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Happiness won't stop Jason Quigley from becoming 'one nasty f***er' during tonight's date with destiny

‘There used to be a time when I couldn’t go into a room on my own, I couldn’t be in silence because things would come into my head that I didn’t want to think about.’

Jason Quigley is expected to make his ring walk for tonight's middleweight world-title fight between 3:15am and 3:50am Irish time.
Jason Quigley is expected to make his ring walk for tonight's middleweight world-title fight between 3:15am and 3:50am Irish time.

WHEN JASON QUIGLEY was a young professional boxer living in Los Angeles, trans-oceanic interviews used to invariably end with the same joke:

‘You sound miserable over there, anyway — will I send you over a few teabags, maybe some Taytos?’

‘Ah, Jaysus, maybe if you could get somebody to fix me up an ice tea?’ he’d say. ‘I’m going to spend the afternoon here now down by the pool. You just make sure you wrap up back home, be a shame if you caught a cold.’

Quigley in 2013 had exploded into the mainstream sporting conscious not only in Ireland but across the pond. His European Championships gold medal and World Championships silver, as well as his couple of victories in the AIBA-sanctioned, semi-professional World Series of Boxing two years prior, turned the heads of promoters everywhere.

In the end it was American great Oscar De La Hoya who won the race for the Finn Valley middleweight’s signature, adding Quigley to his roster at Golden Boy Promotions. To much fanfare back home, the Irish prodigy relocated to California on his own to begin his journey in the sport’s punch-for-pay ranks.

For several years, Quigley appeared for all intents and purposes to be living a dream life on the West Coast: sun, sea, golf, backstage at Coldplay concerts; and, crucially, exposure to elite training, sparring and gym facilities that seemed sure to propel him towards the pinnacle of his sport.

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Somewhere along the line, though, his tone shifted.

“Like, out here in LA, it’s a beautiful and luxurious place, but no matter where you are in the world, if you’re not with the people you love, it’ll never be good,” he told me in August 2017. “When you go to these great places you want to share those moments with the people you love. It’s hard not to be able to to do that.

“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Everyone sees Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and thinks, ‘Quigley’s in LA, living the life.’ But life is never that simple. I’m not going to put up things on days when I fall out with my girlfriend, or I fall out with my family, or I’ve had a bad day the gym. Do you know what I mean? I don’t post that kind of stuff.

“This is what young kids have to realise: okay, you might see me training out in LA, or you might see me at home enjoying myself, and everything looks brilliant. ‘Quigley’s out in LA, he comes home every now and then, he’s at the Canelo fight in Vegas, he sees Conor McGregor’ – all this kind of stuff. On social media, it looks like an absolutely perfect life, but nobody has a perfect life!”

jason-quigley-lina-baker-see-you-ringside-photography-14-1-752x501 Quigley speaking with US boxing media during his time in Los Angeles. Source: Lina Baker Photography

***

“There used to be a time when I couldn’t go into a room on my own, I couldn’t be in silence because things would come into my head that I didn’t want to think about,” Quigley reflects four years later, as he stands on the brink of his first world-title fight versus unbeaten American Demetrius Andrade in Manchester, New Hampshire tonight. “Just things in life that I wasn’t proud of, things I didn’t want to deal with.

“Now, I could sit in a room for five hours on my own, not a sound in there, and I’d be happy out. I’d probably appreciate the peace, like,” he laughs. “One of those things where you look at it and you’re like, ‘Jesus, am I getting auld now or what’s the craic?’

“I’m very grateful for the people I have in my life. I’m lucky that I had good people who stuck by me: family, my partner, my team. I’m just grateful, like, y’know?”

It has taken Quigley the guts of his adult life to cement his inner circle and find the kind of stability outside of the ring that allows a boxer to thrive between the ropes.

As explored in a brilliant piece by Vincent Hogan published earlier this week, his relationship with his father, Conor, hit the rocks while he was in LA, a dad’s tough love and a twenty-something-year-old son’s urge to spread his wings creating a repulsion between two magnetic dipoles. Despite a few efforts to seek evidence to the contrary, Quigley believes he and his dad will need a distance between them for as long as he’s a boxer. He’s unsure as to whether there will be a relationship to resurrect whenever he hangs up the gloves, but that bridge is further down the road.

