By Francisco Salazar
Fighters for cities in Southern California have received a great deal of press over the years. Whether it is Los Angeles, Riverside, Oxnard, or Palm Springs, those cities have become synonymous with fighters who represent their hometowns well.
But what about Northern California?
Aside from Nonito Donaire, who resides and trains in the Bay Area, there has not been a great deal of noteworthy fighters that have put their city on the map.
That could change with Manuel 'Tino' Avila. He has passed every test thus far as an unbeaten prospect and could be on the cusp of bigger things, along with representing Northern California as a legit contender.
He faces a stern test on Saturday night when he fights Yoandris Salinas at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif. The 10 round junior featherweight bout will be part of a Golden Boy Promotions card and will air live on HBO Latino, beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET/ 7:30 p.m. PT.
Avila (17-0, 7 KOs) has looked impressive against modest opposition, including his last couple of fights. Avila stopped former world title challenger David De La Mora in the second round in May of last year and knocked out Sergio Frias in the eighth round on August 22.
In his last bout on May 7, Avila won a one-side 10 round decision over Erik Ruiz in Los Angeles.
Salinas (21-1-2, 14 KOs) is a strong test for Avila. Originally from Cuba, Salinas fought to a majority decision draw against Scott Quigg in October of 2013, a fight some thought Salinas did enough to win.
But Avila believes he is ready and is eager to surprise many who believe he may be in over his head.
"I know he throws a lot of punches, especially with the right hand," Avila told BoxingScene.com in a phone interview earlier this week. "I have to slow him down and take right hand away. I don't watch tapes. I let my team do that. I'll be ready for whatever he brings."
Avila has demonstrated his penchant to sit down more on his punches in his recent fights. It does make for compelling fights when he exchanges, but he still looks to outbox his opponents.
As he grows older, he is learning more how to gel the two.
"I feel that I'm getting stronger as I get older," said Avila, who is promoted by Golden Boy. "I'd rather be a boxer than a puncher. I feel I'm becoming a boxer-puncher, but I can stop on a dime and bang with you."
Avila resides in the city of Fairfield, which is located halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. There are a few other fighters from the Northern California region, but Avila is by far the more advanced who is unbeaten.
While there are distractions that could hinder is progress, Avila stays motivated by the fact he is so close in becoming a bonafide contender in his weight class.
"I had plans on becoming a fighter, but I didn't think beyond one day fighting to where I could become a champion one day. I love boxing. I have a (interim NABF junior featherweight) title shot lined up (for Saturday). That gives me more motivation right there."
"I have a lot of pride and to represent Fairfield and fight under the Golden Boy banner is a great feeling. I want to continue being the pride of Fairfield where everyone believes in me. I'm the only fighter (in Fairfield and surrounding areas) with amateur background."
Avila hopes to get in line for a world title fight one day, realistically next year. A win over Salinas could solidify a high ranking in the near future.
"I don't want to get too anxious. I'm taking one fight at a time."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing