Golden Boy Promotion's Oscar De La Hoya says he was surprised to reunite with some of his female fans in Indio at the most recent fight of his top prospect, Ryan Garcia.
What surprised De La Hoya even more though was seeing that the women's daughters were there to cheer for Garcia, 19, who gave the capacity crowd what they wanted in the ring with a first-round knockout victory.
Another expected enthusiastic throng is due at StubHub Center on Friday night, when Garcia (14-0, 13 knockouts) meets Puerto Rico's Jayson Velez (26-4-1, 18 KOs) in the main event of an ESPN2-televised card that begins at 7:30 p.m. Pacific time.
"This will be another step in my legacy, and I look forward to a world-changing fight," said Garcia, who also headlined the March 22 ESPN card in Indio. "It doesn't matter how much experience Jayson Velez has, whether he fought for a world title or not. I'm going to see how he fights, and I'll know what to do."
Irish middleweight Gary "Spike" O'Sullivan — who was in talks to fight unbeaten champion Gennady Golovkin on Saturday at StubHub Center before Golovkin chose Vanes Martirosyan — will fight Berlin Abreu in Friday's co-main event.
Velez, who fought to a draw in a 2014 featherweight title bout, has sought to bother Garcia by employing a rap friend to create a song about spoiling plans without De La Hoya being able to protect the handsome super featherweight.
"Ryan's last fight was supposed to be a test, one we felt would get him seven or eight rounds. What does he do? He ends up knocking the guy out in the first," De La Hoya said.
"It's difficult to throw him right in with the lions when we don't know for sure how he's going to react when he gets punched, or how he'll go into the later rounds, but Velez should be a real test. He's a fighter who's fought for a world title already, is experienced, has never been stopped and now there's a little rivalry that's brewing.
"I'm crossing my fingers that Ryan can taste the sixth, seventh or eighth rounds. … If he knocks him out early again, obviously we have someone special and perhaps we'll move him at a faster pace."
Garcia has more than 700,000 Instagram followers, and De La Hoya boasted he wouldn't be surprised if Garcia attracts a larger audience to StubHub Center than Golovkin-Martirosyan, or than next week's lightweight title bout at Madison Square Garden between champion Jorge Linares and Vasyl Lomachenko.
With the popularity, however, come the pitfalls of distractions that De La Hoya has tasted at his peak after emerging with a 1992 Olympic gold medal.
"He has the potential to attract a fan base — the women — that really hasn't been there since when I fought. Ryan's career is one I really want to pay attention to," De La Hoya said.
Unlike marquee attraction Canelo Alvarez, who was raised in the sport's discipline as the youngest of several boxing brothers, Victorville's Garcia has a tsunami of attention outside the ring to manage.
"What I try to do is constantly stay in touch with him, give him advice and tell him he can call whenever he needs," De La Hoya said. "Because he is moving at a fast pace, there might be hurdles along the way. That's why he has a promoter like myself who can give him that advice. I've been there, done that.
"He can ask me whatever he wants, just pick up the phone and call me. Most importantly, he's a fighter who, in our eyes, is going a long way, but he needs to move along in his own time. I believe he has a good head on his shoulders."
Ryan Garcia (14-0, 13 KOs) vs. Jayson Velez (26-4-1, 18 KOs), super featherweights
Where: StubHub Center
When: Friday, first fight 6 p.m. Pacific time, televised portion starts at 7:30 p.m.