Bright prospects looking to start pro careers in style

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Since Richard Schaefer, the former Golden Boy Promotions CEO, returned to the boxing business last summer, when he founded Ringstar Sports, he has been involved in some major shows.

He served as the co-promoter of the Abner Mares-Jesus Cuellar card in December and the Leo Santa Cruz-Carl Frampton rematch in January.

While Schaefer will continue to promote bigger cards involving fighters managed by Al Haymon, his close associate, and the World Boxing Super Series tournaments, he has also signed a strong group of prospects, including five 2016 Olympians he intends to build from the ground up.

That process kicks off with a Premier Boxing Champions card on Sunday night (Fox Sports 1/Fox Deportes, 9:30 ET) at the Novo at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.

While Riverside, California, welterweight Josesito Lopez (34-7, 19 KOs) headlines the card in a 10-rounder against Mexico’s Saul Corral (22-8, 13 KOs), the undercard is filled with many of the bright prospects Schaefer has signed and he is excited to get rolling on building what he thinks will be the next generation of world titleholders and attractions.

“All of these young fighters we’re letting loose on Sunday are coming to fight,” Schaefer said. “This won’t be ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ They will come to engage and destroy. These guys all have advanced skills and I look forward to seeing them in the ring.

“I’m excited for opening night. It’s the beginning of the next generation of stars. To see them all in one night is going to be very special.”

The most heralded of the fighters making his pro debut is U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas, 20, of Santa Maria, California, who will turn pro in a six-round junior lightweight bout against Thomas Smith (3-4-1, 2 KO), 29, of Dallas.

Also making their pro debuts are Mexican middleweight Misael Rodriguez, a bronze medalist in Rio De Janeiro, who is managed by Mares and trained by Robert Garcia; lightweight Lindolfo Delgado, who was also on the Mexican Olympic team; and Lithuanian Olympic welterweight Eimantas Stanionis, who is trained by Hall of Famer Freddie Roach.

Another fighter, welterweight Money Powell IV, a standout amateur who would have been a top prospect to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team, is also turning pro.

“With Karlos Balderas you have someone with the skills in the ring, the personality and the character outside of the ring as well,” Schaefer said. “The combination of all of this will ultimately make him the new face of the sport. There always has to be somebody who carries the Southern California boxing scene. Right now there is a void. I see Karlos very quickly becoming the ‘King of L.A.’ and a star in the sport.”

Balderas, 20, is anxious to kick off his career.

“I’m really looking forward to this fight. I’ve prepared well,” he said. “I’m taking this as seriously as a championship fight. I definitely want to make Los Angeles my home for as many fights as possible. That’s where everything is happening. I want to make Los Angeles mine.

“I want to be in exciting fights as a professional. I’m proud of what I did in the amateurs and the Olympics, but I know this is an entirely different game. I’m looking to do even bigger and better things. I want to build a perfect record and build my fan base. I hope to be fighting for a world title in a few years. I know that I have the right team to get me there.”

Balderas said he is also looking forward to moving up the ladder along with the other fighters in the Ringstar stable, many of whom he already knows.

“I’ve known a lot of these other fighters here for a long time from all of the amateur tournaments,” he said. “It’s nice to see us all coming together now as professionals. In the amateurs people pretty much stay with their own team, but this is the time for us to come together and learn from each other. It’s a great feeling to be a part this.”

Incidentally, Balderas always went by “Carlos” but now is going by “Karlos.”

“Everyone knows a Carlos with a C, so I wanted to stand out,” he said. “As a professional, and from here on out, I am going to be known as Karlos with a K.”

Stanionis, 22, was a highly sought-after Olympian. He has relocated to Los Angeles to live and train as he gets his career going. Roach has been impressed with him.

“This is a great show for the future of boxing. You have four talented Olympians on this show. I can’t wait for Stanionis to show his skills to the world,” Roach said. “Stanionis sparred with five of Miguel Cotto’s sparring partners and he knocked down three of them if that tells you anything about his power.”

Said Schaefer: “Freddie told me that the only other time he saw someone walk through the door with as much natural talent as Stanionis is when Manny Pacquiao came through that door.”

Stanionis said he is glad he made the move to Los Angeles as he looks toward a bright pro future. His debut will be in a four-rounder against Ventura, California’s Rasheed Lawal (1-4-1).

“I was very excited and eager when I first heard about the opportunity to train with Freddie Roach,” he said. “I came out to California as soon as I could to start training. I’m working very hard. I give it my all in training and I leave everything in the gym every single day. I’m just going to keep doing my best.

“The Olympics were a very good experience for me. I won a lot of tournaments to get there and that road has led me to this moment.”

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