Spotting talent, that is reserved for the gifted.
Whether baseball, basketball, football or boxing, those scouts with the innate ability to spot young, undiscovered talent are as rare as those they discover.
One Southern California promotion company has scuffled with the giants of boxing on a continuous basis for the past 15 years and found their share of nuggets. Many boxing fans in the U.S. may not know Thompson Boxing Promotions, but those in the industry certainly do.
It’s a numbers game and the dice will be rolled when two Southern California youngsters Danny Roman and Giovanni Santillan fight on Friday in separate bouts. The Doubletree Hotel in Ontario will be the locale for their co-main events. It will not be televised.
Los Angeles-based Roman (16-2, 5 Kos) defends the NABA lightweight title against Oxnard’s Erik Ruiz (14-3, 6 Kos). In the co-main, San Diego’s Santillan (16-0, 9 Kos) has a junior welterweight clash with Mexico’s Ernesto Ortiz (10-2, 7 Kos). Both are Thompson Boxing’s latest finds.
Will they be the next world champions from Thompson Boxing?
A roll call of former Thompson Boxing jewels would sound like an all-star game lineup. Names like Timothy Bradley, Josesito Lopez, Yonnhy Perez, Mauricio Herrera, Darleys Perez are among those unveiled like Christmas gifts for boxing lovers. Another dozen from Thompson’s lower ranks could be named just as easily.
When a promotion company lacks television contracts, fighters quickly grow out of their league and move on to the bigger outfits. But for those first three or four years with Thompson Boxing, Southern California fight fans have witnessed some of the best in small venues like the Omega Products International, Orange Doubletree Hotel, Marconi Museum and the Ontario Doubletree Hotel. They’ve been the stage for many of the best club fights of the last decade.
Many fight fans remember Timothy Bradley’s difficult match against a then unknown Miguel Vazquez, who would go on to win the lightweight title. Or Mauricio Herrera’s matching slick-quick combinations with Cleotis “Mookie” Pendarvis. And what about Josesito Lopez’s coming out party that saw him knock out Victor Ortiz? They were glimpses into the future of their combined talent. Fans benefited from their early exposure on the club circuit.
Ken Thompson, president of Thompson Boxing, has provided fight fans in Southern California with an anchor of talent. His company scours boxing gyms throughout the U.S, Mexico, Puerto Rico and South America in search of undiscovered talent.
Point man for Thompson has always been Alex Camponovo. Many consider him one of the very top matchmakers in the sport.
“We’re still looking for more talent. We’re always looking for more talent. With Yonnhy Perez we were lucky. We worked hard to continue that relationship with managers over there,” said Camponovo, who makes trips to Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela in search of talent. “All those managers believe in the idea that we have. As with anything, it demands a lot of work and meeting the right people.”
Colombia’s Perez captured the IBF bantamweight title on Halloween Night in Las Vegas in 2009. His discovery by Thompson Boxing led to a direct pipeline to Colombia and South America.
That Colombia connection led to signings of Darleys Perez, Jhonatan “Momo” Romero, Alex Theran and now they have Cesar Villarraga. Perez and Romero won world titles and Theran challenged for a title. It’s proven to be fruitful but only after adjustments made my Thompson Boxing.
Training in Southern California
Fighters from other countries are required to live and train in Southern California.
“There’s differences. Most fighters in Mexico or Colombia are sparring every day, but the challenges they face are pretty limited. But when you come here the sparring sessions are sometimes better than the fights. It will only make the fighter better,” said Camponovo explaining their system. “That’s why I make the international fighters come over here. The style here is much more aggressive. If you just show up the week of the fight you won’t know what to expect. It’s a shock.”
Many of the international prizefighters live and train in Santa Fe Springs and are welcomed with open arms in the small city of 20,000 residents. It was common to see large contingents of Santa Fe Springs fans drive to Las Vegas to see Yonnhy Perez perform. They celebrated all night long after his victory over Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko at Treasure Island Casino.
Camponovo says that once the initial shock of living and sparring in Southern California wears off, the fighters are primed for anyone.
“When you have a guy from Colombia it’s an eye-opening experience, especially in the L.A. area or Inland Empire. It’s not easy. But you get a lot of confidence. Fighters here are more aggressive,” Camponovo explains. “That will only help you. There are 50 or 60 guys ready to knock your lights out over here. But the international fighters get a little more comfortable by training here. They notice the difference. They know the limits they have to reach.”
On Friday, the local talent takes center stage.
Danny Roman has two losses but the improvement in his game is significant. His promoters believe he’s ready for the next step. He does too.
“Danny Roman is already ranked. If everything goes well he’ll be a legitimate challenger. The WBA has him ranked 15th,” said Camponovo. “When I told him he was now ranked his eyes were filling up with tears. It’s what they worked for so hard, to be recognized and it’s a great feeling.”
However, there’s one big catch when you’re the underdog or a promotion company without a television contract.
“It’s like a rollercoaster ride. They have to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice,” said Camponovo. “We have to be ready at all times. You never know if a TV fight is around the corner.”
For tickets or information for Friday night’s fight card call (714) 935-0900. Doors open at 6 p.m.