INDIO, Calif.-Ireland’s Jason “El Animal” Quigley stormed to an early lead and despite an injured right hand held off the late rally from New Jersey’s Glen Tapia to win the vacant NABF middleweight title on Thursday.
A near packed house at Fantasy Springs Casino, including many flag waving fans directly from Ireland, saw Quigley (13-0, 10 KOs) win by unanimous decision on the ESPN fight card. It was the first of many by Golden Boy Promotions.
Early in the fight Quigley seemed too strong and accurate for Tapia (23-4, 15 KOs) who was battered and dominated in the first two rounds. But when ring officials examined the New Jersey fighter he erupted from his corner in the third round with renewed purpose.
By the fourth round the snap in Quigley’s blows seemed to dwindle and Tapia had his best round. Despite connecting several times Tapia was unable to seriously damage the Irish middleweight. But he did win the round.
Quigley seemed to tire midway through the fight, but he maintained his lead with better connections. Tapia seemed reinvigorated but still could not seem to land the telling blow that could change the fight in his favor.
In the ninth round Quigley stopped using his right hand completely. It had been his primary weapon and suddenly left jabs and left hooks were the only tools left for the fighter from Donegal, Ireland. Despite the handicap, Tapia was unable to land any significant blows.
With only one healthy arm, Quigley used a piercing left jab the entire round and seemed to bust open Tapia’s face with the large number of bullet jabs. Jabs and hooks kept Tapia from charging forward and when the final bell rang it was clear the Irish middleweight had emerged the winner.
All three judges scored it differently at 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92 for Quigley.
“I’m taking this little bambino home with me, to my people in Donegal and celebrate with my loved ones,” said Quigley holding the new NABF title belt. “Then when I come back, I’m going to celebrate with my team. Everyone here has been on my team since my performance under the Canelo-Lara card, and this is a stepping stone to many more belts that are coming my way.”
Tapia was disappointed in himself.
“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 but this was not my best performance.”
Weight had been a problem for the former IBF bantamweight world titlist Randy Caballero (24-0, 14 KOs) and despite a year of rust he fought and won the vacant NABF super bantamweight title against Jesus Ruiz (36-7-5, 25 KOs).
Caballero, 26, entered the ring undefeated and knew nothing about Ruiz but within the first round it was clear as glass that it was not going to be easy. It quickly became one of his toughest challenges and fans were the winners.
Ruiz, 27, was battle tested from title challenges against Leo Santa Cruz and Diego De La Hoya, he was not expected to fold like a bad poker hand. Both desert fighters walloped each other with punches and counters learned from their previous challenges.
No knockdowns were scored by either Ruiz or Caballero but the quicker starting fighter from the Coachella desert used the early rounds to build an advantage, then held off the fighter from the Sonora desert. After 10 rounds one judge saw it 97-93 and two 96-94 all for Caballero.
“Everyone wants to beat the hometown fighter,” said Caballero. “I knew that but I wasn’t going to let everyone down. Can you imagine after all that time off I had to fight someone that good? It was a great fight.”
Ruiz was gracious in defeat.
“I am satisfied with our performance in the ring, and the better man won tonight,” said Ruiz. “That’s boxing. We gave it our all, and we are content with that.”
Surviving an Olympian
Former Olympian Marlen Esparza made her pro debut against winless Rachel Sazoff (0-3) who had only three amateur fights and was eager to fight in front of a televised audience. Esparza won every round but despite the huge advantage in experience, Sazoff was there until the very end.
“I practiced on her speed, I felt fine,” said Sazoff who began in MMA and started boxing a year ago. “I knew she has pop in those punches.”
Sazoff also was aware that Esparza was going for a knockout and prepared to not allow that.
“I knew she punches in bunches and I worked on stopping that,” said Sazoff adding that her entire hometown of Hamilton Township, New Jersey was watching. She lasted the entire four rounds against an Olympic bronze medalist. “I’m proud of myself for that.”
At the end of four rounds all three judges scored it 40-36 for Esparza.
“This was such a big stage, and fighting in front of a crowd like this for the first time was something special,” said Esparza, 27. “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.”
Prized prospect Hector Tanajara (8-0, 4 KOs) survived a second round knockdown to Monterrey’s Daniel Perales (10-9-1, 5 KOs) and shakily got up to win every remaining round in winning by unanimous decision in their overweight super lightweight contest.
Tanajara fired a weak right uppercut and was countered by a left hook from Perales that knocked down the San Antonio native. Tanajara had a little trouble getting his legs but beat the count and fought his way out of the round against the Mexican fighter who arrived six pounds over the limit.
“I got too confident in the second round, and when I landed my shots I wasn’t expecting him to counter the way he did resulting in me hitting the mat,” said Tanajara. “After that, I got angry but my corner told me to just continue to outbox him. I noticed his eye was starting to swell towards the end, and so I started to use it as a target in hopes of getting the knockout. We got the win still.”
From the third round on Tanajara used his jab and movement to out-box Perales who never could find a place for his left hook. A few body shots from Tanajara hurt Perales who complained of low blows, but all seemed right on the protector that was way above his navel. All three judges saw the same score 58-55 for Tanajara after six rounds.
Battle of the maestros
Former contender Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera (23-7, 7 KOs) used his guile and experience to out-maneuver ultimate professional Hector Velasquez (57-29-3, 39 KOs) by unanimous decision after eight welterweight rounds.
Herrera bounced back from a loss suffered to Pablo Cano in a fight that was riddled by low blow fouls last November. In this fight, despite clinching by Velasquez in every round, Herrera was able to rattle off combinations inside and jabs from the outside to win every round according to the judges 80-72 on all three cards.
“I needed to get this win, regardless of how I got it,” said Herrera who lives in nearby Riverside. “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.”
Tureano Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) floored Fabiano Pena (16-7-1, 13 KOs) twice in the second round with short powerful rights in an above-the-weight middleweight fight. Pena was able to beat the count but the fight was stopped by his corner at 2:38 of the second round. Pena complained about the stoppage but it was a decent stoppage.
Azat Hovhannisyan (11-2, 10 KOs) proved too quick and too accurate for Mexico’s Diuhl Olguin (10-7-2) and stopped the Guadalajara super bantamweight at 2:47 of the sixth round. Hovhannisyan has a lot of possible opponents on the Golden Boy stable to choose for future bouts.
Photo credit: Ray Flores
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