In part two of our Jason Quigley interview, Golden Boy’s new middleweight prospect talks about why so many young Irish boxers are turning pro right now, his lack of an Olympic dream and why, Billy and Zaur and future fights down the line against amateur rivals Anthony Ogogo and Conrad Cummings.
Quigley, who signed with Golden Boy Promotions in 2014 and will make his debut in July, has been marking off milestones ever since he laced up his first pair of gloves.
It’s even been said that he had a list on his bedroom wall as a boy that said ‘Jason Quigley, WBC champion’, standard dreams for a boxing-mad kid. While that mightn’t be exactly the case, the Donegal middleweight has always visualised his own success before going hell for leather in its direction.
So, that list on the wall? What did it say? “I never really had it on my wall, I might have written down one time on a piece of paper that I wanted to become the north west, Ulster and all-Ireland champion,” Quigley laughs.
“I done that and then I used to write on the mirror whenever I was having a shower and it steamed up. Before I went to the European Championships I wrote ‘Jason Quigley, European champ’ and every time the mirror would steam up I would see it.
“I also had that written down too on a piece of paper in my locker. But it was a process. Again I had to win all-Irelands. Actually this time I learned that it’s not all about winning – it’s about performing. I had written down ‘perform in my all-Irelands, perform in my round robin and when I get to the Europeans, win them!’
“I never really stuck anything up on my walls, maybe just boxing pictures of me and my father and my family, maybe an old poster of Mike Tyson or Muhammad Ali.
“But I always had that piece of paper in my locker beside me and just waking up and telling myself the same thing – even at night time telling myself the same thing before I went to bed – it’s always in your head what you want to achieve.”
When Quigley had a breakout 2013, winning the Irish Elite and European titles, and becoming this country’s first ever World Championships finalists, the Olympics in 2016 looked like the next logical step. But that WBC dream lingered.
Indeed, such was his determination to turn professional as soon as the offer was right, that his dad recently told me that “the Olympics, for Jason, only became a dream when it became a reality.” And still it wasn’t enough to hold him.
The 23-year-old said: “It’s been my dream since I was a boy to be a world professional champion. It’s something I see on the TV, sitting down in the sitting room with my dad when I was a young kid. That was always my ambition in boxing.
“I boxed because my father was a boxer. Of course watching the boxing on Sky then, the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera and all were the ones that stood out.
It was really only when I became a national champion boxing amateur that people would say ‘oh you’ll be aiming for the Olympics’.
“Once I heard about the Olympics I wanted it. See when I was growing up the Olympics was very quiet for Irish boxing. There was no real stand-out until Andy Lee went in 2004. That was the first big one. Obviously before that there was Wayne McCullough and Michael Carruth but I was only one year old.
“When Lee qualified everyone got excited about it then, then of course Paddy (Barnes) and God rest Darren Sutherland, Kenny (Egan), Katie (Taylor) and John Joe Nevin – these have really put it on the map for the young kids coming through now.
“Whereas my real goal was always to become a professional boxer and to be world professional champion. The Olympics became a goal when it became a reality. It was a possibility.”
So leaving it behind isn’t going to be something he’ll regret later in life? Billy Walsh, the Ireland coach whose team has delivered seven medals at the last two Games, certainly thinks he will.
But Quigley insists: “No definitely not. Down through the years I wore the vest of my country very well. I worse it proudly and gave everything. I gave 110 per cent every time I put on that vest and it was a very proud moment every time I put on that vest.
“To go and make history in that vest for my own country, I really think I served Ireland and the High Performance Unit well. It’s just time for me to move on and I’m really looking forward to moving on now.”
In the past year, there has been an alarming – certainly if you’re based at the IABA – trend which has seen a number of Ireland’s top amateurs turning pro.
John Joe Nevin, Quigley and Tommy McCarthy would all have been medal prospects in Rio – all gone.
And the strength in depth provided by the likes of Conrad Cummings, Sean Turner, Declan Geragthy and Tyrone McCullagh has greatly diminished the talent pool in this country.
Why’s everyone on their way now? The ditching of headguards and move towards pro scoring has changed the amateur game significantly. But it also has to have something to do with the lack of promotion in amateur boxing, the difficulty in qualifying for major tournaments and also boxers’ unhappiness with the standard of judging. Add it all up and too many are on their way for the IABA’s comfort.
