Golden Boy opens its ESPN2 slate in prime boxing time, Oscar De La Hoya says

The way Oscar De La Hoya sees it, his company has perfectly timed its entrance into a new cable deal to televise fight cards on ESPN2.

In a month when Barclays Center in New York sold out for the Keith Thurman welterweight title victory over Danny Garcia and nearly 20,000 at Madison Square Garden saw Gennady Golovkin edge Daniel Jacobs to retain his three middleweight belts Saturday, excitement over the sport is heightening, De La Hoya said.

“I’m excited about boxing for 2017. We’ve already had several great fights, with more to come. It’s about time,” said De La Hoya, whose Golden Boy Promotions will stage its debut ESPN2 card Thursday night at Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in Indio.

In the main event, Ireland’s Jason Quigley (12-0, 10 knockouts) will test the value of his unbeaten start when the 25-year-old meets veteran New Jersey product Glen Tapia (23-3, 15 KOs).

Although there have been concerns that Tapia, 27, should consider leaving the sport following back-to-back fourth-round technical-knockout losses, De La Hoya says it’s a pivotal bout against a desperate fighter for Quigley, 25.

“I believe Quigley has the potential to go very far. He’s young, obviously can fight, is charismatic,” De La Hoya said. “The time couldn’t be better – this March 23 debut is perfect for him going against a veteran like Glen Tapia.

“At Golden Boy, when you get to a certain level, you either sink or swim and this is exactly what we’re going to do with the ESPN fights. We want to put you in deep waters.”

The card also includes the return of former International Boxing Federation bantamweight champion Randy Caballero (23-0, 14 KOs) of Coachella after losing his title on the scale last year in Las Vegas. Caballero meets Jesus Ruiz (36-7-5) in a super-bantamweight bout.

And former U.S. Olympic product Marlen Esparaza, a 2012 bronze medalist, makes her pro debut.

“We’ll give you some good world-title fights and good matchups between contenders and showcase young fighters, but the fights will not be the blowouts that people don’t want to see,” De La Hoya promised.

That was a veiled reference toward rival Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions’ regular slate of cable fights, but a spokesman for the company defended the Premier Boxing Champions product.

Additionally, after a television source said Premier Boxing Champions’ association with ESPN is in danger of ending, Premier Boxing Champions spokesman Tim Smith said, “That’s not true. We still have a relationship with ESPN. We’re trying to figure everything out. We’re always looking for a way that we can improve the relationship with ESPN, the best way to execute the next phase of the overall plan. We have a good relationship with ESPN as we do with all our broadcast partners.”

Golden Boy’s deal with ESPN is for 18 shows nationally this year, 24 in 2018, with an option for a third year, said De La Hoya, who added he has an estimated 65 fighters in his stable.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

@latimespugmire

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