MONTEBELLO, Calif. – Sergio Mora’s return to the ring also marks the return of the Contender television reality series.

The East Los Angeles fighter known as the “Latin Snake” meets Archak “Shark Attack” Ter-Meliksetian (15-3) at the Aladdin Casino on Thursday, May 4. The fight will be televised by ESPN.

Unorthodox and speedy are two elements of the sport that can make finding opponents a lengthy chore. But Mora’s capture of the television series championship vaulted him to the forefront of the middleweight division.

Even soccer moms know the Latin Snake.

“I liked the way he tasted his blood when he got cut,” said Sara Knowles, who works a concession stand at a Major League Baseball stadium. “I never really followed boxing before.”

Now he can take his pick of opponents.

Mora (17-0) was a surprise winner of the series that took place last year. His victory over Peter Manfredo Jr. was not as much a surprise as his making the final. Up until that point, he was just another fighter out of East L.A.

But that championship victory, and the subsequent rematch victory, pushed him to the super reality world of boxing where world champion Jermain Taylor roams. It’s a dangerous place.

“Middleweights are small enough where they throw as many punches as featherweights,” says HBO analyst Larry Merchant. “And big enough to punch like heavyweights.”

It’s Mora’s world.

Growing up in East Los Angeles has its advantages and disadvantages. The unincorporated area of L.A. is a breeding ground for boxing. You can’t find a family in the area without some ties to the sport.

The disadvantage is poverty. But if hunger makes a better fighter than no better place exists in Southern California.

On one recent visit to the boxing gym where Mora trains, a stop at a popular local hotdog stand called Chronis, where chili dogs and French fries attract hundreds of hunger people every day, it would seem to be an all-around pleasant experience. While I munched on some hotdogs popping sounds perforated the air.

A kid who had just passed by the restaurant’s sitting tables was shot dead at a payphone. It barely brought attention by the residents passing by.

This is Mora’s world. And though he could have moved out after winning $1 million, he’s still waking up every morning in the crime-filled streets.

What is it that keeps him there?

Mora says family keeps him going.

In the beginning of his pro career, despite an undefeated record, getting fights was a difficult task for Mora and his team. But with the help of his advisor John Montelongo and trainer Dean Campos, the trio endured some rough times surviving the jagged road to boxing success without a promoter.

“I thank God the Contender came along,” said Mora last year after winning the series of fights. “It was just fate.”

Most boxing savvy people recognized Mora had talent, especially after reaching the box-off finals in 2000. The East L.A. boxer came out of the shadows to almost make the team as a middleweight. It was Jermain Taylor who won a close decision to take the middleweight spot.

“I remember Sergio Mora as a real good boxer,” said Taylor last October by telephone. “He surprised me. He surprised everybody.”

Not any more. The world is beginning to know about Mora.

“That was Sergio’s advantage in the box-offs,” said Campos, who trained Mora for that event six years ago and still prepares him. “Nobody knew about him.”

With his Roy Jones-like moves to go with the quickness, a few skeptics feel that style of fighting is inadequate.

But, Campos said, “Nobody has been able to stop it.”

California Athletic Commission

A bizarre story took place at the California Athletic Commission on Wednesday, April 26, when the tale unfolded regarding an event that took place in San Diego on March 11.

According to the Commission, before the fight card commenced, problems locating the paramedics stalled the event.

“We made calls and were told a paramedic would be there in a minute,” said Dean Lohuis, chief athletic inspector. “It turned into an hour.”

A man soon appeared wearing a uniform that seemed to indicate he was a paramedic or someone registered for emergency situations. It turned out, he was not a paramedic and fled the scene.

The promoter Sadeghini Gambino said he did not know who the person was and denied involvement with the imposter.

Fight shows across the country

Saturday at the Foxwoods Resort, Brazil’s Acelino Freitas attempts to regain his former stature by challenging Zahir Raheem’s for his WBC lightweight title. It won’t be easy. Freitas may have the power edge but Raheem’s win over Erik Morales might have been the boost he needed to believe in himself. Freitas better go for the knockout. Raheem knows what to do now and has confidence to stay and trade when necessary. It should be a very close and interesting contest.

Fights on television

Sat. HBO, 10:15 p.m., Acelino Freitas (37-1) vs. Zahir Raheem (27-1).