Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN debuted with a bang Thursday night as rising middleweight contender Jason “El Animal” Quigley (13-0, 10 KOs) took home the NABF middleweight championship, earning a hard-fought 10-round unanimous decision over a game Glen “Jersey Boy” Tapia (23-4, 15 KOs) in the main event before a sold out crowd at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino and televised live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
“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.”
In the co-main event, former IBF Bantamweight World Champion Randy “El Matador” Caballero (24-0, 14 KOs) came back from a lengthy layoff in superb style, winning the NABF Super Bantamweight championship by out slugging Jesus “Estrella” Ruiz (35-8-5, 24 KOs) of Nogales, Mexico over 10 rounds.
“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.”
Opening up the televised portion of the night on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist and highly decorated amateur Marlen Esparza (1-0) of Houston, TX made a successful professional debut, defeating Rachel Sazoff (0-3) of Hamilton Township, New Jersey by shutout unanimous decision.
“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.”
As part of the live stream on ESPN3 hot prospect Hector “El Finito” Tanajara, Jr. (8-0, 4 KOs) faced Daniel Perales (7-7-1, 5 KOs) of Monterey, Mexico in a six-round lightweight fight. Despite Tanajara, Jr. suffering his first ever knock down in the second round, the San Antonio native kept his poise to sweep the rest of the rounds and take home a unanimous decision.
“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, Jr. “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 knock out. We got the win still.”
Opening up the live stream, former world champion Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera (23-7, 7 KOs) took on Hector “Charro Negro” Velasquez (57-29-3, 39 KOs) in an eight round welterweight bout. Herrera issued a workman-like performance, grinding out a shutout unanimous decision victory.
“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.”
IBF number one middleweight contender Tureano Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) maintained his status with a second round knockout victory over Fabiano Pena (16-7-1, 13 KOs). Johnson returned to the ring putting in solid bodywork on his opponent, who hit the mat twice during the second round. Pena’s corner stopped the fight during the second round, awarding the technical knock out victory to Johnson at the 2:38 mark.
“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.”
In the evening’s opening bout, Azat “Attack” Hovhannisyan (11-2, 10 KOs) scored a technical knock out victory over Diuhl Olgin (10-7-2, 9 KOs) in an eight-round super bantamweight bout. Azat stuck to his plan in working the body, countering and weaving through Olguin’s punches. During the third round, there was an accidental head butt, which left a mark on both the fighters. The referee stopped the bout at the tail end of the sixth round, at 2:40 seconds.
“We knew we were going to have to endure some tough punches from him, and we were expecting him to come forward,” said Azat. “We had a great training camp, and I had some tough sparring partners, but we got what we wanted.”