The Donegal middleweight faced his toughest test to date in Bahamian Tureano Johnson and was retired on his stool after a punishing nine rounds.
A decent start soon gave way to a Caribbean steam-train, with Johnson overwhelming Quigley who was pulled out by his corner before the start of the final round.
Headling the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio for a third time, the Ballybofey boxer put his WBC-NABF rankings title on the line as a heavy odds-on but came up short against a relentless foe.
Johnson had defeated Quigley’s fellow Ulsterman Eamonn O’Kane in an IBF final eliminator way back in 2015 but saw his fight with then-champion Gennady Golovkin delayed and he would lose heavily to Ukrainian Sergiy Derevyanchenko in the interim.
That defeat came in August 2017 and it would be almost a year-and-a-half before Johnson returned to the ring where he was held to a disappointing draw by the unheralded Fernando Castaneda. And so, he came into tonight’s fight at the age of 35 and widely believed to be past his best – although most would agree that he posed the toughest test of Quigley’s career thus far.
It was, on paper if not in reality, the perfect step-up for Quigley. Having returned from a major hand injury last year – and relocating from LA to Sheffield and switching trainers from Manny Robles to Dominic Ingle – the Finn Valley man destroyed Daniel Rosario but looked somewhat laboured defending his rankings belt versus grizzled Mexican Daniel Rosario.
Coming into this fight, Quigley kept busy with a blow-out of Mathias Eklund in London in March and, having turned 28 in May and celebrating his five-year anniversary as a pro last week, it was time to really start moving towards major title fights.
However, these plans have taken a major dent following a bruising evening on the U.S. West Coast.
There was no feeling out, with Johnson diving in from the start. Quigley sought to counter-punch and walk the veteran onto big shots, certainly landing the better quality of punches but being forced to fight at a high pace.
Squat and physically strong, Johnson was looking to sit on Quigley’s chest and land short hooks. The Irishman sunk some nice bodyshots in and, changing tact already, was willing to fight in the pocket, landing a particularly nice counter hook on the bell.
Johnson briefly drove Quigley to the ropes at the start of the third but the former elite amateur was willing to fight fire with fire. It was becoming a war and, returning to the ropes, Quigley started to ship some major damage for the first time, with the challenger landing some nice uppercuts and taking the round.
The Bahamian was fighting like a man possessed, clipping Quigley with clean hooks upstairs in the fourth as well as heavy bodyshots and threatening to take over as ‘El Animal’ started to look ragged.
There was some better stuff from Quigley in the fifth landing straight shots but the clubbing shots of Johnson continued to do damage – with trainer Ingle promising his tiring charge at the break that the Caribbean slugger would soon slow down.
This slow-down certainly didn’t come as we entered the second half, with a huge left hook rocking Quigley. Face badly marked, Quigley looked in real danger but stayed game and brave, throwing with Johnson.
Quigley’s snap had gone, but his will remained and he kept pumping the arms throughout the seventh as Johnson’s output dipped slightly – although he looked comfortable and was .
Heart not in question, Quigley stood and slugged with Johnson in Round Eight but looked to be on the wrong end of an unassailable lead and the time had come where perhaps a compassionate stoppage was needed.
Told by his corner to finish Quigley, Johnson flew out in the ninth and landed an extended combination upstairs to start before a huge shot to the solar plexus in the closing moments almost had the Irishman down.
Dominic Ingle took a long look at Quigley at the break before the ringside doctor came in for an inspection. The physician was about to allow the fight to continue but Ingle had made his mind up and ordered a stop to the fight to hand Johnson a richly deserved ninth-round stoppage win.
The upset defeat sees Quigley slip to 16(12)-1(1) while Johnson reinvigorates his career and improves to 21(15)-2(2)-1
Ranked #5 with the WBC, #8 with the WBA, and #14 with the IBF beforehand, these placings will likely disappear and Quigley will now, after a break, go about looking to rebuild.