It was nearly seven months ago when Carlos Balderas’ stunning run in the lightweight division at last summer’s Olympic Games came to a disappointing end just short of medal contention.
But even though the Santa Maria boxer didn’t collect any hardware at the Games, he left Rio de Janeiro with quite the reputation.
It didn’t take long before he landed a professional contract, signing with promoter Richard Schaefer’s Ringstar Sports in November. Balderas, who has since changed his first name to Karlos, is set to embark on his professional career in earnest Sunday as part of a Premier Boxing Champions card (Fox Sports 1/Fox Deportes, 6:30 p.m.) at the Novo at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.
Balderas, 20, will face 29-year-old Dallas boxer Thomas Smith (3-4-1, 2 KO) in a six-round junior lightweight bout, and Schaefer has high hopes for his new fighter.
“With Karlos Balderas, you have someone with the skills in the ring, the personality and the character outside of the ring as well,” Schaefer told ESPN.com. “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’ stock took off last summer after he rolled through the first two rounds of the men’s lightweight division at the Olympics. He eventually fell to top-seeded Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba in the quarterfinals, but not before turning quite a few heads with his relentless style.
“I’m taking this as seriously as a championship fight,” Balderas told ESPN.com. “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.”