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Michael Gallagher recalls bruising teenage sparring sessions that proved his pro capabilities

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Conor Quigley doesn’t do half measures.

The Donegal coach, father of middleweight star Jason, is currently preparing another Finn Valley fighter for their professional debut.

Former underage sensation Michael Gallagher is set to make his paid bow in two months time, however it’s not a decision that has been made lightly – or indeed hastily.

‘Chunk’ has been angling to turn pro for over two years now, but Quigley admits he wanted to test the youngster first before any dotted line was signed upon.

In Summer 2015 Coach Quigley would bring the youngster to spar top British fighters Frank Buglioni and Nathan Cleverly ahead of their fights with Fedor Chudinov and Andrzej Fonfara respectively.

The intensely passionate Quigley recalled to Irish-Boxing.com how “Michael mentioned the pro game to me, he was only 19 years of age at that time, and so I did the same thing I’d done with my own son – we took him over to Wales to spar the light heavyweight champion of the world, Nathan Cleverly.”

“If you want a boxer tested, you take him over to Nathan Cleverly – and you’ll know if he wants to fight or not afterwards!”

“We took him down to spar Frank Buglioni. Frank boxed Fedor Chudinov for the world title [afterwards], and Michael had an absolutely outstanding training camp with Frank down in Dublin with Paschal Collins.”

“Frank Buglioni at the time said he sparred with the light heavyweight British champion, [Bob Ajisafe] before he had sparred with Michael, and he said that had Michael stepped in with him the next week that Michael Gallagher would be the British champion!”

“These were all small tests – well, I say small. I wanted to see what Michael had.”

Quigley definitely saw enough in these spars and Gallagher, now 21, will debut on the September 9th ‘Celtic Clash 3’ card at the National Stadium in Dublin.

This tough grounding, before he has even thrown a paid punch, will stand Gallagher in good stead according to Quigley who noted that “you’ve a kid who, at 19 years of age, was in with two men preparing to fight for titles. It was a brilliant learning curve.”

“Michael, he’s proved he has the pedigree, he’s stood toe-to-toe with the best in the world.”

“These tests are all confidence boosters for Michael. It proves to Michael that he has what it takes to get to the top.”

Gallagher himself has fond memories of these bruising encounters.

The Ulster fighter, a bronze medalist at the 2014 Youth Olympics, admitted that “it was tough at the time, it was very hard and testing, but I wanted to test myself and see if I had ‘it.'”

“I was there with them and I stood with them. In the camp with Frank I sparred very well every day.”

“With Nathan I had a better second day than my first day! He surprised me a bit on the first day, but I got my bearings about me and came back.”

“It was very good, it never scared me, it made me want it more.”

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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie