By Keith Idec
Quitting never entered Thomas 'Cornflake' LaManna’s mind.
His only professionals fights against unbeaten opponents have resulted in his two defeats – a sixth-round, technical-knockout loss to Antoine Douglas 3½ years ago and a 10-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Dusty Hernandez Harrison two years ago. The Douglas defeat led his promoter, Russell Peltz, to releasing LaManna from his contract.
That potentially discouraging sequence of events only made LaManna more determined to prove he can compete at that level. The 27-year-old boxer started his own company, Rising Star Promotions, in December 2015, moved down from middleweight to welterweight and has gone 11-1-1 since Douglas stopped him in a “ShoBox” main event in March 2015.
On Friday night, the 6-feet-2 LaManna out-boxed onetime contender Mike Arnaoutis to win a unanimous decision in an eight-round, 147-pound bout at Showboat in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Arnaoutis is 39 and 12 years removed from losing a split decision to Ricardo Torres in their 12-round fight for the then-vacant WBO junior welterweight title.
For LaManna (27-2-1, 9 KOs), the aged Arnaoutis (26-12-2, 13 KOs) represented an experienced opponent that kept the Millville, New Jersey, native busy while he attempts to attract the attention of another promoter.
“I had to take my career into my own hands and promote my own shows, just to get fights,” LaManna told BoxingScene.com. “I was doing it on a budget and doing it so small, just to get in the ring and keep me active and become relevant. It paid off because I broke into the WBO world ratings. I took a six-month layoff, so I’m not in them now. But that’ll change pretty soon. I’m a very popular kid, and I think I’m a decent fighter. I’m in a very popular division. But instead of sitting around and dwelling on it, like I did earlier in my career, when I wasn’t doing nothing, I’ve made sure I stayed active.
“I just want a big fight. I want a big opportunity. I know I’m not going to get a world-title opportunity in my next fight. I’m realistic – but something. I see these guys with DAZN, and it irks me when I see guys fighting has-beens for [a lot of] money, and I’m sitting here, and I feel like I have more talent than all of them put together, honestly. It’s costing me every time I fight, so I just hope a big-time promoter sees my struggle and gives me an opportunity.”
To remain an active boxer, LaManna works a full-time job, delivering bread for a Philadelphia-based bakery during the graveyard shift. Between his job, training, promoting cards in Atlantic City and helping care for his 5-month-old daughter, Brooklyn, LaManna barely has time to sleep.
LaManna doesn’t regret these tiring times, though, because he believes it’ll pay off now that there are so many promoters paying boxers to provide content on various platforms.
“I’m a really good boxer and I’m all about the sweet science, hit and not get hit,” LaManna said. “I’m a pure boxer. I know my skills and my heart and my determination could beat a lot of these top guys. If anything, especially these guys that are getting crazy-ass paydays and are being seen globally on the DAZN platform. I love it. I’m not hatin’, I’m not mad, I’m not jealous, because I love boxing and I know it’s a struggle for fighters. So if people are getting paid comfortably, God bless ‘em. I’m just saying hopefully, one day, I can get there, because I feel I’m deserving because I’ve earned my stripes by doing what I’m doing.”
Two fights ago, LaManna and Gabriel Bracero (25-3-1, 6 KOs) fought to a 10-round draw at The Showboat on February 24. LaManna believes he grew from that setback, as well as his loss to Hernandez Harrison, and has no plans to abandon boxing anytime soon.
“Boxing is all I really know,” said LaManna, whose father, Vinny, worked with Ray Mercer and Shannon Briggs when his son was young. “I was literally born into it. And I’m not the type to give up. I’ll never quit. I’m just a true, born fighter. I just love fighting. I know I could be something in boxing. I knew I could be where I’m at today, a world-rated fighter.
“People around me didn’t believe that, but I have my own feelings about it and I love to prove people wrong. That’s why I stuck with it. I’m not gonna disrespect anyone, because there’s much more accomplished fighters than me. So I don’t wanna call myself a world-class-level fighter yet, but I will be there.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.