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Diego De La Hoya aims to continue family's illustrious boxing legacy

Diego De La Hoya, right, faces a hungry opponent on Thursday night in Erik Ruiz. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Diego De La Hoya has the famous surname, but Erik Ruiz has something going for him Thursday night, too: desperation.

Ruiz, 26 years old, is 16-6-1 and coming off a defeat at the hands of former junior featherweight world title holder Rico Ramos in March. He has won only three of his past nine bouts.

"I think this is a big fight for me right now," Ruiz said. "It's kind of like a last opportunity to keep my name out there."

The De La Hoya name has been a prominent one in boxing for many years thanks to Oscar, the former six-division world champion and Hall of Famer. But Diego, Oscar's 22-year-old first cousin, has been making a name for himself as well the past couple of years. He's now 17-0 with nine knockouts in his young career.

He'll try to take another big step in that career Thursday against Ruiz, in the headline bout of Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 10 p.m. ET).

Oscar will be in attendance, and Diego is confident he will put on a good show for his cousin and everyone else watching.

"I have the discipline that you need to have, especially when it comes to training," De La Hoya said. "I also have the durability in the ring to be able to out-box [Ruiz] with style. I think people are in store for a great fight."

De La Hoya has another reason to be fired up right now -- his wife just gave birth to their son, Diego Jr., last month.

A newborn can be a handful, but it sounds like De La Hoya's preparations haven't been hampered -- in fact, just the opposite.

"It's completely changed how I see things," he said. "I train harder now because it's not just my future, it's our future. Having a baby is tough, but it's worth it."

Both De La Hoya and Ruiz have been boxing since they were young children.

"I've never thought about doing anything else," De La Hoya said. "Everything that I've worked for since the amateurs was to be a professional, world-champion boxer."

He could be looking at a world-title fight by the end of this year. But first he'll have to beat Ruiz, who has never been knocked out in his 23 professional fights.

"We never plan for a knockout -- if it comes, it comes," De La Hoya said. "I don't like to enter the ring with that mindset because I want to win naturally -- whether that comes from a unanimous decision or knockout that'll show itself come fight night."

Ruiz is the underdog, there's no doubt. But his career could be on the line, and that's not all that makes him dangerous.

"I'm very excited for this fight," Ruiz said. "I always kind of dreamed of having my name against 'De La Hoya.' It adds a little motivation. A little more motivation to give it my all."