Millville boxer Thomas LaManna has been fighting for a decade in hopes of getting an opportunity to become a world champion.

He'll finally get that chance on May 1, when he takes on current WBA super-welterweight champion Erislandy Lara for the vacant WBA middleweight title in the main event of a FOX Sports telecast at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
"I've been waiting a long time for this," LaManna said Wednesday in a phone interview. "I can't believe it's finally happening."
LaManna (30-4-1, 12 KOs) will be the fifth boxer from Atlantic, Cape May or Cumberland Counties to fight for a world title, following Bridgeton light-heavyweight Richie Kates, Atlantic City heavyweight Bruce Seldon, Atlantic City super-featherweight John Brown and late Atlantic City lightweight Leavander Johnson, respectively. Kates, Seldon, Brown and Johnson are all members of the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Kates barely lost a a pair of bouts against the late Victor Galindez in 1976 and 1977. Seldon became the area's first world champion when he won the WBA belt via seventh-round TKO over Tony Tucker in 1995. He made one successful defense before losing the crown in a first-round loss to Mike Tyson a year later. Brown came up short in four world title fights against Shane Mosley, the late Diego Corrales and Stevie Forbes (twice) between 1995 and 2001. Johnson won the IBF title with a seventh-round TKO over Stefano Zoff in 2005. Later that year, Johnson suffered an 11th-round TKO loss to Jesus Chavez and died three days later at age 35.
LaManna, 29, made his pro debut during his senior year at Millville High School. He gained a first-round TKO over Anthony Williams, of Wilson, North Carolina, on Feb. 11, 2011 at Bally's Atlantic City. Frustrated at the lack of opportunities, he briefly retired from boxing in 2017 before returning to the ring after a three-month layoff.
LaManna, who's ranked No. 8 in the WBA at middleweight, is 2-2 in his last four bouts. He suffered back-to-back losses to Jorge Cota (30-4, 24 KOs) and Brian Mendoza (19-1, 13 KOs) at junior-middleweight, then moved up to the 160-pound division and registered TKO wins over Jorge Pimental (30-27, 24 KOs) and Juan de Jesus Angulo Gonzalez (20-15, 15 KOs) in Mexico.

“I’ve worked so hard for this,” LaManna said. “People can say whatever they want, but the fact is I never gave up. I’m the definition of the ‘American Dream.’ America is the ‘Land of Opportunity’ and this is my opportunity to show everyone what I’m about.”

Lara (27-3-3, 15 KOs), who turns 38 next month, defected from Cuba in 2008 and has been among the world's top super-welterweights for the better part of the last eight years.
Local boxing fans probably remember his first loss, a hotly disputed, majority decision setback to the late Paul Williams on July 9, 2011 in Atlantic City. His only defeats in the last seven years were a pair of split decisions against Canelo Alvarez in 2014 and Jarrett Hurd in 2018.

He's 2-1-1 in his last four outings, including two straight wins against unheralded opponents.
"Thomas LaManna is a tall middleweight with a lot of experience and I'm taking this fight very seriously, like always," Lara said in a statement. "At this stage in my career, I'm all-action, fighting on the inside, and letting my hands fly. I'm going to make a statement in this fight with a knockout."

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