PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - September 13, 2016  
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Story by John DiSanto
Photo by Darryl Cobb, Jr. -


Thomas ďCornflakeĒ LaManna, 21-1, 9 KOs, on the verge of his meeting with DCís Dusty Hernandez Harrison, 29-0-1, 16 KOs, knows heís in a must-win situation. The two will square off Thursday night in the 10-round main event at the 2300 Arena in South Philly. The vacant USBA welterweight title will be on the line and the fight will be nationally televised by the CBS Sports Network.

Although heís just a 24 year old, 22-bout prospect, LaManna says that failure against Harrison would be quite damaging at this point in his career.

ďThereís no option,Ē LaManna said. ďThere really is no option. Iím on record. I lose this, Iím an opponent. Iím no opponent.Ē 

LaManna has more or less cruised through the majority of his professional run. However, the last time he seriously stepped up, against a streaking Antoine Douglas eighteen months ago, things didnít go well. Douglas dominated the bout and dished LaManna his first defeat, a TKO in round six. That bout was nationally televised on Showtimeís ShowBox series.

The setback sent LaManna back to the drawing board. He moved down to the welterweight division and began rebuilding his career. Five wins have followed, and now Cornflake finds himself in his toughest match since the Douglas fight. He knows that another misstep would seriously damage his reputation and prevent his move up the rankings.  

ďIíve worked too hard and gave up too much, sacrificed way too much,Ē LaManna said. ďFive, six years of camps. I didnít have a high school life. I had my first two fights (while) in high school, and my third five days after I graduated. So I barely had a (typical) eighteen, nineteen year old life. I was so zoned in and overly focused. So, losing is no option to me. He has Jay-Z, Roc Nation, and all that behind him. I have me, my two fists, my heart, and a dream. I canít let this slip away. Iím doing all I can to make sure I come out with a win on Thursday.Ē

Harrison is a familiar opponent to LaManna. Although the two have never engaged in an official fight, they have sparred each other in the past.

ďWe were in a training camp together,Ē LaManna said of Harrison. ďAround the time I fought Ashandi Gibbs, maybe 2014.Ē 

Opinions on who had the upper hand in that sparring session is conflicted, but everyone hopes that the history between the two will make their actual fight even better.

ďItís like Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman,Ē LaManna said. ďThey were familiar with each other. They had a couple sparring sessions, way back when. And it made for a more exciting fight. They took more risks, more chances. Maybe it can be the same with me and Dusty. I know that Iím familiar with him. I believe that Iíve improved a crazy amount, compared to when we sparred. He only improved a little, from what Iíve seen. It will be interesting to see. I canít wait.Ē 

In the past couple of years, Harrison has been making some noise. However, LaManna feels confident that heíll go into the fight with the edge over Harrison.

ďHeís a stand-up guy,Ē LaManna said. ďHeís more of a boxer. I donít think heís going to be as willing to exchange in the fight as he was when we were sparring, because we had bigger gloves and headgear on. Dusty definitely knows what heís getting himself into. He really didnít want this fight. I know that for a fact. I donít know if he was forced into it, but he was pressured into it. So he knows what heís getting himself into. I donít expect him to be hesitant, but I definitely expect him to do all that he can to take the safe way out and try to get a win.Ē

Harrison is known to be aggressive and fights at fast pace, but LaManna expects to see a different Dusty.

ďI expect him to be really cautious because he knows that heís going up against somebody that is actually bigger than him,Ē LaManna said. ďHe knows what Iím going to bring for a whole fight. Iím expecting him to try to take me into deep waters Ė sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth round. Heís gone ten a number of times. Iíve only gone eight. Iíve gone eight quite a few times. I always say, the last two rounds are just another two rounds. Itís all mental. I guess Iíll find out next week if thatís easier said than done. Thatís what Iím expecting from him. Thatís the only advantage he has over me. Iím not going to lie. Heís gone ten numerous times. Thatís all.Ē 

Consistent with his thoughts on going ten rounds, LaManna did not adjust his training for the extra distance he might see on Thursday night.

ďWhat did I do different? Nothing really,Ē LaManna said. ďI did my miles. I did my strength conditioning. Got my sparring in. Did my work in the gym. And I feel good. Anything different? No. It was a different atmosphere in the training camp, because you get training expenses. We brought sparring partners in and all that type of stuff. Iíve done five miles, three or four times. But it was all about smart training, and it definitely paid off. I feel really good.Ē 

LaManna says that his move down to welterweight was the right one.

