Thomas LaManna built his boxing career in Atlantic City casino ballrooms, climbing the ranks without a promoter before landing his first world-title shot last May in California. LaManna’s first promoter released him six years earlier after his first loss but the South Jersey middleweight kept churning, guiding his own career to a championship bout.

His chance at glory lasted less than 90 seconds, his title dream crushed by a thunderous left hand on national TV. LaManna said 720,000 people were tuned into FOX to see him face middleweight champ Erislandry Lara in May of 2021.

And they all watched the self-made LaManna get knocked out.

“That’s a lot of people who had seen that so it was an embarrassment,” LaManna said. “Regardless of what everyone and their mama say about ‘Well, you made it there’ and ‘Forget what people think,’ it’s easy for them to say because it wasn’t them.”

» READ MORE: Once charged with attempted murder, Paul Kroll reignites his boxing dream

LaManna, crushed by the loss, said he battled depression as he carried guilt for missing his opportunity to be champion. He gained 60 pounds and wanted to quit boxing, the sport he discovered as a kid in Millville. LaManna wore “#DarkPlaces” on his trunks that night, a fitting theme for where the fight sent him.

But then LaManna, the same way he rallied himself to earn that title chance, kept himself moving.

“How did I pull myself out? I realized I was better than that. I realized I still have a lot more to give,” LaManna said. “I have a three-year-old daughter and my life is beautiful and my life is great but it could be better. I want to give her everything. I know I have it in me.”

He registered last summer for his promoter’s license to become an official boxing promoter in New Jersey and Washington D.C. LaManna had promoted shows for years under other people’s names but now it was for real. There was no way LaManna — who goes by the nickname “Cornflake” — was going to abandon boxing.

“I was always into both sides of the fence: inside the ring and out,” LaManna said. “I kind of wanted to get jump started early so I could plan for life after boxing. Promoting caught my interest. Matchmaking caught my interest. So I got it jumpstarted.”

His company Rising Star Promotions has a card scheduled for Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City as LaManna wants to help bring boxing back to the city’s forefront. The company regularly hosted shows in A.C. under their “Boardwalk Boxing” before the pandemic slowed business.

Saturday’s 10-bout card is heavy on local fighters and is headlined by Greg Outlaw (9-1, 4 KOs) of Bowie, Md. vs. Jonathan Montrel (12-0, 7 KOs) of New Orleans in a eight-round welterweight match. LaManna has a show scheduled for May 14 in Newark and on May 28 in Washington. Business, a year after LaManna fell into a dark place, is picking up.

“I’m going to turn this company into a hotbed,” LaManna said. “I want it to be great and I want to give the younger fighters who are coming up a good platform to showcase their talent the way I was able to.”

LaManna (31-5-1, 13 KOs) is getting married in June and then he’ll be back in the ring and promoting his own fights. LaManna plans to fight for three or more years or until he reaches 50 pro bouts. Then he’ll stick to promoting.

He fought last August in Mexico with hopes that a win would wash away the taste of his knockout loss. But it didn’t. He instead buried himself into his company, which is staffed by a matchmaker, assistants, and event coordinators. LaManna even has interns.

The company started as a way to keep his career on track after his first loss caused him to lose his promoter. Now he hopes he can provide the same push for others.

“I had nowhere to go. I said, ‘Forget it, we’ll do it on our own.’ That’s how it started,” LaManna said. “In the beginning, it was just my drive, my passion, and something that I always wanted to do. For 90 percent of things, if I put my mind to it and I really, really go for it, I know I can make stuff happen. I knew where it would eventually get me. Just commitment. That’s all. I committed myself to the company and committed myself to my career. Yeah, it’s hard but that’s what we did.”

» READ MORE: Chris Daukaus, a former Philly police officer, could make the jump from fighter and cop to UFC heavyweight champion

LaManna is eyeing August for his next fight as he’ll focus first on Rising Star’s three upcoming cards and his wedding. After that, he’ll be in the gym with his sights set on another title shot. LaManna knows it’s an uphill climb, but he already fought his way out of dark places.

“It’s the get back. It’s the world title chase,” LaManna said. “I have to tell everyone now that I’m out of my dark places, I got there once and I’ll get there again.”

“I don’t want anyone to ever say that I didn’t dare to be great or that I never tried or gave it my all. I’ve come up short plenty of times and I’ll probably keep coming up short in other things. But I’ve also done very well for myself. I’ve never lost that mentality and I never tried taking the safe way, I always took the smart way. I tried to be great and dared to be different.”