Golden Boy’s live five arrive to win in the City of Sin

 

Photo by Jennifer Arredondo

Diego De La Hoya. Photo by Jennifer Arredondo

 

Golden Boy Promotions assembled five fighters from its stable on Thursday, Nov. 12 at the City of Angels Gym in the heart of Los Angeles, Calif, eight days before a busy weekend in Las Vegas, Nev., where it will put together two shows tonight and tomorrow night. The first, a club show held at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino will be broadcast on Estrella TV tonight (9 p.m./ 6 p.m.), preceding the highly anticipated HBO Pay-Per-View card Golden Boy and RocNation Sports put together tomorrow night that will feature the showdown between middleweight champion Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez at the Mandalay Bay Events Center (9 p.m./ 6 p.m.). The Golden Boy quintet tonight, Diego De La Hoya, Jason Quigley, Roy Tapia, Randy Caballero and Ronny Rios, is all under 26 years of age and, while they are all going to the same place to ultimately fight for the same thing, each bring his own peculiar circumstance.

 

 

Diego De La Hoya

 

2008 was the last time the widely recognized De La Hoya surname graced a Las Vegas marquee for a main event when Oscar fought Manny Pacquiao in the former’s final act. Tonight, Diego De La Hoya, Oscar’s second cousin from Mexicali, Mexico, fights in Estrella TV’s main event.

 

“I feel grateful for the opportunity that Golden Boy has given me to go back to Las Vegas and headline the event,” said De La Hoya, who heads back to Sin City for the first time since July 2014. Still wet behind the ears at 21 years of age, De La Hoya is still in the developmental stage and faces a fellow Mexican national, Giovanni Delgado.

 

De La Hoya, 12-0 (7), steps into the ring for the fifth time this year and it has been an impressive one, all things considered, gaining experience and beating a couple of world title contenders in the process. “I was tested when I fought Jesus Ruiz,” said Diego about his last opponent in September. “He was a world title contender who fought against Leo Santa Cruz and I thought that was the biggest test of my career so far but I feel like I did really well.” He didn’t do just well but almost pitched a shut-out, losing only one round to Ruiz on one out of three of the ringside judges’ scorecards (in fact, that is the only round Diego has lost in his entire career when his bouts have gone to the scorecards). It was his best performance so far as a pro and Diego didn’t let adversity get in the way of that either. “I got hurt. I got cut with a headbutt that required five stitches,” De La Hoya admitted. It was the first time he bled in the ring and with it happening in the seventh round, it didn’t deter his focus as he finished the fight strong.

 

It was an outing that nurtured the growth of his development. “The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this year has been to pace myself, be patient in the ring and to make sure I fight intelligently. Moving up in the amount of rounds is critical, from six to eight to 10 rounds. That’s been the biggest thing that has helped me and I’ve learned to be patient,” De La Hoya said. Diego acted contrary to that notion last year and, while his combinations were still a boon to his game, Diego fought hastily to start and got hit often.

 

Whether he admits it or not, there’s a lot of pressure bearing the De La Hoya name. “In the beginning, I was more of a soccer fan,” Diego admits. “I did boxing at the same time and it kind of grew on me and became a passion. I decided to become a professional and, thanks to my family, they’re involved in the business and knew what to do, how to guide me and know where to go. With the trust that they put in me, I was able to get signed and I’m really excited about where it’s going.” Eventually Diego figured out he was a special talent and when asked what age he determined that notion, he explained, “I was 15 years old. The national team asked me to fight with them and that was a big honor and that’s when I knew, I must be better than everyone else – they’re asking me to be a part of the national team.”