ďIt feels great,Ē LaManna said. ďMy weight is real good. Iím strong. I havenít been more than 157 in like two weeks. Iíve been ten pounds away from the weight for like the past two weeks, which is great. Maybe this heat is doing it, but Iím hydrated, Iím strong, I eat. I eat my three meals a day, and now itís time to relax, cut down and maintain.Ē 

LaManna was originally supposed to fight Harrison one day later and about 70 miles east, at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. However, the announcement that the casino would be the latest AC gambling joint to close for business forced a change in venue and date for the LaManna-Harrison fight.

ďThere was always the possibility that Russell (Peltz) was going to do the fight anyway,Ē LaManna said. ďHe made the offer to do the show. Rock Nation called to make the offer (to fight Harrison). It just so happened that GH3 (Promotions), Vito Mielnicki, and Sal Musumeci of Final Forum had the CBS deal. So they all collaborated with Russell, which only makes sense. If youíre going to do it in Philly, you got to have Russell involved. They put it together and the fightís happening. I told everybody from the jump, I donít care when, where, how, off TV, on TV, belt, no belt, I want to rumble. So I knew it was going to happen. I just didnít know how quick, or long, or what it was going to take to make it happen.Ē 

The winner of the bout goes home with the USBA welterweight title, and a ticket into the rankings.

ďIím fortunate to do this,Ē LaManna said. ďA lot of people never get to fight for a title, whether big or small. It feels great. With this belt, the winner gets into the world ratings. And thatís when the real fun starts.Ē 

LaManna is good friends with newly crowned WBA junior lightweight champion Jason Sosa, and the idea of winning a belt of his own is a big incentive for LaManna. 

ďItís definitely a personal motivation, Iím not going to lie,Ē LaManna said of fighting for the USBA title. ďLast week I was over Sosaís house, and the first time I saw his belt, I was like, ĎHoly S***!í It really hit me. I realized that I was fighting for a belt as well. Itís a meaningful belt, not one of these made up belts. Itís an actual meaningful belt that really jump-starts the goal that Iíve been trying to reach for all these years Iíve been pro. So itís a start. Thank God.Ē

And LaManna likes his chances of bringing home that belt.

ďItís not like Iím going in over my head.Ē LaManna said. ďMay the best man win. Heís training hard. I know that Iím training extra hard. And the winner is going to be top-fifteen rated welterweight fighter. I guess thatís the best way to put it.Ē

Although, most of LaMannaís fights have taken place in Atlantic City, LaManna is no stranger to the 2300 Arena.

ďIím very fortunate,Ē LaManna said. ďIt feels great. Iím the main event on national TV, in a familiar location, Philadelphia. My last fight in Philly, on the Felix Verdejo card (December 2014), I got lucky. I was the middle fight, the crowd was bumping. I was in a pretty decent fight with a rugged guy, but that crowd, those lights, that atmosphere. It was just crazy, and I donít expect nothing less from this.Ē

With most boxing cards happening on the weekend, the LaManna-Harrison show will be on a rare Thursday night.

ďI was actually scared Ė a Thursday night in Philly and itís on TV Ė thinking my people wouldnít come out,Ē LaManna said. ďBut we have over 150 people coming. At this point, Iím telling them to buy at the door or online. So, I have my crowd coming. I would assume that Dusty has his crowd coming. So itís going to be a crazy atmosphere. Itís going to be great. Iím excited. Just thinking about it gets me hyped.Ē 

A win over Harrison puts LaManna in the ratings and keeps him moving forward, but all of his focus remains aimed at Thursday night.

ďBoxing-wise, I havenít seen past Dusty Harrison in forever,Ē said LaManna, who is also a boxing promoter. ďIím still doing a show November 12th (as a promoter), which is my birthday, at the Claridge. But I havenít even put that together. I was supposed to fight on that show. Obviously, Iím not going to now. Boxing-wise, I havenít seen past Dusty. I havenít seen past September 15th in God knows how long. I really havenít. After this, I want to go out to Vegas for the Andre Ward-Kovalev fight. And I just want to take a vacation. Itís been hard and crazy. Itís going on three months that Iíve been training for this fight. This is my last fight of 2016. It will be my fifth fight in about a year, but I havenít seen past Dusty inÖ I donít know how long.Ē

Just a few more days remain until the fight. 

ďOn Thursday, September 15th, you have two young fighters, one undefeated, one with one loss, in a neutral location, for a meaningful belt, that get a shot at a world rating,Ē LaManna said. ďThatís what boxing is all about. Itís on TV, so the country gets to see it. Thatís what boxing is about. Iím very excited and I canít wait to do the only thing I really know how to do, on this national stage, against this opponent. So Iím excited.Ē 




John DiSanto - Philadelphia - September 13, 2016