|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - July 19, 2016|
Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna, 20-1, 8 KOs, returns to the ring Friday night at the Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City. The South Jersey welterweight takes on Mexican Engelberto Valenzuela, 10-7, in a 6-round over-the-weight bout on the fourth boxing show promoted by LaManna’s company, Rising Star Promotions.
“When we did our first show in December, my mission statement was to bring boxing back to Atlantic City.” LaManna said. “I like to consider Atlantic City one of the top big fight cities in the country – Vegas, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, and Atlantic City. That was my mission, and here we are going on our fourth show at the Claridge.”
Originally, LaManna was set to headline the card himself. However, a sudden opportunity presented itself and LaManna pulled himself off the Claridge show.
“A big opportunity came up for September,” LaManna said. “I talked to my Dad and he said, ‘Why risk it? Why risk getting hurt, getting cut, anything, even losing. Let’s just hold off. Let’s pull out.’”
So, LaManna did pull out. As a result, stablemate and the co-feature for the card, Anthony “Juice” Young, 12-2, 5 KOs, was elevated to main event status – a first for the Atlantic City fighter.
However, LaManna had second thoughts about his decision not to fight on July 22nd.
“Then I was talking to my trainer, Chino (Raul Rivas), and felt that I can’t be out of the ring for six months,” LaManna said. “My last fight was in March. So if I fight in September, it will be six months. I can’t be out of the ring that long before a big fight.”
So, LaManna jumped back onto Friday’s card. Doing that is easy when you’re also the promoter. However, LaManna is not a guy who demands the spotlight.
“Juice was always on the card, and when I was off, I made him the main event,” LaManna said. “Now that I was back on, I wasn’t going to take that away from him. I’ve been fortunate enough to be the main event in Atlantic City three or four times. I get featured a lot. He’s an Atlantic City guy. He’s up-and-coming. It’s his time. He deserves to be the main event. So I kept Juice as the main event.”
LaManna is not your typical young boxer. Surely he can fight and has aspirations of winning a world title, but he has ambitions outside of the ring as well.
“I like to think I’m more of the hands-on guy, doing the promotion, doing the stuff on the backside,” LaManna said. “I also like to give other people opportunities to showcase their talent.”
Anthony Young has that chance on Friday night.
“It feels good,” Young said of his chance to star in the main event. “It’s my first headline as a pro. So, it was always going to feel good, and being that it’s in Atlantic City, it makes it that much more important and makes you feel even more excited about it.”
Young faces Eduardo Flores, 23-21-3, 15 KOs, of Ecuador, in an 8-round welterweight bout.
“I know he’s a durable veteran,” Young said. “He’s got 47 fights. He’s got 21 loses, but he’s only been stopped six times. So, I know he’s coming to fight, and I can’t go in there and play no games. I have an excellent game plan and hopefully, we can make it seven times that he’s been stopped.”
Engelberto Valenzuela, comes to Atlantic City as LaManna’s opponent. However, Cornflake says he needs to stay focused and get the win to keep on track for that un-named September opportunity.
“On paper, it doesn’t look too difficult, but I really never judge that,” LaManna said. “I don’t judge nobody off their record. He’s 10-7. I didn’t see any tape on him. So, I really don’t know anything about him. It’s more of a stay busy fight for September. But I’m assuming he’s one of those rugged Mexican guys, just like every other one of them are.”
So LaManna worked hard for Friday’s fight and sees it as an important part of the preparation for that nameless September foe. Additional motivation has come for LaManna in the form of his friend and stablemate Jason Sosa's recent win of the WBA 130-pound title.
"Sosa and me are like brothers," LaManna said. "So when Sosa won that world title, words can’t even describe the emotions (I felt). He only had three amateur fights. He’s only been boxing seven, eight years. That just goes to show that anything is possible. He was in the gym the next day. He was there motivating us. He’s always been like a big brother to me. Now he’s somebody I look up to. He’s a world champion. It makes me work harder, without a doubt. I can’t wait until Sosa gets his belt and brings it in. When that happens, I’m calling out King Kong. I don’t give a hell. It definitely makes us all work harder."
But for now, LaManna will stay focused on Friday's meeting with Valenzuela.
“Engleberto is number one on my list right now. A fight is a fight," LaManna said, before switching back into promoter mode.
“There is another Philadelphia guy on the show, Donald Smith,” LaManna said. “A really good amateur. He’s actually Keenan Smith’s younger cousin. He’s pretty good. We all came up in the amateurs together, me, Keenan, Hasan Young, Donald, and guys like that. So it’s cool that he’s making his debut on this show.”
Smith takes on Cameron Cain of Indiana, who also makes his debut.
Another bout on the card is a heavyweight rematch between two locals. Philly’s Dante Selby, 2-1-1, beat Brick, NJ’s Daniel Pasicolla, 7-1-1, back in 2013. They’ll do it again on Friday.
“Pasciolla’s trainer always wanted that rematch because he wasn’t training Dan at that time,” LaManna said. “So he wanted that back. Dante always wanted it. Actually, he just wanted to fight. He hasn’t fought for a couple of years. So that was an easy fight to make.”
Deptford, NJ bantamweight Christian Carto, 1-0, 1 KO, makes his second start as a pro. The 19-year old who trains in South Philly, faces debuting Christopher Nelson of Indiana.
“Christian Carto was the last guy that was put on (this card),” LaManna said. “Christian was on even before his (debut) fight in Bethlehem (on July 2nd).”
A total of nine bouts are scheduled for Friday night.
“I don’t want to be a household name at the Claridge for too long,” LaManna said. “I’d like to headline a show at Bally’s or the Taj Mahal, Boardwalk Hall, something like that. I’d like to graduate from the Claridge. I’m building the platform for guys like Juice. He’s an Atlantic City guy. (I want him to) get a couple of headlining Claridge fights and then HE graduates. That is my mission.”
Friday’s card sounds like mission accomplished. LaManna appears to plan at least a few moves ahead. Next up is graduation day at the Claridge, and if all goes well, it’s on to that big fight in September.