 

Diego keeps it all in the family by not only being signed to Golden Boy Promotions but also having Joel De La Hoya (Oscar’s brother) oversee Diego’s career as his acting manager. One can only think they’re eager to get Diego into the mainstream spotlight but Joel didn’t seem that way. “Not too eager,” Joel sincerely said about his project. “It’s a process, (Diego)’s moving along with the help of (trainer) Joel Diaz and the rest of the team accordingly. I love what they’re doing with him. Every fight he’s progressing but it takes time. I don’t want to burn him out obviously. I want to get him there when he’s ready. I think maybe next year, some time, we may see something of that caliber. Maybe the second quarter of next year possibly. He’s showing that he’s willing to learn. I can either take him to that next level or hold on to him just a little bit to see a couple more things ironed out. That’s where we’re at right now, so I’m not that eager right now to really push him. It’s gonna come; his time is gonna come.”

 

With hopefully no injuries or other setbacks, Joel plans to have De La Hoya fight at the same five-fight pace, to which he committed this year, and he too sees the progression Diego has displayed recently. “He’s slowed down his pace. He’s settling down more to his professional style now. He had over 250 amateur fights, so, in the beginning of his career, he was jumping around, a lot of pitty-pat punches. Now, Joel has him sitting down a little bit more, picking his shots. Being more cerebral. That’s what it takes at this level and, every fight, I see him progressing.”

 

Originally, Diego was slated to fight on the Cotto-Canelo undercard tomorrow night but Joel explained why they took tonight’s spot instead, “Not on the actual pay-per-view but (Diego) was gonna be on the card, then this spot came up. What (Golden Boy Promotions Matchmaker) Eric Gomez had told me was that (Diego) was either gonna be a six/eight round fight on the undercard, kinda swept under the rug with the media attention obviously on Canelo and Cotto. And then (Eric) goes, ‘What do you think of being the main event on Friday? It’s his show.'” Joel took the opportunity to make De La Hoya the headliner, perhaps grooming him to regularly enjoy the spotlight. Joel continued, “So we took it and we were supposed to fight 10 rounds against this kid, Giovanni Delgado. He had fought Joseph Diaz on the Canelo-(James) Kirkland card and took him the distance. But (Bob) Bennett (executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission) dropped it down (to) eight rounds. They’re being a little strict out there with the opposition but it’s fine. It’s gonna give (Diego) some good work because (Delgado)’s a tough kid. I think it will close out the year just the way we want, good fight, marquee, and then start off the year with a bang.”

 

There are still things Diego needs to work on outside of the ring in order to become a full-fledged star in the United States, like learning English. “I’ve been on him; trust me,” said Joel about the matter. As for the overall projection for De La Hoya’s future, history shows that a fighter’s star can only soar as high as the weight in which he fights. Today, Diego fights in the junior featherweight division (122 pounds) and only time will tell how high in weight he goes but when asked about how far his ceiling may be, Joel responded, “He’s young; he’s not that big, only five-seven, five-six. He loves this weight, makes it with no problem. Eventually I think he will move up to 126, maybe in the next couple years. He’s comfortable at 122 right now. We’re not even thinking about any other weight but, to answer the question, if you see him right now, I’d say 130 but who knows? If he gets a stunning growth spurt, he may end up going to 135 or 140. Who knows? As far as ceiling, 130, as of now.”

 

 

Jason Quigley

 

A middleweight prospect from Donegal, Ireland, Jason Quigley ventured out to the United States for his professional career after a distinguished amateur run across the Atlantic. The 24-year-old fights on the De La Hoya vs. Delgado undercard tonight, against Marchristopher Adkins and will also be featured on the Estrella TV telecast. Quigley, 8-0 (8), has stopped every opponent he’s stepped into the ring against since making his pro debut in July 2014 and, while that’s almost the norm for a prospect’s first handful of meager opponents, Quigley has been brutally doing it in knockout fashion more often than technical stoppages.

