However boxing fans and media might feel about his middleweight title fight against Erislandy Lara, this is the moment Thomas LaManna has worked to reach throughout his adult life.
Lara has obvious advantages in experience and level of opposition, but LaManna is inspired by his conviction that Saturday night means much more to him than it does to the heavily favored Cuban southpaw. LaManna looks at this as his only opportunity to fight for a world title and he intends to battle Lara accordingly.
The younger, taller underdog doesn’t expect Lara to compete with the same sense of urgency in a 12-round fight FOX will televise live before the pay-per-view portion of the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Chris Arreola undercard begins at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. FOX will air two fights, starting at 7 p.m. ET, before the action shifts to FOX Sports Pay-Per-View at 9 p.m. ET ($49.99).
“I definitely want this more than him – no doubt about it,” LaManna told BoxingScene.com. “Now, I’m not gonna sit here and say that’s gonna be the determining factor in the result. But going in, there’s no doubt in my mind I want it more than him. He’s definitely looking past me. They have future plans with whoever’s at 160 that’s legit and are looking to cash him out. … I definitely respect his accomplishments, but this is my time.”
Lara, 38, and LaManna, 29, will fight for the vacant WBA world middleweight title.
The WBA elevated Japan’s Ryota Murata from world champion to super champion early in January, after Canelo Alvarez vacated its super 160-pound title. Instead of declaring Murata its lone champion in the middleweight division, the WBA sanctioned Lara-LaManna for its world title.
Lara (27-3-3, 15 KOs), who is listed as a 25-1 favorite, has moved up from the 154-pound division to attempt to become a champion in a second weight class. LaManna (30-4-1, 12 KOs) has knocked out two journeymen in middleweight fights in Mexico since losing a closely contested 10-round junior middleweight match to Brian Mendoza (19-1, 13 KOs) by unanimous decision August 29 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Though their resumes aren’t comparable, LaManna no longer sees the version of Lara that the Millville, New Jersey, native believes beat Paul Williams in July 2011 and gave Canelo Alvarez a very difficult fight in July 2014. Since losing a split decision to Jarrett Hurd (24-1, 16 KOs) in April 2018, Lara has fought to a 12-round split draw with WBO champ Brian Castano (17-0-1, 12 KOs), knocked out overmatched Ramon Alvarez (28-8-3, 16 KOs, 1 NC) in the second round and comfortably out-pointed Greg Vendetti (22-4-1, 12 KOs), who also was a big underdog.
“I feel like my skill attributes aren’t too off from his,” LaManna said. “I look at the little things. I feel as though he’s not the same fighter he’s known for being. He don’t move as much. In my opinion, he’s not a dog, like what people make him out to be. At the end of the day, he’s with a trainer, Ismael Salas, who I have nothing but respect for. But he’s a boxing teacher. He’s a boxing coach. He’s a slow-paced, pot-shotting master boxer trainer. Ronnie Shields was the reason Lara had dog in him. And I feel as though that evens the playing field. I’ve got the youth. I’ve got the size. I’ve got the brain. I’ve got the experience.
“I mean, look, I get it. He is who he is. He is a champ and he fought who he fought. I thought he only legit lost one fight, which was the Jarrett Hurd fight. It was clear as day that he got robbed against Paul Williams. And then with Canelo, that’s very, very controversial. But I’ve got more pro fights than he does. Not that it means anything, but I’ve got experience, too. I’ve been around. I’ve tasted my losses and no, I have not been at the high level that he has. But I truly feel that all of my lessons and all my wins and all my fights in general propelled me to this moment. And I’m gonna, God willing, just take full advantage of it.”
LaManna lost his last middleweight fight against a top opponent in March 2015, when then-unbeaten Antoine Douglas defeated him by sixth-round technical knockout. He feels much more prepared, however, to face Lara than he was when he encountered Douglas in his 17th professional fight.
“I’m willing to be OK with the fact that I probably won’t be the same after this fight,” LaManna said. “I’m gonna do literally whatever it takes to win. Lara’s in a better position in life. He’s made his millions. He’s like a baby to the PBC circle. He’s like the little baby to them. They always take care of him. He got his money. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for me to change my life, for real. This is probably my only shot at a world title, so I’ve just got the will to win.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.