Irish middleweight Jason Quigley will headline the kickoff edition of "Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN" on Thursday night.
California-based Quigley (12-0, 10 KOs), 25, faces New Jersey's Glen Tapia (23-3, 15 KOs) at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
ESPN caught up with the unbeaten Quigley as he prepared for his biggest fight yet.
You're from Donegal, Ireland, so why are you based in the U.S.?
I turned professional to become world champion and for me to do that, to give myself the best chance, is to be based in LA. In my opinion, LA is the capital of pro boxing. Every gym here has a world champion or a future world champion, or a past world champion. The experience you gain out here is vital, there are so many good fighters based here. It's been like serving my apprenticeship. I came here to learn the sport and the professional game.
You looked set to box at the 2016 Olympics for Ireland -- why did you turn that opportunity down to instead turn professional in 2014?
I was a strong favorite to go to the Olympics and medal for Ireland, and it would have a proud moment to do that, but in amateur boxing there are a lot of shady decisions and there are no headboards, so to go two weeks without getting a cut or an injury was going to be difficult. It was a minefield -- a lot of ifs, buts and maybes. I had great offers coming in from professional promoters at the time. But the main reason I didn't go to the Olympics was because since I was a kid the real fire burning deep-down in me was to become world champion.
You're 12-0 (10 KOs) as a professional, how has it been so far in the paid ranks?
It's been going perfectly -- I couldn't be more happier. Everything has fallen into place and my career is being guided perfectly by Golden Boy Promotions, who make the right decisions for me. I've been staying focused and trying to take one fight at a time because in boxing, it only takes one fight to change a career. I'm settling in well to the professional game.
What has been your hardest fight to date?
I suppose it's James De la Rosa because I went 10 rounds for the first time with him, but I won every round convincingly.
Is Tapia your best opponent yet?
I suppose on paper he is, but every opponent so far has been the best so far. He's had a great career, been in with some great fighters like James Kirkland and David Lemieux, who he fought last time out, so he's been at a good level. I expect him to come in 100-percent prepared because this is his chance too to get his name back up there. He's coming off two defeats so he has a point to prove. But this is my time and I'm not going to let any man stop me.
Would you like to box back home in Ireland soon for the first time as a professional?
That's going to happen. It has been a goal of mine for a long time. My fans have traveled to the likes of Las Vegas and Los Angeles to watch me fight the last couple of years and it's expensive to do that from Ireland. I want to bring pay per view fights, big fights, back to Ireland and repay my fans for their loyalty.
Does performing in front of a large television audience on ESPN put pressure on you?
This is part of the game now, this is what it's all about and I won't be thinking about the TV or what's on the line when I get in the ring. I'll be thinking about my performance and I won't be feeling any extra pressure. It's good that it's being shown on ESPN, it's good exposure for me, and this is what I've been training for, these sort of stages I've been working to get to, to have my name up in lights. So I don't see it as pressure.
You train at The Rock Boxing Gym in Carson with trainer Manny Robles. Has it been good to have fellow Irishman Michael Conlan also based there?
Yeah, Michael has the same coach as me and it's been great having him in the gym. We were in the national Ireland team together as amateurs so have known each other for a long time. When you are a long way from home, it's great to have a familiar face around, even though Michael can be a bit difficult to understand some times!
Do you miss home?
I've a good life out here; I live in the marina by the water near Venice Beach. When I'm not training it's great to chill out here, taking a walk on the beach, and I'm well into the theme parks over here. My friend from back home in Donegal Kevin Gillespie is a soccer player out here and sometimes I will go and play with them on my day off.
What do you make of Chris Eubank Jr., the British middleweight/super-middleweight who has been calling out the likes of Gennady Golovkin, Andre Ward and fellow Briton James DeGale? He has yet to fight for a world title -- is he on your radar?
Chris is doing everything right. Everyone is talking about him, whether they like him or not, and he's making money. This is a business at the end of the day and he's playing the game perfectly, being controversial and calling guys out. He's calling all these guys out but who has he fought? It doesn't matter though, because he wins and people talk about him. He's not fought on the level of the guys he's calling out but his profile is still rising. He's obviously learn a bit of show business from his dad, and they are doing a good job. I have no problem with him. I've no enemies out there -- whoever it is I'll get in there and give them hell. I don't fixate on one particular opponent, I'm not chasing any particular fight at the moment. Gennady Golovkin is the guy with all the belts and if that's still the case when I'm ready to fight for the titles, then so be it. I worry about my own career, no one else's.
Is it good to be a part of such an exciting time for Irish boxing?
We had Barry McGuigan, Steve Collins and then Wayne McCullough and Andy Lee. Now we have Carl Frampton, Michael and Jamie Conlan, Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes and Lee. All of these fighters are coming together at the same era and that doesn't happen very often. It's an exciting time for Irish boxing and it's exciting to be a part of it. There are going to be some big nights for Irish boxing over here and back home in the next few years.