 

“To be honest, it’s all kind of a blur,” Quigley said in his thick Irish accent when asked what it feels like to knock someone out. He continued, “After the fight, everything in the moment, I’ve visualized and I’ve pictured myself doing this to my opponents. It doesn’t really become like, ‘Whoa, I knocked him out,’ until after it and it’s all over and you’re sitting back in my hotel room. There’s nobody there talking to you; you’re just chilling out and, it’s like, ‘I did it again!’ All the hard work paid off. I’m absolutely delighted with all my recent performances. Of course, I’ve won them all by knockout, so far, but there’s always things that I can pick up on, to learn from, to work on again, even if they might’ve lasted one or two rounds.”

 

Quigley has shown a promising attitude toward being a knockout artist, seemingly knowing that’s what the crowd clamors for. “It’s whatever one that puts them on the canvas,” answered Quigley when asked of his favorite punch. He added, “I don’t really have one singular shot. I have a variety of shots that can put them on the canvas and whatever shot that is, that’s my favorite.” He’s an orthodox fighter but points out that he can use either hand to deliver a fateful blow. “Sometimes I think I have more power in my left hand than I do in my right. It’s a good thing to have because I’m left-followed but I’m right-handed.”

 

It’s becoming known that Quigley can deliver the punishing shot but when questioned if he also wants to see where he stands in receiving one, Quigley inserted, “Not really. I’ve had a long amateur career. I’ve been in with the best fighters in the world. I’ve been in with strong fighters. I’ve been in with fast fighters. I’ve taken some shots on the chin and I’ve passed the test already. You only can deal with that when it comes to you. Up until now, I’ve dealt with it in every possible way I can. I’ve took all the shots that have been thrown at me. I have good confidence in my chin but I’m not sticking it out there to get tested at the same time. Everybody is vulnerable – a human body is only a human body – you’re not a robot. I still take the precautions. I know I have a good solid chin and I know I could take a shot. So that doesn’t mean that I get in there and think, ‘OK, I can go in with my hands down and take whatever shots this guy has.’ I get in there and I still protect myself all the time because it’s not only your chin you’re protecting; it’s your head also. It’s a short career and, after it, I want to be talking sense.”

 

Although it’s normal for European fighters to eventually make their way to the States for more exposure, it’s a peculiar case for Quigley to move here before turning pro. Now living and training in Los Angeles, Calif., Quigley mentions how much the transition has helped him, “To be honest, I’ve had a great career in school. I had great teachers and everything like that but traveling and living out of your comfort zone is the best education you could possibly get. I think I’ve learned the most of my whole life in the year-and-a-half that I’ve been here in LA and that’s not inside the ring. That’s outside the ring. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about life, and it’s an absolute blessing for me.”

 

As for going back home one day, it’s obvious and understandable that a goal of a fighter under his circumstance would b e to eventually headline in his home country. It’s not in Quigley’s immediate plans just yet but he still does return to Ireland regularly, “I try to get back to see my wonderful mother at Christmastime and maybe then once or twice throughout the whole year but every Christmas I look forward to it.” In regard to the reception he gets from family and friends, Quigley explains, “It’s massive. If I plan to go down to the shop for a liter of milk or something like that, it’s not just going to the shop for a liter of milk, it’s like an hour to go down and get it but I love that because everybody that I meet are all just welcoming me, asking how everything is going and delighted for me that everything is going so well. Everybody is full of praise and I’m absolutely delighted with everything. It’s unbelievable, the support.”

 

 

Roy Tapia

 

Rounding out the Estrella TV card will be an East Los Angeles native, Roy “Pit Bull” Tapia, who faces Erik Ruiz in an eight-round featherweight contest. Tapia, 11-0-2 (6), doesn’t have the luxury a family member heading one of the biggest promotional companies, nor the following that comes with representing one’s country abroad but he’s been able to build a strong work ethic to make a name for himself.

