Dublin: 17°C Thursday 11 August 2022

'When he said 'from Ballybofey, Donegal'... The legs went, I was down on my knees like, 'Thank f*** for that!''

After a turbulent 18 months, Jason Quigley kept alive the prospect of turning a good career into a great one and put smiles on faces back home.

Jason Quigley lands a right hand on Shane Mosley Jr.
Jason Quigley lands a right hand on Shane Mosley Jr.
Image: Tom Hogan/INPHO

LESS THAN TWO days after a victorious crossroads bout in Las Vegas which kept alive the prospect of his turning a good Irish-boxing career into a great one, Jason Quigley found himself being driven through the streets of his hometown, Ballybofey, soaking in the adulation of people who, like all of us, have found good news hard to come by over the last 18 months.

“It was lovely,” beams the middleweight, who outpointed son-of-legend Shane Mosley over 10 high-octane rounds at the Michelob Ultra Arena on Saturday night. “I was just hanging out the window buzzing, having the craic with it, but the parade of cars that was behind me: when it was all over, a few of them came up to me afterwards and they says to me, like, ‘…I was so emotional! I teared up in the car!’ And they explained it, like: they were saying every town in Ireland this last year and a half has been dead and now, there was kids, middle-aged people, elderly people, businesses and there was joy in people’s faces; there was something to celebrate, there was happiness, there was a buzz.”

Ballybofey came out in force: most notably, staff and customers in both the local bank and chemist dropped what they were doing to come out and give him a wave and a ‘well done, son.’ Quigley’s publicist, Chris McNulty, was later contacted by the credit union to say they would have been out, too, if they had known of the parade in advance.

And then there were the students from Quigley’s primary school who lined out with signs to catch a glimpse of a local legend who has been bringing home international honours of some description for as long as any of them can remember.

“You know, I’m just a fella doing me job,” Quigley says. “I’m getting into the ring, throwing a few slaps and doing the best that I can do and if that’s bringing that kind of joy back to where I’m from, the country and the county where I’m from, then that’s massive — it makes me feel like I’ve succeeded bigtime.

“The kids are class, they fecking just think you’re superhero or something,” he laughs. “They look at you as if you’re going to put on a cape and fly away! There’s some buzz off the kids.

“I’m delighted that the town got a lift from it. It’s been badly needed over the last year that we’ve had.”

In the wee hours of Sunday morning Irish time, it was the former European amateur champion and World Championship silver medalist who shed tears as he took a significant step forward in his career.

Quigley had last fought when he was 28 and in Vegas, ‘suddenly’ aged 30, he found himself in a sink-or-swim fight on the back of an 18-month absence from the ring and accompanying complications outside of it which continued as far as the 11th hour.

“It was a sense of relief to be honest and the emotions poured out,” he says. “Look, the lockdown has been difficult on everybody – not just myself or sportspeople but businesspeople, nine-to-five workers, even people who don’t work; mentally, physically, financially.

“I had five fights since the start of Covid that were supposedly meant to happen and had all fallen through. Even the Shane Mosley fight: it was meant to happen in January, fell through; in February, fell through again. Then, the whole issue with Andy [Lee, trainer] not being able to travel, the whole issue with trying to get into the country and Vegas. At the last minute, things were looking like, ‘Is this ever going to happen?’

“What was on the line in that fight as well: the winner, obviously myself, goes on and there’s talk about me fighting Demetrius Andrade for a world championship. Whereas the loser – where do you go, like? What’s next? Who do you fight? Who wants to fight you? What is the purpose of fighting you? You’re 30 years of age (Mosley is also 30); what’s next?

“I think all that just overwhelmed me whenever the decision was [read out]… When he said, ‘…From Ballybofey, County Donegal…’” Quigley says, referring to MC David Diamante’s official announcement, “You seen it all… The legs went, I was down on my knees and I said, ‘Thank fuck for that!’”

jason-quigley-celebrates-as-the-new-wbo-nabo-middleweight-champion Quigley celebrates his victory. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Trainer Lee, too, surely breathed a sigh of relief as he watched his man deservedly come out on the right side of a majority decision from Dublin. The former middleweight world champion was unable to secure a National Interest Exemption (NIE) to gain entry to the States, another pandemic-era road-bump.

Limerick’s Lee has been central to Quigley’s development since his sole professional defeat to Tureano Johnson in July 2019, a reality which felt more pronounced as Quigley set off for Vegas without him (even though Quigley was able to call upon the services of Vegas resident Wayne McCullough upon his arrival in Sin City: “I went from having an Olympian and former world champion in my corner to another Olympian and former world champion in my corner — so it was a great substitution, you could say!”)

But even in his absence, Lee’s influence was extremely conspicuous.

Over the course of his 19 previous fights, the central question mark that hung over Quigley was why, over longer rounds, does a fighter who lives as cleanly as he does appear to run out of steam — and, subsequently, run into serious trouble as he did against Johnson — somewhere around the halfway mark.

In at least a couple of his distance fights, we’ve seen Quigley start quickly before beginning to breathe heavily and, ostensibly, attempt to ride out a storm exhibiting the kind of body language that ultimately costs rounds on the judges’ scorecards.

The fight with Mosley Jr took on a diametrically opposite pattern. Against a fighter with an unquestionable engine, Quigley proved that he in fact packs plenty under his own bonnet, growing into the contest as it progressed and transparently relishing the back-and-forth nature of it. In the midst of a razor-tight, career-altering fight one way or the other, he didn’t look panicked; he looked pleased.

jason-quigley-in-action-with-shane-mosley-jr Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

“That was the thing that kept coming up in fight week with the pundits,” Quigley smiles.

