SAN DIEGO, March 22, 2017 – Boxing fans were disappointed when ESPN’s long-running “Friday Night Fights” series came to an end when new promotional relationships shifted the schedule.
Those same fans are cheering the return of regular boxing event on ESPN courtesy of a new deal between the network and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, with a guarantee for two years and an option for a third year. Eighteen cards are guaranteed this year, approximately two per month.
The series kicks off Thursday night, March 23, with a card from the Fantasy Springs Resort in Indio, California. It features the type of matchups De La Hoya says he intends to bring the fans, including a middleweight main event between a rising star and a veteran who finds himself in make-or-break circumstances after two difficult losses.
Jason “El Animal” Quigley of Donegal, Ireland (12-0, 10 KOs) lines up against veteran Glen Tapia of New Jersey (23-3, 15 KOs). Quigley would love to keep the Irish win streak going after countryman Michael Conlan made such a splash in his debut on St. Patrick’s Day last week in New York. Quigley has all the Irish charm and punching power he needs to be a breakout star, and he knows a good show on Thursday would vault him to next level opponents in a division with a lot of positive attention on it. Quigley starred in a St. Patrick’s Day theme video promoting the fight, showing off his fan friendly personality. He has a little bit of Rob Gronkowski about him don’t you think?
Tapia is coming off two difficult losses, both fourth round stoppages to David Lemieux and Michel Soro. Another loss would relegate him to “step-up opponent” category for hungry prospects. Not a happy place and not very lucrative for someone who once had much bigger aspirations in the sport.
There is a vacant NABF middleweight title on the line, but it’s not the defining drama here.
The co-main event brings hometown favorite Randy “El Matador” Cabellero of Coachella, California (23-0, 14 KOs) back to the ring against Jesus Ruiz (35-7-5, 15 KOs) in a super bantamweight fight. Cabellero, who showed tremendous promise at the start of his career, lost his IBF title on the scale in November 2015 when he could not make weight for a bout against Lee Haskins on the Cotto vs. Canelo undercard. He fought three months later and won, but again had trouble making the 122-pound weight limit.
Cabellero then sat out an entire year due to contract issues, but finally re-signed with Golden Boy Promotions, bringing him to Thursday’s return to the ring.
Cabellero buckled down and made weight for Thursday’s 10-round NABF super bantamweight title fight against Ruiz. He said the difference this time was weighing in multiple times a day, and not restricting water intake throughout training, something Chris Algieri emphasized as Daniel Jacobs’ nutrition coach while training to fight Gennady Golovkin.
In what may turn out to be the biggest year in women’s professional boxing in decades, 2012 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza makes her professional debut in the opening event against Rachel Sazoff of New Jersey (0-2). Esparza just missed making the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. She is the first women pro signed by Golden Boy Promotions, and it seems like an ideal match with De La Hoya to guide her along the path from Olympic medals to title belts.
ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app will show the undercard fights starting at 5:30 p.m. Of interest, former world champion Mauricio Herrera of Riverside (27-7, 7 KOs) fights Hector Velasquez of Tijuana, Mexico (57-28-3, 39 KOs) in what could be a farewell performance for his hometown fans. Herrera lost two fights on scorecards he clearly won against Danny Garcia and Jose Benavidez, but his skills are declining. He deserves a strong exit.
Middleweight Tureano Johnson (19-1, 13 KOs) of the Bahamas will do his best to get back on track after injuries and weight issues against Fabiano Pena of Philadelphia (16-6-1, 13 KOs). Tureano was on a fast track with a chance to fight middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin when he broke his hand. In his return last December, he failed to make weight. This time, Pena blew through the weigh-in by 7.6 pounds, but apparently Johnson agreed to allow the fight to continue.
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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