 

“Everyday, I get up at 4:30 a.m.,” Tapia said proudly and he’s been doing so since he started boxing at the age of eleven. Now 24, Tapia trains in his hometown at the Valdez Muay Thai Gym in East LA and after recently switching promoters a year ago, he feels like he is in the right position to take the next step in his career: “I was with Gary Shaw Productions. It was alright; (Shaw) took care of me. He got me to 9-0. He offered to re-sign me but I wasn’t really interested in re-signing. He’s an East Coast-based promoter; I’m a West Coast-based fighter. It didn’t make any sense to me.” With all the business aspects put behind him, Tapia looks to impress in Las Vegas, somewhere he has never fought before. “Real excited,” Roy said with a smile about fighting in Vegas. “I don’t really feel any different from fighting out here because, to me, it’s just doing my job – I get nervous when I go to the gym and I work out. The people that I spar and stuff, those are the real battles. The fight, I just get to enjoy it.

 

“I like to put on a good show,” Tapia proclaimed about his fighting style in the ring. When questioned if he looks for the knockout every time he laces up the gloves, Tapia said, “Not all the time but it’s definitely in my…I guess you could say it’s always in the back of my head. That’s why they call me the ‘Pit Bull.’ I like to get the job done. You get paid for the fight; you don’t get paid for each round.” Ruiz, 14-4 (6), is a fellow Southern California product who, unlike Tapia, has already experienced the bitter taste of defeat. “He’s a pretty tough fighter,” Tapia said, continuing, “He’s never been knocked out. I know his four losses are to four top dogs in the weight division – I would consider them top dogs. They were all pretty tough fights. I know he’s not gonna go down…well, I know he hasn’t been down. He might go down with me – that’s what I’m gunning for. He’s gonna give me rounds, gonna give me work and he’s not gonna go down without a fight.”

 

 

Randy Caballero

 

The only world titleholder of the five Golden Boy fighters in this piece, Randy “El Matador” Caballero, is set to defend his IBF bantamweight title for the first time against Lee Haskins tomorrow night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The fight will be on the Cotto-Canelo undercard and has been selected as the “Free-View” fight before the HBO Pay-Per-View telecast begins. It can also be seen via live stream on HBO’s YouTube page, Tidal (Jay Z’s music streaming service) and at goldenboypromotions.com.

 

Caballero, 22-0 (13), has been on hiatus for the past 13 months, nursing an ankle injury he suffered shortly after he won the vacant IBF 118-pound title in Monte Carlo, Monaco, against Stuart Hall. “Ankle is more than 100% back to normal. Being the fact that they found a cyst in my bone, they took it out, replaced it with donor bone, so whoever’s bone they gave me, man, they put an amazing bone in there,” Caballero said with an exuberant tone. He was originally slated to make his first title defense last February but the injury happened while training for that fight. “It was supposed to be in February, tough decision to make to stop that fight. I never want to walk into a fight not 100% ready. It’s my title; I had just won it and I wasn’t gonna let it go like that,” said Caballero. Ring rust is something so often brought up for a fighter who has been inactive for so long and Randy admits it wasn’t easy getting through it. “Toughest part is being stuck at home. I spent more time with my family, which was amazing…but it just made me want to get inside the ring.” Yet, he sees the setback as something that could be positive by proclaiming, “I feel maybe even hungrier than ever. It definitely was good for me. It energized my body.”

 

Haskins, 32-3 (14), who hails from Bristol, Avon, United Kingdom, has waited a long time for his first world title shot and Caballero seems to understand the threat of a starved fighter finally getting a chance to relish the opportunity. “I know he’s gonna come strong. He has nothing to lose. This might be his only opportunity for a world title and there’s a reason he’s my mandatory,” Caballero said about his challenger. He continued on Haskins, “Not taking anything away from him but he’s coming over here to lose. He’s gonna fly back home with no title wrapped around him because that’s my title. It’s not going nowhere and I’m gonna keep it that way. That night is my night to shine. If you don’t know who I am, you are gonna know and it’s going to be an impressive win.” With Haskins being a mandatory opponent set by the IBF, the opportunity was there to ask Caballero how he feels about the circumstance of these kinds of bouts. “It is what it is,” Caballero said, adding, “I think it’s good, in some aspects. The fact that you get a lot of guys that have titles and they go and travel around trying to fight other guys that aren’t even ranked, it kind of makes the sport of boxing look bad. The IBF is one of the toughest titles to have, the fact that you fight your mandatory, then you get a voluntary, then back to mandatory, which is tough. You have to fight tough guys every other fight.”