DAZN (broadcaster) were asking me, ‘Is there issues with your fitness, is there issues with your training camp, why do you seem to gas out in the second half of a fight? Three or four rounds are amazing and the next thing is you go downhill a bit.’ I told them: ‘Wait and see come Saturday night and you can come and ask me that question again.’

“…Thank God I was able to back it up!”

“Anybody that knows me”, Quigley says, “anybody that follows me on social media — you don’t even have to know me, like; you see how much I train. I never get fat, I’m always eating good and healthy, I’m always looking after myself. It’s kind of impossible for me to be out of shape in a fight, and to gas in a fight physically, know what I mean? And that was something that I questioned myself: like, I’m probably one of the most disciplined fighters out there, inside and outside the gym; how am I getting tired? This isn’t down to fitness, this isn’t down to not training enough — or maybe training too much, because there was a stage when I thought I was probably being burnt out.

“I spar 12 rounds sometimes. And after that, I feel like I could go another 10 rounds. And I’d think: ‘What’s the difference, like? It’s still demanding on the body. You still need to be fit. So what’s the difference in that last spar, doing 12 rounds, and then a week later doing four rounds [in a fight] and feeling tired? What is the actual difference there?’

“We definitely had to look at certain things and we did that in the last year with Andy.

“It was all mental,” Quigley explains. “It was all a programme that I came from: 250 amateur fights, three x three-minute rounds: it’s a 100-metre sprint. You get in there, you go hell-for-leather for three rounds and hopefully at the end of it, you’ve done enough. Whereas professional boxing, it’s a marathon.

Looking back on my career now, I wish I didn’t pan everybody out inside a round or two. I wish I had coasted a few, learned the game, learned how to pick me shots a bit more, learned how to be bit more relaxed in a fight, learned how to be a professional fighter going eight, 10, 12 rounds.

“It’s only now that I’m not worrying about the decision or trying to get to the finish line quicker than the other fella. I’m now more present, concentrating more on what I’m doing in the fight in terms of getting the better of my opponent instead of getting in there and going mental and trying to get it over and done with as quick as possible.

“I think people seen that side of me in this fight. There was a lot of smiling. I was up on my toes. I was having fun in there. There was a stage where I was thinking, ‘This is… Not easy, but I’m not busting myself here and I’m not wrecked tired.’ I was bouncing about. It was actually good fun. It’s something we definitely did work on; we worked on it in the gym and then it was just a matter of applying that in the ring.”

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andy-lee-before-the-fight Former middleweight champion Lee has been central to Quigley's development since 2019. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

The fun continued in Quigley’s post-fight interview during which he respectfully but playfully called out WBO middleweight champion ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade [30-0, 18 KOS] on his host broadcaster, reminding the Rhode Island native of a time not so long ago when a certain ‘Jason Quagley’ was among the names Andrade was himself invoking in search of a meaningful fight.

“I thought it’d be funny to bring it back up again and let him know that he needs to learn how to pronounce ‘Quigley’ in the near future,” says the Irish middleweight with a glint in his eye.

“Look, since I started this game, I’ve wanted to be a world champion. If the opportunity came along and I got offered the Demetrius Andrade fight, it would take a hell of a lot for me to turn that down. We just have to see what comes along but if that opportunity came along, I definitely wouldn’t be the person who says ‘no’ to that fight.”

Andrade is half-interested, telling Irish-boxing.com very simply, “Maybe.. if I don’t have a better option,” when invited to respond to Quigley’s call-out.

The Donegal man is, at least, back on good terms with Andrade’s promoter, Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn. About a year ago, when Quigley declined a fight with Matchroom’s Jack Cullen at Matchroom’s Fight Camp in pursuit of a far bigger scrap against Canelo Alvarez, Hearn jibed that Quigley must have been physically unprepared for the prospective Cullen bout. Quigley later expressed his disappointment with Hearn’s remarks, describing them as “very unprofessional” on Off The Ball. Hearn was later shown the pertinent section of that interview during one of his own for a YouTube channel, reacting in a bemused manner.

He’s not one to bear grudges, though, as Quigley discovered on Saturday night.

“I met Eddie backstage after the fight. He came up to me and says, ‘Great fight, very entertaining, I really enjoyed it, congratulations and I’ll hopefully see you soon.’

I actually said to him, ‘Eddie, no hard feelings, I might have called you unprofessional in the past but no hard feelings!’ And he was like, ‘Ah Jesus, don’t be worrying about it’ or ‘I can’t even remember that.’ Look, Eddie is a businessman. He’s very good at what he does. If it makes sense business-wise, those things won’t throw Eddie off. He’s a shrewd man and he’s good at his job.

jason-quigley-celebrates-after-the-fight Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Outside of Hearn’s prized middleweight Andrade, there are several options for step-up fights in which victory might lead to ‘Boo Boo’ in any case, including against Mexican middleweight Jaime Munguia [36-0, 29KOs] who holds on his CV victories over Quigley’s compatriots Dennis Hogan (albeit a controversial one) and Spike O’Sullivan.

At 30, Quigley describes himself as entering “the final chapter” of his career, but there are plenty of pages left to turn.

If he’s still boxing at 35, he says, he’ll have put a foot wrong somewhere. “It’s mad, you think back to being 10 years of age, your whole career in front of you and not even looking at the possibility of there being an end in sight. Whereas now, you’re looking and thinking, ‘Jeeze, I’ve five years, now, to pull everything in and achieve what I’ve set out to achieve in this sport.’

“Five years,” he reiterates. “Now, obviously, there could be a few chapters within that final bulk of a chapter! But I feel like this is the point, now, where I want to have big fights, good performances, world titles and really make a name for myself so I can leave the sport feeling fulfilled in what I’ve achieved in the game.”

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