“What separates me from the rest is not that I am the fastest or the strongest or none of these things, but the fact that I am mentally tough,” said Montano told while his mouthguard stayed in place through clenched teeth, with his nickname, “No Mas” written across it. “Any boxer can tell you this; boxing is 90% mental and 10% physical. Growing up as a kid, I was always tested, not by my opponents, but by my coaches. ‘You're doing this wrong – you need to fix this'…as a very young kid, eight, nine years old. Nowadays, kids these days, here's a handout – back in the day with coach Gary Sullenger it wasn't like that.”
The young Concord, California fighter, who has trained with Gary Sullenger since as far back as I could remember, is a high-motor fighter that, on some days, I would compare to Shawn Porter and, other days, James Kirkland, both of whom are legends in my book.
“I believe I have a lot of potential, and I can bring a lot of excitement to the boxing world,” said Montano on a Thursday night training session. “…I just need the one person to look at me, and I can show the world the amazing things I can do.”
Montano, who made it to the 2019 Olympic Trials, finds himself in the same spot as many from his featherweight division of that year in the Olympic Trials do as Rashiem Jefferson Jr., David Navarro, and Japhethlee Llamido – all find themselves without a promoter. Very good world-class fighters with over a hundred amateur fights mostly wins, mind you, and seemingly no major promotional backing, three years after being in one of the biggest amateur events outside of the Olympics.
“The world is his oyster if he can just get busy,” said Montano's long-time coach, Gary Sullenger. “The whole ballgame with him is he needs to fight. He works hard, he trains hard all the time, but he really shines when the real fight comes…he needs ring time in real fights.”
His opponent, Kevin Perez (1-0-1), is coming to win and will further prolong the Southern California versus Northern California rivalry. We don't have a lot of fight dates for major promoters currently on television, so for unsigned fighters, it is even more of a barren wasteland than ever. This is becoming a log-jammed world in which every fighter is seemingly waiting for a fight, as the whole world waits to see what will happen with Terence Crawford vs. Errol Spence Jr. or if Gervonta “Tank” Davis will fight Ryan Garcia next.
The cause and effect – as those fights get prolonged, the fight calendar becomes smaller and smaller.
Montano is 25 years old, which is young – but it also means it is time to get going and build up his record, so he can get into the conversation of fighting one of the marquee fighters down the road. You got to get to ten-round fights to get good fights and to do that, you have to fight a slew of times.
“He is doing it in four-round fights right now, but I think he will be even better as his rounds increase and the fight goes on; he will be even better because of his style,” said Sullenger. “He isn't what you see out of a lot of the kids out of the Olympic program and national team – and such. He won't dazzle you with slick boxing; he is a guy who is always going to be in shape, always wants to win, and will try to grind on you and get you out of there.”
Montano, a recent graduate of Sacramento State University, has taken up residence in Sacramento, California, and is hoping to be the next big thing from the region. If his popular Instagram account is any indication, then he might be trending upward, as Montano currently has nearly 50k followers on the platform.
The card, which is promoted by Don Chargin Productions and Paco Presents Boxing, will feature Alan Sanchez vs. Saul Bustos for the vacant WBA Fedecentro welterweight title in a ten-round affair, other notable bouts, cruiserweight Blake “The Beast” McKernan will face Roberto Silva, Ivan Vergara coming off a three-year layoff will face Juan Pedro Miranda, and Federico Pacheco Jr, the brother of Diego Pacheco, who Jose Benavidez Sr. trains will make his professional debut at heavyweight against Josue Vargas.