Manuel Avila: "Keep your eyes on me"
At the turn of the year, Manuel Avila was still in the very infancy of his professional boxing career. Now having won all five of his fights in 2012, “Tino” is currently 11-0 (4). Last time out, the 20-year-old super bantamweight scored his best win to date, stopping once-beaten Ricky Lopez in their eighth and final round. Avila hails from Fairfield in Northern California and despite an amateur career that was largely under the radar, he’s a local draw having headlined four times in his hometown plus several other appearances in nearby locales. Testimony to his skills, he’s backed by award-winning manager Cameron Dunkin, who likes what he sees in his client, “I saw Manuel fight in the amateur days. I always liked his style and believed he had a pro style. When he decided to turn over, of course, I was interested. I’ve brought many guys along who were rough diamonds like [Danny] Romero, Diego Corrales and Freddie Norwood. I’m not saying he’s as good as those guys yet but he’s coming along under the radar and I’m happy with him.”
Anson Wainwright - Your last fight was arguably your toughest and yet best performance, stopping Ricky Lopez in the eighth round. Looking back, can you talk us through the fight and your performance?
Manuel Avila - He was quite hard; he was 9-1 and I was 10-0 going in. He put up a fight; I was expecting a fight. He started getting tired and that’s when I took over in the last round. I dropped him and then I dropped him again and the fight was over.
AW - Do you have a working date for your next fight?
MA – No, not right now. In the second round, I cut my eye open from a headbutt and it went down to the bone and I’m out for two months.
AW - What are your plans for 2013?
MA - This fight was supposed to be for a youth title but Ricky Lopez didn’t want to make weight so, hopefully, I can get something like that in 2013. That would be great ‘cause as an amateur, I never got a belt. All these belts and I think it’s very funny I never had one. If I get a belt as a professional, I’d feel great. Hopefully I can get at least six more fights next year and fight for a belt, even if it’s the end of the year but I leave it all up to Cameron [Dunkin]. I do what I’m told.
AW – Previously, you won a near shut-out decision over former world title challenger John Alberto Molina. Was that a positive experience?
MA – Yeah, it felt great. People were telling me he has this many fights (Molina had 54 bouts in total) and that he had too much experience for me and they shouldn’t have put me in there with him and that I’d have trouble with him. I was like, they put me in with him. I must be able to handle him ‘cause I trust my cornermen; I trust my manager. They’re not going to put me in there to get beat up. I just took over the whole fight and I had no problems with him.
AW - You’ve been a pro for two years now. Can you tell us about that time and how do you feel you’ve developed?
MA - Since I started my conditioning, I got a lot better. I’ve been working on my speed and throwing a lot of punches. We’ve been working on more speed and power, basically the basics because everyone gets away from throwing the jab or compact punches. All these fighters are getting wild and looking for a knockout. We’re just going back to the basics and breaking everyone down with a jab and working off speed.
AW - Who are the members of your team, your manager, trainer and promoter? Also where do you regularly train?
MA - Cameron Dunkin is my manager, Al Lagardo [Avila’s trainer] has been with me since day one. He had a few champions; he had the kickboxing champion Dennis Alexio, then he had Willie Jordan and he had a female kickboxer and he’s been offered all these opportunities but he’s not like that. [Avila] doesn’t like to be centre of attention or anything; he doesn’t like to talk too much. My promoter is Golden Boy. I train at Georgie Dukes Sports Center, Vacaville.
AW - What current pros have you trained and/or sparred with? Can you tell us about those experiences?
MA – Well, I’ve only trained with two pros; one’s an up-and-coming fighter as well and the other is Nonito Donaire. It was pretty cool, being an up-and-coming fighter and sparring a big-time pro. I felt great and it was good for them to help me out. Sparring was a good experience. It felt a lot different from sparring as an amateur and sparring other up-and-coming professionals. I’m glad I got that work in with them. It taught me a lot and we sat down and talked about what I had to work on and what I had.
AW – Please tell us the path you took to get into boxing.
MA – Well, when I started boxing, we went in basically to keep me off the streets. I didn’t expect to be a boxer as an amateur or pro. I just wanted to learn how to throw punches and a few months in, Al told me if I want to spar, I can, so I gave it a chance and after that, it just took over my life.
AW - You had a very solid amateur record. Could you tell us about your amateur career, the titles you won and what you achieved?
MA – Well, when I started boxing, we went in and basically, I had a pro style. Everybody liked it. I was just an average amateur who threw punches bell to bell. I actually had that pro style, I would box; I would be in and out since my first fight, people kept an eye on me from being an amateur. I had a big following; I was ranked six in the world, ranked three in the nation and people were really impressed with me. The only people who were ranked higher than me in the world were guys from like Europe who had 200, 300 fights. Finishing my amateur career, I only had 50-something fights. That’s the thing; even when I signed with Golden Boy, they had two other fighters and they were on the computer looking each other up and they tried looking me up but there wasn’t anything, so they were like, “Where did you come from? What have you done?” and I was like, “I haven’t really done much.” I got discovered by fighting Victor Pasillas (a young pro who also fights at super bantamweight, currently 3-0 (1)). It was my last loss. I didn’t really think it would come from a loss that would help me get discovered but I guess it did.
AW - Some of your fights as a pro have taken place in your hometown, Fairfield, CA. It’s always good to have that support. What can you tell us about this?
MA - It feels great. They brought the show to Fairfield for me; they brought the show to Vacaville for me. It was great being in my hometown where I live, in my backyard where I train. Vacaville was at Georgie Dukes; my last fight was actually at my gym. It feels great to me, not just having me as another fighter going place to place. Not too many fighters can say they fought in their own gym as a professional. It’s amazing that they’re working with me and not telling me, “You’re going to Vegas or Texas, Coachella.” They’re actually working with me. They’re not keeping me local either. I was supposed to fight in Vegas one time. I fought in L.A. twice. I fought in Orange County. Like Cameron said, I’m not just local talent; I’m out there.
AW - When you’re not boxing, what do you enjoy doing with your time?
MA - I love going to the movies. I like anything. Me and my girlfriend go to the movies, watch a chick flick, action movie. Just going to different places. My girlfriend likes to buy a lot of clothes. We go out to stores, the mall, just hang out with my family. Every weekend we go to my grandma’s house. All my cousins come over, just stay with my family until I go back to the gym ‘cause when I go back to the gym, I don’t see them anymore.
AW - What are your goals in boxing?
MA - I want to be a world champion. Hopefully in a few different weights ‘cause I’m not gonna stay at 122 my whole life, probably more to 126 and maybe another weight class. I’m not too sure. I just want to be able to win a world title belt at 122 and 126. Those are my goals but I’m sure they’ll change.
AW - Finally in closing, do you have a message for the boxing world?
MA - Keep your eyes on me. I’m an up-and-coming fighter. I don’t have much amateur experience but I’m going to be one of the top dogs and be the first from the local area to be a top fighter.
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