In part one of our interview with Jason Quigley, the Donegal middleweight talks about why it was a ‘no brainer’ to sign with Oscar De La Hoya, the wars he was raised on, adapting his style – again – and impressing a style icon in Andre Ward with his own personal homage…
By Kevin Byrne- follow Kevin on Twtter @kevoobyrne
He’s just returned home from California where a protracted will-he, won’t-he saga has ended with the signing of pro forms at Golden Boy Promotions.
Now the date and venue for Quigley’s pro debut have been set – July 12 in Las Vegas.
You can’t say ‘he will make his paid bow’, because he has been funded to the tune of €97,250 by the Irish Sports Council up to now and been paid to take part in the 2011-12 World Series of Boxing for the now-defunct Los Angeles Matadors, not to mention Sky Sports Scholars sponsorship of a reported €30,000 and a free car from a local dealership, but he will begin a new adventure by boxing on the Saul Alvarez v Erislandy Lara card.
Quigley enjoyed a couple of mighty homecomings in 2013, returning to Stranorlar a hero with European gold in June, and World Championships silver in October.
His comeback in April of this year again saw him at the centre of attention, but it was a bit ‘weird’ coming home to fanfare without a medal in his pocket.
“I’m absolutely over the moon. As I says to everybody, it was always my dream to become a professional world champion, so turning professional is just the first step on the ladder to doing that.
“It’s a sense of I don’t really know how I feel, because I came home and I’d won nothing – but it felt as if I’d won something. I had no medals or anything, so it was a strange feeling.
“Everybody in town and my local area was delighted. The amount of ‘good luck’ messages, Facebook messages, Twitter, my phone, everything that I’ve got has been amazing.
“It was just weird coming home not saying ‘it was a tough final’ or ‘I won the gold’, so it was nothing in physical terms. But I’m sure I’ll be coming home with plenty of physical stories in the years to come.”
Quigley was linked with any number of promoters in the USA with Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment and Banner Promotions all in the frame for his signature at one stage or another.
Closer to home, a couple of long-established boxing men peeped out of their foxholes but ultimately, Golden Boy were to win his hand, thanks in no small part to the presence of Oscar De La Hoya as the firm’s president.
“When you hear of all the top promoters like Top Rank and Golden Boy… Top Rank are amazing and they’ve been about the block a long, long time,” Quigley insists.
“But the man himself – Oscar De La Hoya – he’s been in the ring, he knows how a boxer thinks, he knows how a boxer likes to be treated, he knows pressures that are on the people he’s promoting and it was a no brainer for me. Just having someone of his experience behind me is just absolutely unbelievable.
Clearly a big fan of the original ‘Golden Boy’ growing up, then…
“Definitely, I think every boxer was. To do what he’s done – winning an Olympic gold, turned pro… Walking into his office and just looking at the amount of belts he has in his glass cabinet is something else.
“One comment that he says to me in there, he’s all these different weight divisions from light-welter the whole way up, and he only had one belt at middleweight. He just says ‘you’ll help me fill that there position’. It was something unbelievable to hear from him and there’s definitely a goal put into my head now.
“I was really getting into him when he was fighting the likes of Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins and Manny Pacquiao. I was obviously very young whenever he was starting out to be fully behind him and a full fanatic.
“I watched the 24-7 he was on with Floyd Mayweather and they were showing his life inside and outside the ring. He really is a role model.
“He’s something else when he’s in that gym. He’s so down to earth. He always does his talking in the ring. Mayweather tried to rise him so many times and to be honest that fight could have gone either way, it was really close. To get beat by Mayweather on a split decision is no real downer – but I’m sure he was down about it.”
Oscar looked like a movie star but fought like a lion, you say. He had the right attitude. He fought everyone he could, moving up and down divisions, picking up belts, fearing no man or beast.
Quigley says: “That’s how you become a legend, not just remembered, but a legend. And that’s what he is. Anybody who offered him a fight and was the best, he fought them and that’s what boxing is all about. It’s about getting yourself to that level, building yourself up so that people want you.
“It’s about building yourself up to being the best and once you clinch that spot, the best are going to want you.
“To be known as a great you have to beat the best. The guys that he’s been in with – he’s never dodged an opponent in his life.
“That’s another thing he said to us, that you see a lot of boys starting off and they’re going in taking boys out in the first round – lads who really have no call to be in the ring, they’re probably just in it for a few pound.
“Oscar said to me ‘you’re in here and you’re not going to be started off on easy routes, it’s no good for nobody’ and I really respected that because I don’t want to be fighting bums either. You want to be tested in every fight. That more hazardous the opponent the more you’re going to learn. You’re not going to learn by taking lads out in the first round.”
Isn’t that the difference between amateur and professional boxing now, though? In the vest you’re fighting the best out there and every fight is another potential defeat. Now, in stepping over to the other side, the standard of opponents could drop sharply for a time, a couple of years at least.
