De La Hoya and Lopes headline ‘LA Fight Club’ debut on EstrellaTV
Looking for a fresh start, Golden Boy Promotions takes its “LA Fight Club” series to a new home tonight and two of GBP’s prized prospects, Diego De La Hoya and Everton Lopes, will be featured in separate bouts. Held at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, Calif., the LA Fight Club series will make its debut on EstrellaTV (10 p.m. ET/7 PT) after Golden Boy inked a three-year deal in July with the Spanish-language network. It succeeds a prior deal with FOX Sports 1 but Golden Boy not only looks to display its future on the card but also its forthcoming venture in live internet streaming. The fights can also be seen live online at RINGTVLive.com, where an English-language broadcast team of Douglass Fischer, Beto Duran and ringside reporter Jessica Rosales can be seen and heard.
“I feel very honored to be the headlining fight for Golden Boy. They have confidence in me as a fighter. I’m grateful because this is something new and there’s even more motivation because this is the first fight with Estrella TV,” Diego De La Hoya told UCNLive.com on Monday. The junior featherweight prospect will be facing former title contender Jesus Ruiz, 34-6-5 (23), who, oddly enough, goes by the nickname of “Estrella.”
Ruiz, 25, is one fight removed from losing his sole shot at a world title last January when he faced Leo Santa Cruz. He was yet another overmatched contestant for Santa Cruz’s uninspired reign of his 122-pound WBC title but will undoubtedly be De La Hoya’s toughest opponent to date. “Because he has more experience and is a former title contender, he expects to come out strong and I feel very confident and prepared I will win on Friday,” Diego said about fighting Ruiz.
It will actually be the second instance in which Diego will be fighting one of Santa Cruz’s leftovers. He beat Manuel Roman in February off Roman’s loss to Santa Cruz last September and this kind of matchmaking for Diego is perhaps making a mockery of Santa Cruz’s reign, which has been under the direction of adviser Al Haymon. Santa Cruz was originally a Golden Boy fighter but his contract with the company was eventually bought out in February because they seemingly lost control of his career. Although it’s merely an assumption, it wouldn’t be a surprise for the brazen Golden Boy President, Oscar De La Hoya, to hold his competition under such ridicule. Oscar now puts his cousin from Mexicali, Mexico, in the spotlight to build what he couldn’t with Santa Cruz.
“There is pressure because of my last name. I work very hard and I’m very confident in myself. I’m ready to build my own legacy,” De La Hoya conceded when asked about the responsibility of carrying a last name so synonymous with boxing. The 12th of September will mark two years since Diego made his professional debut and De La Hoya, 11-0 (7), has impressed early but not without being aware that there is room for improvement. “Learning to relax and having more patience,” admitted Diego when questioned on what he needed in regard to enhancing his game.
Right out of the gate, De La Hoya had the willingness to let his hands go and showed he had the yearning to stop his opponent. An instinctive trait to possess, being a fighter right out of Mexicali. However, there was no secret that he was open defensively, early on, and as the opponents have been slightly tougher in this developmental stage of his career, the jury is still out on the power of his aggressive combinations. Saying that, De La Hoya has not even lost a round on any of the judge’s scorecards in his four fights that have gone the distance. At only 21 years of age, De La Hoya’s full potential has yet to be reached, as well, and he will look to grow his strength without having to move up in weight, “I’ve been fighting at this weight for four years. I feel very comfortable at this weight. For now, this is the weight I plan to fight and, for the immediate future, 122 pounds is where I’ll be.
“You can expect to see an intelligent and patient fighter. A Mexican willing to fight hard but also be smart in the ring,” said Diego on what you should expect tonight. He loves to watch boxing on television and his fight will be first one on American airwaves since Santa Cruz beat Abner Mares on ESPN last Saturday. “It was what the people wanted. It was a great fight between two hungry Mexicans in it to win,” Diego said about that fight. Mares, who was also groomed under the direction of Golden Boy, is now yet another fighter poached by Haymon. However, he was built into a star by fighting in Golden Boy club cards set in downtown Los Angeles back when it was known as ther “Fight Night Club.” Now De La Hoya is poised to reach the same heights as Santa Cruz and Mares, for he is the future of Golden Boy Promotions.