On the flipside, Quigley is now engaged to his long-term partner April, with whom he lives in Donegal along with her daughter, Sierra. Theirs was a relationship which was rescued from the rocks during visits home from LA, and a driving force behind Quigley relocating first to Sheffield and later back home, from where he ostensibly rebuilt himself.

“It’s a matter of just working from the foundations of your life up,” he says. “Like, we all make mistakes in our lives. We all do things that maybe we’re not so proud of. I used to always try to hide away from those things, try to be like, ‘Ah nah nah nah, don’t think about that — bury it and move on.’

“But I’ve gone through a lot of searching and digging into my own life and I confronted the things that I feel I did wrong, or the things I did that really just weren’t the right things to do.

“I had to make a lot of decisions in my personal life. I had to make a lot of sacrifices and hard decisions in my family life, in my relationship as well…

“Often, I found I was making decisions based on other people’s opinions: they weren’t the decisions I wanted to make but I was swayed towards them because everybody else thought they were the right decisions.

“I’m very lucky that I was able to revive a few things in my life that I did break away from; things that were there for me to walk back into again and relight the fire and make it even better than it ever had been.

What I live off, now, is my gut instinct. I go with my gut because no matter what in life, if you go by your gut, you’re being true to yourself, like. Nobody else can tell you what emotions you have because they don’t feel it — or they’re not going through it.

“So now I trust my gut feeling and since I’ve started doing that, things have been going brilliantly!” he laughs. “It’s as simple as that, really.

jason-quigley-before-the-weigh-in Quigley arriving for yesterday's weigh-in. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

“I just go out, now, every day and try to be a good, genuine, honest person. And I believe if I do that, then good things are going to keep happening. Of course, there’s always going to be people who you don’t get on with too well,” he smiles, “but if you’re going out living your life to prove a point to people, or to gain some sort of upper hand, you’re going nowhere. So, you just wish them the best.”

***

In July 2019, Quigley suffered his first career defeat as a pro, a bit of a pummeling by Bahamian fringe contender Tureano Johnson who — despite an almost uncomfortable display of spiritual fortitude by the Irishman — halted Quigley on his stool at the end of eight violent rounds.

“I’m never going to make an excuses — Tureano won easy that night,” Quigley says. “Comfortably.”

There is a difference between looking for excuses and finding the actual cause of underperformance, though. Through typical introspection, Quigley unearthed at least a factor in why that night in Fantasy Springs, Indo went so badly wrong for him: he was happy.

“That scared me,” he says, wide-eyed. “It was the first time I had ever gotten that feeling before a fight.

I was so happy that I was thinking to myself, ‘Do I even need to box anymore, like? Boxing doesn’t really make me happy anymore.’ And all my life, I had been boxing to make myself happy. Suddenly: ‘Is this for me?’ My head was just all over the place. I scared myself.

“I recognise those feelings now, I understand them. Back then, they worried me, they panicked me, they got the better of me.

All I’m known as is Jason Quigley The Boxer, like. ‘Jason Quigley? Oh, the boxer?’ But now I have an identity outside of boxing — just to myself, maybe not to other people. But I could go and live my life and be happy, not as Jason Quigley The Boxer.

Every boxer can convince themselves that they’re the best in the world until somebody comes along and proves that they’re not. The latter realisation can have a crippling affect on a fighter’s psyche, but a first blemish on his CV didn’t haunt Quigley to the same extent as it might have a few years prior.

Still, he was desperate to rebound. A supportive text from Andy Lee, who in 2014 won the very middleweight world-title belt for which Quigley competes tonight, led to lunch. Within a day, Quigley was working with the Limerick man in the gym in Dublin.

He recorded two quick wins in December 2019 and January 2020. The fruits of his labour with Lee, however, were really seen only in May just gone when Quigley edged out Shane Mosley Jr in a 10-round thriller live on DAZN, consequently sealing tonight’s shot at the title which will be shown on the same broadcaster.