Quigley’s considered his route, however, and is eager to be fast-tracked. He wants to be known for taking dangerous fights, not as ‘the champ who fought no one’. ‘They all say that’ would be a cynic’s view, but the FinnValley clubman is confident that he’ll be proved right in the long run.
“Of course you have to build yourself up,” he says. “You have to get fights that suit yourself starting off. Once you’re brought to a certain level you’re going to have to start fighting lads that are a real threat and danger. That’s providing you keep winning.
“Of course there’s boys carried along, carried along and it’s great because they’re out there getting noticed and recognised. But half the fans then are saying ‘oh look who he fought’ and I don’t want to be known as ‘the champion who fought nobody’.
“I want to be known for taking fights, maybe losing and coming back to win the rematch. I want to be in fights like Morales-Barrera, like Gatti-Ward, Marquez-Pacquaio – thrillers. Them are the fights that make champions and go down in the history books.
“I know for a fact that with my father and Oscar behind me that I won’t be carried along like a baby. I’ll be put in there and tested when I have to be tested and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Quigley is an in-ring thinker (that’s thinker with a TH). He fast and agile, not a huge puncher but an effective one, and certainly adaptable. And he’s certain the pro game will be just another adjustment.
“To be honest, I boxed for a long, long time in computer scoring and I was very successful at it. I went then to the WSB and was successful at it. The computer changed to a 10-9 scoring system, which was a professional system, and I succeeded at a high level in that as well.
“I think the style that I have is a box-fighter. Whenever I have to go into the trenches and let this boy know that he won’t be bullying me around the ring, I can do it. I can outclass him and outbox him as well.
“When you look at the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard – all these guys have boxed, not fought. They danced around the ring and used their skills. And when they had to, when they were dropped, they had to get up and show the guy that ‘here I’m not just a pretty dancer, I can let the shots go and give you what you’ve given me as well’. That’s the way that champions are made and the way I’ll go about my career.
“When I can box and use my skills – my natural gifts – that’s what I’ll do. But if there’s a guy who’s there to blow me out of the water I won’t let him do that. I’ll go toe to toe, look him in the eye and make sure that he knows I’m in there for the long haul.
“I would love to think I’m ‘the first Jason Quigley’. I’ll do what I’ve been trained to do by my father. And when you’re in there as well there’s things that you just do naturally, that you’ve never been taught or coached. Then you get out after the fight and go ‘jeez, where did that come from?’
“I know for a fact I have my own style. It’s very easy to try and be similar to another fighter but I don’t like over familiarising myself with any boxer. I’ll always look at the likes of other boxers such as Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward.
“Going into my semi-final of the World Championships (bt Artem Chebotarev of Russia, 29-28, 30-27, 30-27), my father told me to watch Andre Ward’s Olympic final in Athens (bt Evgeny Makarenko of Russia, 23-16, in what was actually the quarter-final) and I really tried to not copy him, but I used his tactics and techniques the way that he beat that really string two-time world champion Russian. There’s no way you can copy punch for punch what another boxer does.”
It’s an homage, you interject. Taking the best bits from the best fighters and implementing them in your own game. Turns out Quigley got the opportunity to show his inspiration exactly what transpired when he took a page out of Andre Ward’s playbook.
“That’s it,” he agrees. “You can’t be stubborn and say you’ll never learn other techniques. You have to learn if you want to be the best. All right, of course boxers are limited in what they can do but you need to open your brain and be willing to learn new things in the ring and that’s what I do.
“I look at all the top boxers. They’re there for a reason. I met Andre Ward at a photoshoot over in LA and that was an amazing experience.
“I told him I tried to take some of his tactics into my World semi-final of his Olympic final and he says ‘oh get it up on YouTube there and we’ll see it’, so I was showing him and it was just an amazing experience.
“He carried the belt in for Roy Jones when he was a young fella and when you look at the both of them, there’s not much difference in styles.
“I’m sure that he picked up a few things from Roy Jones but he’d never say that he’s copying him, he’s just doing what any other sportsmen would do – look at the best and try and learn from them.
“He’s a very humble guy, very down to earth. You walk in and there’s no airs and graces, he chats to you like he’s a young amateur looking to turn professional which he once was. He doesn’t talk down like you’re below him or anything like that.
“Not that I expected it, but you just see in the papers how celebrities and people living the big life are very arrogant. But that’s one thing Andre Ward isn’t – he’s a credit and an idol to the sport of boxing.”
A decent role model, so, ahead of a move to Los Angeles. You don’t want to be returning for future homecomings a changed man.
Don’t miss Part II of Kevin Byrne’s interview with new Golden Boy Promotions middleweight signing, Jason Quigley. Coming soon…