SAN DIEGO, March 23, 2017 – “Thursday Night Fights” on ESPN got off to a solid start with three entertaining bouts for fans tuning in for boxing instead of NCAA basketball.
In the main event, Jason Quigley of Donegal, Ireland (13-0, 10 KOs) got a much tougher fight than expected from veteran Glen Tapia of New Jersey (23-4, 15 KOs). Although the judges handed Quigley a lopsided unanimous decision on the scorecards (100-90, 99-91, 98-92 for Quigley), the fight was far more competitive and compelling.
When Quigley nailed Tapia with a sharp right hook to the chin in the first round, causing Tapia’s mouth to bleed, no one was surprised. Quigley appeared to score a knockdown near the end of the second round, but referee Jack Reiss astutely realized Quigley had tripped Tapia. It didn’t look like Tapia would have much to offer when he came out for the third round, but Tapia decided he’d give it whatever he had left.
From this point forward in the fight, Tapia kept himself in the bout and gave himself every improbable chance to win. He landed good shots on Quigley in rounds three and four. While they didn’t put Quigley in any danger, he certainly felt them. The Irish native started appearing frustrated that he hadn’t gotten a flashy early stoppage.
Tapia wasn’t doing anything fancy, but it was effective: solid right-hand shots off a left lead jab. The pair put on a real show for fans, but in a fight made to order for Quigley’s coming out on national television, his flaws were exposed. He could not close the show against the determined Tapia. It was the first time Tapia had been in a fight past the eighth round. Going into the final round, Tapia’s corner told him it was time to put it on the line to try and win, not merely survive to lose a decision. “You gotta put him out, there’s no way you’re gonna win a decision … Look at me. Everything you got, man.”
“I’m taking this little bambino [NABF belt] home with me, to my people in Donegal, Ireland and celebrate with my loved ones,” said Quigley. “Then when I come back, I’m going to celebrate with my team. Everyone here has been on my team since my performance on the Canelo-Lara undercard, and this is a stepping stone to many more belts that are coming my way.”
“I felt slow and sluggish this fight,” said Tapia. “I feel like I didn’t even get to do to him what I trained in camp for. I was able to put pressure on him and hurt him a couple of times. This was not my best performance.” Many observers would disagree with Tapia, who rose to the occasion.
Although the decision went to Quigley, the respect of fans and boxing media went to Tapia for a determined and unexpected performance. He is in no way ready for the top competition in the middleweight division just yet.
In the co-main event, Coachella Valley fans enjoyed seeing hometown favorite Randy “El Matador” Cabellero (24-0, 14 KOs) fought to a decision win over Jesus Ruiz (35-8-5, 15 KOs). Scores were 97-93 and 96 – 94 X 2. Cabellero, who had only one fight in the last 16 months, got off to a slow start and had his hands full with Ruiz, who won the early rounds. But as the rust fell away round by round, Caballero started winning rounds and catching up on the scorecards. Ruiz seemed to close the show well in the last rounds, putting on a toe-to-toe war for the fans. But the nod went to Caballero.
“This was the absolute best way to come back,” Caballero said. “My goal is to become a world champion, and Golden Boy knows that. With the new NABF title, and coming back with that performance, I’m on a high right now. My opponent was tough, but I stayed calm, and was able to come out on top.”
“I am satisfied with our performance in the ring, and the better man won tonight,” Ruiz said. “That’s boxing. We gave it our all, and we are content with that.”
Caballero now needs to get right back in the ring as soon as he’s recovered and it’s feasible to pick up where he has left off tonight.
It was a solid professional debut for 2012 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza (1-0) with a shutout unanimous four-round decision over Rachel Sazoff of New Jersey (0-3). No surprises here, Esparza was expected to put on a show.
“This was such a big stage, and fighting in front of a crowd like this for the first time was something special,” Esparza said. “I’m glad we got the W, but I was honestly looking to knock her out. I’m glad that I got this fight out of the way – I have a lot to grow in. She was a tough fighter, and she took a lot of my punches.”
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to take part in this show,” said Sazoff. “When I was approached by her camp for the fight, I couldn’t say no. It was a great way to challenge myself, and I think that Marlen is a great fighter. I’ve been in combat sports since I was five. I live for this stuff.”
On the non-televised undercard, former world champion Mauricio Herrera of Riverside (28-7, 7 KOs) won a shutout unanimous decision over Hector Velasquez of Tijuana, Mexico (57-29-3, 39 KOs) a solid win for the well-liked Herrera. If he chooses to go out on this winning note, fans owe him a tremendous aspect of respect for putting together a good career.
“I needed to get this win, regardless of how I got it,” said Herrera. “I’ve been in a lot of tough fights, and I needed this win as a confidence booster. I’m glad that I came out of this fight pretty clean.”
Middleweight Tureano Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) of the Bahamas made a strong statement with a second round knockout of Fabiano Pena of Philadelphia (16-7-1, 13 KOs). It exactly what the doctor ordered for Johnson to get him back into the mix of the middleweight division. Jason Quigley needs to stay away from Johnson for now.
“I was pretty anxious to enter the ring after such a long absence, but I was reminded by my team that I am the IBF #1 ranked middleweight contender,” said Johnson. “Being absent for so long for my rotator cuff was not ideal, and I know that injuries happen, but now that we got this fight out of the way and we shook out the nerves a bit. I am ready to take on the big guys out there and demonstrate that I am still someone to fear in this division.”
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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