 

Laying out his goal in the bantamweight division, Caballero said, “I wanna grab as much titles as I can at this weight and wipe out this division, make a name for myself at 118. I’m the toughest guy at 118, I believe, and I’m ready to just wipe it all out.” Unification is on the mind for Caballero for the time being and the other world titleholders in the division are as follows: Juan Carlos Payano (WBA), Shinsuke Yamanaka (WBC), and Pungluang Sor Singyu (WBO). Caballero’s 16-year-old brother proudly held the red briefcase that holds his IBF belt at the workout and Randy shared the same sentiment, “It feels good to have that thing and it’s not going nowhere. It’s gonna stay where it belongs for the rest of my career at 118. Once I go up in weight, anybody can have it but I’m always gonna remember this title was not handed to me. It was a tough road to capture this title.” The long wait is finally over for Caballero, come tomorrow night, and to perhaps heighten the anticipation, this will be his first fight on US soil in two years. The 24-year-old from Coachella, Calif., plans on driving through the Mojave Desert up to Vegas with his wife and three kids for the occasion.

 

 

Ronny Rios

 

The only one of the five fighters in this profile who has experienced defeat, Ronny Rios, 24-1 (10), takes on a tough task by facing Jayson Velez in the opening bout of tomorrow night’s HBO PPV broadcast. It’s conceivably a make-or-break fight for Rios, who lost via fifth round TKO in an upset to Robinson Castellanos a year ago. The 25-year-old will have to overcome his longest break from the ring since a wide, 10-round, unanimous decision victory over Sergio Frias last March.

 

“We were supposed to fight in July and I suffered a lat injury,” said Rios. It will be eight months since the Frias fight and, in that time, Rios has focused on correcting himself in the time allotted. “For this camp, we did focus on the opponent by watching tapes but we also corrected a lot of our mistakes too. So we were watching a lot of our tapes. As Coach was saying, you can’t focus on somebody else’s weaknesses, you gotta focus on yourself. Everything has been going great. There’s a lot of fighters that say they’re always at the gym, then they go pack on the pounds and stuff. We kept it light this time. When camp started, we were at ’35 or ’36 and that was eight-to-10 weeks before. I’m in the high-’20s right now.”

 

Velez, 23-0-1 (16), is a 27-year-old Puerto Rican who almost won a featherweight world title nearly a year ago. That fight against Evgeny Gradovich was scored a draw and, while Velez didn’t walk away with any hardware, he proved he is certainly a viable contender. “He’s tall; he’s lengthy. He likes to fight at his own pace. He just likes to keep you out, away from him,” Rios said about Velez. While Rios does have the disadvantage in height, he does have a one-inch reach advantage.

 

Rios, Santa Ana, Calif., looks to relish the opportunity of fighting on such a big stage tomorrow night but doesn’t waver on what fights he can get if he emerges victorious. “I don’t worry about who’s next. I’m worried about the task at hand right now. Every fighter is gonna say, ‘I’ll fight anybody,’ but then, when it comes down to it, they refuse to sign a contract. Personally, I’ve never ever refused to fight anybody. At the end of the day, like I said, I’m out here just to fight the best. Win or lose, I’ve never came here to pamper my record – I just want to fight the best. And I want to win.”

 

You can reach Michael Baca II at mikebaca2@gmail.com, follow him at twitter.com/wotbboxing and visit him at his blog, writeonthebutton.squarespace.com.

 

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