Around his 19 previous professional outings, the central question mark regarding Quigley was why, over longer rounds, does a fighter who trains as hard as he does and lives as cleanly as he does appear to run out of diesel around the halfway mark — and run into serious trouble as a result, just as he did against Johnson.

The Mosley fight followed a diametrically opposite curve. Against an opponent with a powerful engine of his own, Quigley proved that he in fact carries plenty under his own bonnet, thriving more the longer the fight went on, the look of sheepishness to which we had grown accustomed replaced mostly by a menacing smile.

Quigley learned from Lee that his apparent stamina problem was not physical but mental, and there are few trainers in world boxing better qualified to articulate as much — and to solve the problem — than the former champion.

Suddenly, things are clicking into place on either side of the ropes. (And, although Lee won’t be in Quigley’s corner tonight — he has had visa issues which precluded him from travelling for Quigley-Mosley as well as Tyson Fury’s recent trilogy victory over Deontay Wilder — Quigley has called upon their mutual friend Wayne McCullough to sub in as his chief second, just as the Irish boxing legend did to great effect for the Mosley fight in May).

“There’s no weight on my shoulders anymore,” he says. “I just feel free. I wake up every day and I enjoy things.

“I wasn’t even nervous going into that Mosley fight. I was more nervous a day or two before the fight about whether or not it’d actually happen, like, ‘Jeeze, how long away is it now?’ That kind of thing. But see when I was in the changing rooms, I was like, ‘Jesus… What’s going on here? This is a make-or-break fight for me and I don’t feel nervous.’

“Actually, just looking back now…. I’m actually wondering how the hell I wasn’t nervous,” Quigley laughs. “I think it was because I accepted the fact that it was make or break. I accepted that I was at this stage where, ‘If I lose here, this isn’t going to be good enough for me.’

“But then again, I was so happy in my life outside of boxing that…”

A loss wouldn’t have been the end of the world?

“It wouldn’t have been the end of the world!,” Quigley says.

That’s the reality of it. And that’s a very dangerous thing to come out and say, like, for people reading this. People reading this will be like, ‘Sure Jesus, that man doesn’t want to box if he’s coming out saying things like that!’ But like, I used to box to make myself happy. If I went out and won, that would determine my happiness. Whereas now, I’m happy anyway. If I go and win a fight now, alright, it’s even more happiness — or an even bigger kind of happiness. But I was probably not enjoying my life before to such an extent that literally everything depended on boxing.

“Don’t get me wrong, this world-title fight is going to be a serious buzz — but even if I didn’t have this fight, I’d still be walking around the place, enjoying life, having the craic.

“That’s kind of taken that pressure off of boxing for me. I get in there now to enjoy it for what it is, and to achieve something that I set out all those years ago to achieve.

“That’s why, I think, there’s no real pressure on me now and there was no real pressure on me last fight. I went into that last one just saying to myself, ‘Listen, this is shit or bust, here, lad: go out and give it fucking everything and if you win, brilliant, you’ll fucking go on to God knows what; and if you don’t win, it’s not looking good for you, so just get on with it.’”

***

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shane-mosley-jr-in-action-with-jason-quigley Quigley lands a right hand on Mosley Jr. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Including Lee most recently, Ireland has had just three middleweight world champions, the others being Kildare’s Jack Dempsey and Dublin’s Steve Collins who were crowned 103 years apart.

That puts to scale the magnitude of Quigley’s undertaking before even taking into consideration tonight’s formidable opponent, Andrade [30-0, 18KOs].

Back home in Ballybofey, a mural of the 30-year-old has been painted by local artist Kevin Gallagher on the back lane just off Lower Main Street, launched by Quigley’s friend, former Irish athletics team manager Patsy McGonagle.

Donegal will tune in during the wee hours of the morning, certainly, as will so many general Irish sports fans around the country and indeed around the world. Hundreds have made the transatlantic trip to Manchester, New Hampshire, whose SNHU Arena will host around 6,000 spectators for tonight’s world-title quadrupleheader, promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom. If yesterday’s weigh-in was anything to go by, champion Andrade will be the away fighter on his own turf.

Quigley is acutely cognisant of the enormity of all of it. He relishes the opportunity to fly the flag that he believes encompasses everybody who has even vaguely steered him in the direction of this date with destiny.