“It’s hard to say. The changes in boxing – the headgear’s come off and it’s a minefield you’re going through now if you’re looking to become a world or European champion. One clash of heads or a cut with an elbow and that’s you gone. Your championships is over. I think that’s the reason for a lot of boxers turning professional.”
Quigley’s case was slightly different, seeing as Golden Boy paid him a healthy signing-on bonus and the idea of boxing in Las Vegas blows Rio out of the water. He added: “It wasn’t really the reason I went. I achieved so well as an amateur and it was just an amazing deal for me.
“To become the No 1 in your sport of amateur boxing is a dream come true. To get to a world final, of course it was disappointing to lose but you’re always going to have disappointments. But I know deep down the silver medal, while a disappointment, is history made and a great achievement for my country.
“And to win a European gold and beat the world champion on my way to it, it was an absolutely unbelievable year for me. Now it’s just time for me to move on for myself and I’m looking to move forward.”
Carl Frampton said his biggest regret about turning pro was not telling Walsh he’d made his mind up to go – Quigley went the same way.
He said: “Of course we would have had a few chats when we were talking about staying amateur. I’m really grateful to the High Performance for everything they’ve done for me through the years. They brought me to the Multi Nations tournaments and I was a pre-Elite as Irish No 2. They took me along and I got a lot of experience at international level.
“Then when it was my time and I stepped up to No 1, I went on and done the High Performance and did my country and my family proud by winning the Europeans and the World silver medal.
“The High Performance was great for me and I just want to thank them for everything they’ve done for me. It’s just time for me to move on now and Billy knows that. He knows amateur boxing just wouldn’t excite me now as pro boxing does. That’s where the fire burns in my belly.
“Zaur (Antia) and Billy and all the coaches did a lot for me. It’s a good set-up there and I wish them all the best. I hope everything goes really well for them in the future.
So the journey goes from Minsk and Almaty to Los Angeles and Las Vegas – not bad if you’re into that kind of thing. The debut will take place on the Saul Alvarez v Erislandy Lara card in Sin City, and Quigley is prepared for some sparring with his new stablemate in the coming weeks if it can be worked out, something new boss Oscar De La Hoya suggested.
“Canelo is around the one weight and he’s a part of Golden Boy Promotions. He’s boxing a Cuban and they’re very stylish and technical and I think I carry a bit of that in my armoury,” Quigley explained.
“I’m sure it’ll be helpful for Canelo but a lot more helpful for me to get in with a lad who’s been in with the best in the world, and is the best in the world at his weight.
“I love my country and my home comforts but this is my dream and to be honest, if you’d give anyone the opportunity to move to LA then they wouldn’t turn it down. The sun is shining and everything about it is just amazing out there. It’s a really nice place and the people are lovely.
“To be honest I don’t mind leaving home at all. It’s always nice to come back to home as well and you don’t appreciate your home as much until you leave it. It’s whenever you get back to it you go ‘oh this is great’. Then when you’re home for a week or two, you’re dying to go out again!
“No matter where you go in the world, home is home. There’s so many memories of family and friends and you can never take that away.”
Before we leave him for his training camp – and it’s very early to be suggesting major fights down the line ahead of his first – it’s impossible not to think of mouthwatering showdowns with some of his amateur rivals.
Quigley has wins over Cummings, Barry McGuigan’s middleweight who’s now 2-0 in the pro ranks, and also England’s Golden Boy boxer Anthony Ogogo (6-0).
Early days, yes, but it has the makings of another rivalry like the current Lee-Macklin-Barker-Murray one, and maybe these guys will actually fight one another.
Both Quigley and Cummings have the abilities to win titles and put them on the line, down the line.
Quigley concluded: “Of course – it’d be absolutely amazing to have home fights in England and Dublin and Belfast and places like that.
“It’s just, as you said, these guys have to prove themselves as professional boxers and I have to prove myself as a professional boxer. Professional boxing is a different sport altogether than amateur boxing. You need to adapt to the professional scene.
“You need to be hardened – mentally and physically. You need to be tough. I’m going to be tested that way and these other boxers are going to be tested that way.
“They need to get through their side of the building up as professionals, and I have to get through mine. And if they get through theirs I’ll be more than happy to meet them at the end with a few titles on the line.”