BOXING AT FANTASY SPRINGS — An extremely strong fight card led by Ireland’s Jason “El Animal” Quigley opens a partnership between Golden Boy Promotions and ESPN on Thursday.
Quigley (12-0, 10 KOs) meets Glen Tapia (23-3, 15 KOs) in a 12 round middleweight contest for the NABF title at Fantasy Springs Casino. He’s accompanied by several other boxers that all have enough potential star power in their own right.
Many fans in other parts of the country are not familiar with some of the West Coast fighters on this ESPN card, except for Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera who returns to the boxing ring after another questionable loss to Pablo Cano in November.
Herrera, if you remember, lost a decision for the world title to Danny “Swift” Garcia in Puerto Rico three years ago. It’s been called by many one of the greatest heists in boxing history and was one of several gift-wrapped wins for “Teflon” Danny Garcia until earlier this month. Not to say Garcia isn’t talented, but he’s awful lucky too.
“It’s tough to get motivated when things like that happen. I have to start over with a tune-up which I never had before in my career,” said Herrera about his upcoming eight round match. “In my last fight I got hit with so many low blows it took me a month to get over them.”
Of course, Herrera has been the recipient of many weird judgments throughout his career. It’s one of the problems facing the Riverside, California fighter who’s not known for punching power. He relies on guile and skills to defeat opponents and he does it inside the danger zone.
Herrera never ran from anyone.
Facing Herrera (22-7) will be grizzled Mexican veteran Hector Velazquez (57-28-3, 39 KOs) who’s fought a number of contenders and world champions throughout his 24-year career including Mickey Bey, Paul Spadafora and the late great Edwin Valero. If an opponent takes him lightly he knows what to do.
“It doesn’t matter to me who I fight. They offered Fantasy Springs. I’m racing against time,” said Herrera, 36. “I wanted Lucas Matthysse for this May, but I’m excited about this ESPN card.”
Former bantamweight world titlist Randy “El Matador” Caballero returns after more than a year’s absence. He’s a native of the nearby desert surroundings and has been called the heir apparent to Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley as the next king of the desert. These desert fighters don’t play.
Caballero, 26, lives in Coachella and held the IBF bantamweight title but was forced to abdicate when he couldn’t make the weight. He’s still undefeated and now trying the boys in the heavier super bantamweight division.
Ever since he was 10 years old Caballero was a standout in the amateur world. He encountered injury problems so he decided to turn professional instead of trying out for the Olympics.
The boxer of Nicaraguan ancestry has proven to have that killer mentality needed in this sport.
Caballero (23-0, 14 KOs) will have it very tough against Jesus “Estrella” Ruiz (36-7-5, 25 KOs) in their 10 round match. If you remember, Ruiz gave Leo Santa Cruz a tough match for eight rounds in their world title clash in two years ago. He also gave Diego De La Hoya all he could handle for 10 rounds. Only 27 years old, Ruiz has been fighting for 11 years professionally. He’s a rugged customer.
Marlen Esparza makes her pro debut after a lengthy American amateur career that saw her win the bronze medal in 2012 at the London Olympics. She signed with Golden Boy Promotions and has an easy on paper matchup with Rachel Sazoff who is winless in two pro fights.
Esparza fought more than 100 amateur fights and at 27 years old can step right up and face the champions if she chooses.
Ireland’s Quigley has an aggressive “Mexican style” more akin to Gennady Golovkin than another Irishman Andy Lee.
Trained by Manny Robles, the Irish fighter from Donegal, Ireland has quickly grabbed fans with his exciting style and willingness to go for the knockout. Like Golovkin, he doesn’t look like an assassin but fights like one.
For the past three years Quigley has lived in Southern California and taken advantage of the nearly 100 boxing gyms across the Southland. Before turning professional, Quigley had his first dose of Southern California living as a member of the L.A. team in the World Series of Boxing series about five years ago. Many of the current contenders in the middleweight division are familiar to him.
Fighting Quigley is Tapia who is also familiar with Southern California as a pupil to Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. The New Jersey fighter has lost two consecutive fights but those defeats are to former world champion David Lemieux and very under-rated French middleweight Michael Soro. Those are some dangerous middleweights.
Of course, Quigley is no less dangerous.
“I expect the best Glen Tapia in his whole career,” said Quigley, 25, who is ranked 10th by the WBA. “One shot can change everything. Under-estimating Glen Tapia is one mistake I’m not going to make.”
Quigley knows this televised middleweight match could launch him toward his goal of a world championship.
“I don’t worry about what another fighter brings to the table,” says Quigley. “I’m just concerned that I’m coming in there 100 percent and ready to take care of business.”
Business is booming at Fantasy Springs.
The doors open early at 4 p.m. Those expected to attend are Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins and possibly Conor McGregor. For more information call (800) 827-2946.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.
Photo credit: Al Applerose