ATLANTIC CITY - Millville junior-middleweight Thomas LaManna stepped up to the challenge at Bally's Atlantic City Saturday night.
The 20-year-old passed the toughest test of his two-year professional boxing career, using an early knockdown to gain a six-round, split decision over rugged Yolexcy Leiva, of Nashville, Tenn. on the Joel Diaz-Guillermo Sanchez undercard.
Judges Alan Rubenstein (57-56) and Steve Weisfeld (58-55) both favored LaManna, as did The Press (57-56), while judge John Stewart (57-56) scored it for Leiva. Most of the crowd cheered the verdict, but there was a smattering of boos from fans who were impressed with Leiva's aggressiveness.
"That was absolutely the kind of fight I was expecting," LaManna said. "I knew it was going to be a war. But I felt like I learned so much from that. I was in the hardest fight of my life and I found a way to win."
Leiva, 34, represented a step up in competition for LaManna (9-0, 5 KOs). His first eight opponents sported a combined 12-24 record. Leiva (5-4, 4 KOs) had been in with some tough fighters, having faced undefeated boxers in his previous two fights.
LaManna nearly ended the bout in the second round, capping a six-punch fluury with a straight right that dropped Leiva in his own corner. Leiva easily beat referee Lindsay Page's eight-count, however, and kept pressing forward.
"When I knocked him down, I thought the fight was over," LaManna said. "I hit him clean and I didn't think there was anyway he was getting up. When he got up and raised his arms, I thought, 'Uh oh.' I don't know how he got stopped three times. He was like a pit bull in there. He was even grunting when he came at me."
In the main event, super-featherweight prospect Joel Diaz (11-0, 10 KOs), of Coachella, Calif. earned a second-round TKO over Buffalo's Guillermo Sanchez (13-7-1, 5 KOs). Passaic middleweight Glen Tapia (15-0, 9 KOs) won a first-round TKO over New York's Franklin Gomez (15-11, 10 KOs).
In the co-feature, Passaic middleweight Glen Tapia (15-0, 9 KOs) overwhelmed New York's Franklin Gonzalez (15-11, 10 KOs) en route to a first-round knockout.