By Ryan MaquiŮana
Driving along Highway 101 midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Ardo (Population: 517) may seem like a blip on the journey from Point A to Point B.
However, 20-year-old junior featherweight Roman Morales (10-0, 6 KOs) has a chance to put the tiny California coastal city on the map this Friday in his ShoBox debut against Alexis Santiago (6-7-2, 1 KO).
BoxingScene.com: Time for the age-old question.† How has camp been so far?
Roman Morales: Iíve been sparring 10 rounds every time now.† Iíve been going some hard rounds, and getting as best in shape I can get for this fight.
BoxingScene.com: You turned some heads against Rufino Serrano in March on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights.† Break down your performance that night.
Roman Morales: I knew that he hits and runs a lot, so I knew I had to cut off the ring and work his body so that I could stop him from moving.† That was the plan, and we were able to break him down and be successful.
BoxingScene.com: Youíre making your ShoBox debut on Friday.† This is the biggest stage for you so far.† Are you nervous?† Excited?† A little of both?
Roman Morales: Iím really excited, but Iím also nervous.† Itís a great opportunity, so I want to show the people what Iíve got and what Iíve been working on.† My coach just keeps telling me to do my best and it will come out.
BoxingScene.com: What do you know about your opponent Alexis Santiago?
Roman Morales: He throws a lot of punches and stays busy.† He comes forward a lot, so like the last fight, weíre going to go to the body and calm him down as far his punch output.
BoxingScene.com: One thing that stands out about your style is your ability to work the body and break down your opponents from there.† How much emphasis does your trainer Rodolfo Tapia put into your body punching compared with the rest of your game?
Roman Morales: Heís got me from day one to always work the body.† Itís one of the best things you can do beside the jab.† Working the body slows down the fighter and gets him tired.† I still havenít perfected it yet, but itís definitely something I think I do well.
BoxingScene.com: Whatís one thing that you feel like you need to work on to become a more complete fighter?
Roman Morales: He wants me to work on my jab more.† He tells me a lot to use it more but not keep it out there, because something I get a little lazy with it.† Thatís one of the skills Iíve really worked on for this fight.
BoxingScene.com: Youíre from San Ardo, California, and itís a small town.† Tell me how it is living over there and how it feels to represent your neighbors, especially because Iím sure they will be tuning it to watch you fight on Friday.
Roman Morales: Itís a close-knit town.† Everybody knows each otherís name.† We all try to get along, and news travels fast.† Itís a nice community and a good place to live.† It feels really good to represent my hometown, get it some recognition, and let people know where San Ardo is.
BoxingScene.com: Is there anything else youíd like to tell the fans?
Roman Morales: I just want to thank everyone for supporting me and watching me fight, and cheering me on.† Keep on being there for me, and Iíll give you everything Iíve got.
Ryan MaquiŮana writes a weekly boxing column for CSNBayArea.com.† He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.