In the co-feature of the EstrellaTV/RINGTVlive.com broadcast, Golden Boy will display a rare case of talent from South America. Everton Lopes, an uncommon boxing talent out of Salvador, Brazil. And he too was gracious enough to also speak to UCNLive.com before his upcoming fight.
Lopes, 3-0 (1), is still wet behind the ears in the professional ranks but after an extensive amateur career, he could be primed to take the fast lane en route to a world title. “Why not? I work with my team and if they say I’m ready to fight a world champion, I believe in them and in myself,” said Lopes in his native tongue of Portuguese, regarding the possibility of taking a similar road that Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko, took once he stepped into the pro circuit. Lomachenko, a two-time gold medalist who turned pro at 25, demanded he fight for a world title and was given a shot in just his second fight. Lopes, 27, made his pro debut in February and is making his return after a homecoming fight.
“It was a great experience and I fought really well. I had the support of my family and all the Brazilian people. It was great to fight in my country after a long time of not fighting there. There was a lot of support; the fans knew my name at all times,” Lopes said about his fight in Sao Paulo last June. He beat Marcelo Mesa via unanimous decision in a showcase fight on a card touting all the boxing talent Brazil has to offer. It isn’t the choice combat sport in the Republic – that distinction belongs to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). While he never dabbled in it, Lopes sees a future for the Sweet Science in his country, “MMA is still pretty big but it’s definitely growing in Brazil.”
It’s no surprise he had a late start in boxing, discovering the sport at the ripe age of 16. “I was initially a soccer player but, in 2004, a friend of mine talked to me about boxing and I looked into it. That’s when I talked to my Mom about going into training and she initially said no. But three days after my birthday in 2005 [Aug. 8], I started practicing more and, after three months of practicing, I went into tournaments and started to win.” He since put together 240 wins as an amateur, medaled twice in the Pan-American games, won Gold in the 2011 World Amateur Championships and represented Brazil twice in the Summer Olympics (2008 and 2012).
Regardless of boxing talent, not everyone has successfully made the transition from amateur to pro. “A lot of people have told me I fight like [Erislandy] Lara and [Guillermo] Rigondeaux,” said Lopes. While it’s certainly a compliment to be mentioned in the same breath with those two boxing savants out of Cuba, it doesn’t necessarily translate to capturing the American public’s attention. Not to mention, it doesn’t garner oneself many fighters willing to step into the ring but maybe Lopes is aware of that, confessing, “I personally like Canelo Alvarez’s aggressive style. It has inspired me to grow an aggressive style myself. Everyone likes knockouts and it’s something they’re always thinking about but, at the end of the day, I train and prepare for however many rounds my fight is gonna be. I train to win.”
Like many boxing imports, Everton has taken a considerable risk trying to make it in the United States and with it, he has been forced to be away from his family, while living in Southern California. “I really like it. It was always a dream I had. It’s even better I’m making my dream come true of living here while doing what I love to do. But I do miss my family and I understand – and they understand – that I did come here for a purpose and that’s to become world champion. I’m also looking for them to come here in the future but, for now, I love it.” Lopes, who is managed by Ken Sheer, is trained by Manny Robles at The Rock Boxing Gym in Carson, Calif., where another budding prospect, Irish super middleweight import Jason Quigley is also being groomed for success.
Lopes made it clear that he wants to fight at lightweight, a division that is not only up in the air but Golden Boy Promotions also has a world titleholder in its stable, WBC titlist Jorge Linares, who can be an option if Lopes can prove he is a viable contender. Tonight’s opponent, Omar Tienda, 13-0 (8), is an unbeaten Mexican club fighter making his American debut and a win over him won’t break any doors down. Yet, Lopes will be active in his journey to not only fight for a title but be known and he explained what you will see from him tonight, “They can expect a determined fighter. God knows how hard I’ve been working. I’m thankful for all the fans that have shown their support. I hope to look great fighting and put on a great show for all of them.”