Undefeated featherweight prospect Gary “The Kid” Stark of Staten Island, New York, thought he was in great condition when he recently traveled to Big Bear, California, to train for a month with a slew of Mexican boxing royalty.

Among the champions and contenders that he sparred with daily were then WBO bantamweight champion Jhonny Gonzalez, who on September 16 was surprisingly defeated by Israel Vasquez for the WBC super bantamweight title, Miguel Roman, 17-0 (12 KOS), Antonio Escalante, 13-1 (8 KOS), Abner Mares, 9-0 (5 KOS), and southpaw Agnaldo Nunez, 17-1-1, who is actually Brazilian but fights with the same gritty determination as his Mexican stable mates.

“Those guys are tough,” said the 26-year-old Kid, a former amateur sensation who is Puerto Rican, Guatemalan and Jewish descent. “I feel like I got seven or eight fights worth of experience in that month.”

What helped Stark even more was the fact that he was training in California at an altitude of 9,000 feet. For the first two weeks he found himself struggling to catch his breath whenever he exerted himself.  

That disadvantage, coupled with the tough sparring, has prepared the Kid, whose record is 16-0 (8 KOS), for the next phase of his career which begins on Wednesday, September 20, in New York.

He is scheduled to take on the rugged Carlos “Bam Bam” Diaz, 9-6-3 (7 KOS), of Tampa, Florida, in an eight-round special attraction at the Hammerstein Ballroom, which is located next to the New Yorker Hotel on West 34 Street and Eighth Avenue, directly across the street from Madison Square Garden.

In separate bouts, popular local junior welterweights Dmitriy “Star of David” Salita and Edgar “El Chamaco” Santana will share top billing in the Broadway Boxing doubleheader that is being promoted by Lou DiBella and Damon Dash.

Also scheduled to appear on the show is the sensational Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, 6-0 (5 KOS), who meets Brad Austin, 8-1 (5 KOS), of Johnson City, Tennessee, and Jorge Teron, 11-0 (8 KOS), of the Bronx, who will square off against Lenny DiVictoria, 8-5 (2 KOS), of Philadelphia.

The Kid, who has fought half of his bouts in different states, says that he has never been more ready for a fight.

“The thin air was a real disadvantage for me,” he said. “I never experienced anything like it. But I got used to it, adjusted myself to it, and I am now a better fighter for it. Being a good fighter is all about overcoming disadvantages.”

Even though he has always been a diligent trainer, the Kid was amazed at the pace in which his Mexican colleagues prepared themselves for battle under the watchful eye of the esteemed Oscar Suarez.

“They train so hard, which only made me train so much harder,” said the Kid. “They had me working on so many things. There is no question that all the sparring I did there made me a better fighter.”

The Kid’s assessment greatly dismantles the overstated myth that most Mexican fighters are nothing more than face-first, left-hooking brawlers. The Kid, as well as his father, Gary Stark Sr., who accompanied him to Big Bear, both agree that Suarez is a boxing genius.  

“We were training with elite fighters,” said Stark Sr., a former amateur fighter and retired New York City corrections officer who has been involved in his son’s training since day one of his amateur career.

“I learned so much from him. Not just about his physical training – which is intense – but also about things like nutrition. There’s a reason why his fighters have so much stamina and strength. His methods of training are phenomenal.”

Stark Sr. was very impressed with how his son handled himself, and he can’t wait to see how all that invaluable experience plays out in the months and years to come. The Kid recently signed a one-year contract with DiBella and hopes to be fighting on HBO in the not too distant future.

“Gary more than held his own against a lot of elite fighters,” said Stark Sr. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s right up there with them. He is on the verge of being an elite fighter himself.”

Thankfully the Starks are smart enough to not put the cart before the horse. The Kid will have no easy pickings with Diaz, who reportedly is a lot tougher than his record indicates. He has been stopped only once, in the second round by Raymundo Beltran, 9-2, in Phoenix in October 2002.

Moreover, he has beaten one previously undefeated fighter, as well as three opponents who had just one previous loss on their ledgers.

Interestingly, he also battled to draws with two undefeated fighters, as well as one fighter with just a single loss. There have been whispers that the Kid might be in for a long night.  

Looming in the minds of many is the fact that another local undefeated hotshot, the murderous punching super middleweight Curtis “Showtime” Stevens, was shockingly upset by journeyman Marcos Primera, 19-15-2, in the same building in July.

“I don’t take Diaz lightly,” said the Kid. “I don’t take anyone lightly. All I know is that I have my eye on the future and Diaz is in my way. Usually I just grit my teeth and slug, but tomorrow night I’m going to put on a boxing clinic. I’m going to show the fans all that I learned in California. I got a lot of inspiration out there.”

Two separate editions of this show will appear in high definition exclusively on HDNet and in over 30 million homes on SportsNet New York, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Comcast SportsNet Southeast, Comcast SportsNet West, and Comcast Local-Detroit.

Tickets are priced at $200 for VIP balcony seats, $175 for platinum ringside, $125 for gold ringside, $75 for ringside, $55 for lower balcony seats, and $35 for upper balcony general admission.

Tickets can be obtained by calling DiBella Entertainment at 212-947-2577.