Crazy Train” Rolfe needed plenty of patience Saturday night, first while waiting nearly five hours to fight in the co-main event of the evening portion of Granite Chin Promotions’ day-night boxing doubleheader at the New England Sports Center in Derry, New Hampshire.
Then, when Rolfe’s turn to enter the ring for the 14th fight of the 15-fight show finally did come after midnight, he had to bide his time against an opponent well-schooled in the ability to take a punch.
That patience ultimately paid off, as the 29-year-old Fairfield resident scored an eight-round unanimous decision over Jose Humbert “Olimpico” Corral to capture the vacant American Boxing Federation Atlantic heavyweight championship.
“It was definitely a long night. It was really hot in that building,” said Rolfe, now 6-2-1 with four wins by knockout. “The first fight started at 7:30 and I was expecting to fight at 9:30 or 10 o’clock. It definitely wore us out, and I think both of us felt it in the later rounds.”
The 5-foot-10-inch Rolfe, who weighed in for the bout Friday at 258.2 pounds compared with 229 for Corral, won on each of the three judges’ scorecards by totals of 80-71, 79-72 and 77-74.
“Because it was so hot we’d seen some really good, in-shape fighters already gas out,” Rolfe said. “So we decided to start just a little slower than we usually do but maintain the same pace for the entire fight, and it worked. I didn’t get the stoppage or knockout but I was proud that I fought him the way I had to and he fought the way he had to. He earned my respect.”
The ABF Atlantic title is not the first belt Rolfe has won during a competitive career that began as a powerlifter and shifted to boxing eight years ago.
He won a national powerlifting championship at age 15 and later secured two Northern New England Golden Gloves amateur boxing titles and one New England Golden Gloves novice crown before turning professional in 2018.
Rolfe underwent back surgery after making his debut at the Skowhegan Fitness Center — his only pro bout to date in his home state — and was sidelined until July 2019.
Rolfe won the USA New England heavyweight championship in his sixth professional fight, defeating Tracy Johnson by eight-round unanimous decision last Aug. 29 in Quincy, Massachusetts.
He lost his first title defense that November after suffering a broken rib early in his unanimous-decision defeat against Mike Marshall of Danbury, Connecticut, but rebounded in April with a first-round stoppage of Alfredo Trevino.
Rolfe and his boxing coach, Michael Leary, have worked over the years to use the lower-body strength he developed through powerlifting to boost his punching power.
“We instantly clicked,” Rolfe said. “The first day I started with him he said, ‘Let’s shorten up your stance a little bit,’ and we started watching some film, not just Mike Tyson but Rocky Marciano, Archie Moore, James Toney, a lot of different people and at different weights and we were able to bring my style together.
“We tried to incorporate punching with my legs. I used to do a 715-pound squad, and Mike told me if you can use your legs you can potentially hit as hard as some of these guys you look up to. From there we really started putting things together.”
Rolfe trains local amateur fighters at his own gym, Rolfe’s Boxing Club, which he opened in Waterville earlier this year, but he also is focused on making the most of his own ring prospects.
He is under contract with Chris Traietti and Granite Chin Promotions and is expected to defend his ABF Atlantic title in a 10-round bout on Aug. 28, most likely back in New Hampshire.
“Where I’m picking up steam, I want to keep pushing forward with this,” Rolfe said. “I love this sport, and if nothing else I want to be a positive figure in the sport of boxing.”