“I’m representing my family, first and foremost” he says. “I’m representing my community. I’m representing my club — the clubs I’ve been with through the years. I’m representing my county, I’m representing my province… It’s like a wee, small circle and it expands out and gets bigger and bigger and bigger until you get to the best way to describe it, which is going out there and representing your country. That’s all of the circles.

Like, I’m representing the GAA club that I played with (Seán MacCumhaills), I’m representing the community centres that I went to when I was a kid, I’m representing the babysitters that babysat me when I was a kid! Everybody that knows me is a part of this. People who went to school with me, people who I met on holidays! People will be saying, ‘Jesus, I remember changing this fella’s nappy when he was a wee’un and now he’s fighting for a world title…’ You’re representing everybody but you just cover it with ‘Ireland’, like. Ultimately, when I get in there and all is said and done, it’s going to be ‘Jason Quigley from Donegal, Ireland.’

jason-quigley-is-introduced-to-the-crowd-before-kick-off Finn Harps diehard Quigley at Finn Park in 2018. Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

None of this sentiment matters a jot to boxing fans outside of Ireland, and especially those from America, who see in Quigley a 7/1 outsider whose professional career has flattered to deceive since Oscar De La Hoya made all that fuss about him; another way for the supposedly avoided Andrade to pass the time — and waste theirs.

And none of that particular sentiment matters a jot to tonight’s challenger, whose eyes light up at the very mention of it.

“Since the day I turned professional, everyone has been saying, ‘When’s Quigley going to be world champion? When’s he going to be fighting for a world title?’ Like, there was no, ‘Ah, I hope this young lad goes on and does well, now,’ y’know?” he laughs. “The pressure was heaped on me right away! Every fight was like, ‘Jeeze, I can’t lose this, like’ — not even fighting for a belt, not to mind a world title…

“So, for me now, like, what people say doesn’t affect me; whether that’s boxing experience or whether it’s maturity in life, or both, I just don’t let the opinion of anybody else interfere with me now.

“Even as you were saying all that to me, I was loving it, like.

I’m getting into that ring and Andrade’s the champion. They’re saying he’s fighting nobodies. He needs to perform. He needs a career-best performance against me for it to be a success for him. He can’t just get in there and beat me — that won’t be good enough for him or for the fans. So, let everybody put me down. The more people who put me down, the more of a success it’s going to be for me.

“That’s the way I’m looking at this fight,” Quigley continues. “There’s zero pressure on me. Well, the only pressure that’s on me — and it’s not even really a pressure — is that this is a goal that I’ve set for myself; this is something that I’ve worked my whole life towards that I want to achieve. Like, I want to come away from this sport saying that I became a world champion — and this is my opportunity, now.

“Zero pressure on me, all the pressure on him. The Irish are going to have a great night regardless! So, it’s just exciting. I feel very fortunate to have gotten this opportunity in the frame of mind that I’m currently in, that sense of freedom that I have. It’s just getting in there now and…having fun.

It’s easy to forget that this is what it’s all about like, y’know? Since I was a kid, this was the reason I started boxing: to become a world champion. So, to turn around now and fight for the world title: you have to enjoy these moments.

demetrius-andrade-and-jason-quigley Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

“And don’t get it wrong, that I’m going to get into that ring against Andrade and that I’m just some sort of happy eejit. I’m getting into that ring and I’m not going to let no fucking bastard get the better of me.

Alright, I might be living a great life outside of boxing, content and everything else, but there is no human on Earth who is content when he’s in the ring and somebody’s trying to knock him out, like!

“So, when I’m in there, I’m going to be one nasty fucker.

“Once that bell rings, that switch comes on and it’s me or you, like. May the best man win — but you’re going to be in one hell of a fight either way. I’m not going to give you nothing handy.”

For more great storytelling and analysis from our award-winning journalists, join the club at The42 Membership today. Click here to find out more>

– First published 13.21, 19 November

Bernard Jackman, Gavan Casey, and Murray Kinsella reflect on Ireland’s stunning win over the All Blacks, hail Ciara Griffin’s Ireland career, and chat about Rassie:


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