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Quigley backing Irish boxers to have best Olympics yet

The Donegal pro opens up on missing Rio, life in LA and the experience of fighting on the Canelo-Khan undercard.

Jason Quigley celebrates his win against James De La Rosa.
Jason Quigley celebrates his win against James De La Rosa.
Image: Eoin Mundow/INPHO

JASON QUIGLEY IS expecting Irish boxing to hit new heights at the Rio Olympics and is predicting a possible top-three finish on the boxing medal table for Zaur Antia’s team.

The Donegal pro (11-0-0) knows Ireland’s elite amateurs better than most, having fought alongside many of them up until two years ago, when he signed with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.

Quigley, the first Irish male boxer to reach an AIBA Elite final (in Kazakhstan, 2013), is expecting big things from the eight-strong team heading to the Games featuring the likes of world champion Michael Conlan, double Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes and reigning Olympic champion Katie Taylor.

“I can see Ireland coming out in the top five, even the top three in boxing at the Olympic Games as a team,” Quigley told The42 from his Los Angeles training base.

“I know the lads that are going to Rio and they’re going to perform and this could be a historic Olympics for Irish boxing.

I can see more than one gold medal coming home with the team. Nothing can beat the Irish, we have so much determination, so much heart and so much belief in ourselves.

Rio was once the goal for the Ballybofey middleweight. But he insists he has no regrets about missing the Games. Although he does admit that his eyes lit up on hearing of the last-minute decision to allow professionals to compete in Brazil.

Once the initial excitement died down after what must have seemed like all his Christmases coming at once, Quigley took stock and returned to the what has become his daily obsession; taking the next step towards becoming a professional world champion.

“That’s the decision that we came to. When the news first came out it excited me about the chance of going to an Olympics,” Quigley explained.

“But I made that decision two years ago to make my mark on the professional scene. The goal was to be world champion and my full concentration is on becoming world champion.”

Source: Eoin Mundow

As if his appetite to emulate the likes of Barry McGuigan, Steve Collins and Andy Lee wasn’t already strong enough, his latest victory was the equivalent of releasing droplets of blood into a shark tank.

He’s had a taste of the big-time, now he’s craving so much more. Quigley’s impressive unanimous points decision win against Mexico’s James de la Rosa (23-4-0) on 7 May at the T-Mobile Arena, the Donegal man’s first 10-round fight, came on the undercard of the mega Vegas showpiece between Canelo Alvarez and Amir Khan.

The blinding bright lights of Vegas inspired Quigley, opening his eyes to the razzmatazz of elite, pay-per-view boxing.

The 25-year-old is certain that the De la Rosa bout, and all its trimmings, will stand to him down the line and reinforced in his mind that he made the right decision to move Stateside almost exactly two years ago, rather than pursue his pro dream from his homeland, or delay it until after Rio.

“It was absolutely vital for me to get that experience because that’s part of the reason I moved out here,” Quigley explained.

“To get that experience. You know an Irishman fighting back at home, whenever you make the big time it’s always in Las Vegas or New York or somewhere like that where the big fights take place.

For me to be doing that in my 11th pro fight, going through everything and getting the experience of the whole fight week, it’s unbelievable.

“You don’t want to come to Las Vegas for your first chance of getting a world title and let the whole Las Vegas lifestyle, the bright lights and everything, distract you.

“I boxed on a massive card, on a massive fight in my last fight and I was absolutely over the moon with how it went. It was a great experience, a great fight. It was a great learner.

“Now I’m getting used to it and when my chance comes, when my shot at the title is there, nothing is going to faze me because I’ve been there and done that. The only difference is there is going to be a title on the line.”

Source: Eoin Mundow

Patience

Quigley expects to be back in the ring in the next two months. Details of the bout are currently being finalised and an announcement is expected in the coming days to confirm the date and Quigley’s next opponent.

Waiting and boxing go hand in hand. It’s something Quigley, who had his dad at his side for his first four months in the US, has had to get used to, as difficult as it can be at times.

“Boxing is a very patient game, inside and outside the ring. You learn to become a very patient person in this sport,” Quigley explained.

“I’m always in the gym anyway. I’m always in shape. If I don’t have a fight coming up I’m either playing five-a-side football or something.

This is the lifestyle for me, this is my job. Every day I get up I know what I want and that’s to become world champion. It’s just become my life now.

“It’s a pretty nice way to spend your life. I’m out here in LA, I’m 25 years of age. I’ve an apartment by the beach, I have a nice car and I’m doing what I love to do. That’s why I’m so happy.”

While the life of a solo sportsperson can get lonely at times, Quigley is revelling in his environment right now, having sparred with numerous world champions. That reassures him he is on the right path.

“I’ve been sparring the likes of Shane Mosley, David Lemieux; all world champions. Gilberto Ramierez, I was sparring him before he became the super middleweight world champion, and I’ve sparred him since he’s become super middleweight world champion.

“So I’m getting all that experience from fighters who are also at the same level as me and growing together, it’s been absolutely unbelievable.”

Moving from amateur boxing to the professional game is far from an exact science, the sports exist in different dimensions.

Some of the sport’s greatest — the likes of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Oscar De La Hoya — have gone from Olympic gold to champions of the world. But the transition often isn’t so smooth, so what is the key to making the jump?

“It depends on the individual fighter. Going professional is a big step. It’s a different sport than amateur boxing. It’s a different setup, everything like that,” Quigley added.

My understanding of it now is that I’ve made the right move coming to America. This is the home of professional boxing, particularly here in Los Angeles.

“To stay pro back in Ireland isn’t anything like it. It’s still very amateurish. And I don’t mean amateurish as in a lower level, I mean Ireland’s main focus is amateur boxing and that’s what most coaches base things around.

“For me, I think I needed to come out here. Every gym you go into you have a future world champion, a former world champion or a current world champion in the gym beside you or in the gym with you.

“The experience, I think, is key. Just getting out here, just getting in there. The fighters sit down on their shots a lot more, they’re not up on their toes trying to pick points and get out of there.

“It’s a different ball game and I think the key is to get out here to America to get in as many gyms as you can and to spar as many world champions as you can.”

Source: Eoin Mundow

Quigley, as a young Irish man in his 20s living overseas, is of course not on his own in the grand scheme of things. And he has embraced the Irish community across the Atlantic Ocean. It provides a support base, a home away from home, and a few comforts for the palate too.

“I have met up with a good few Irish over here,” Quigley added.

“Down in Huntington Beach there is The Irishman bar, they’re great down there.

“I go down there and get a good shepherd’s pie, it’s small simple things like that which make things easier.

All the fans and supporters as well that have travelled to my fights, it’s very humbling.

It can be a grind at times, he does admit. Don’t be fooled by social media.

“You might look at my Instagram or my Facebook and think ‘that country boy is living the life out there’. But I don’t post about the times when I’m dealing with sore muscles, when I’m tired from training, and the down sides.

“This is a tough sport, life is tough in general.

“Things can be going well but of course you can still have your down days when you’re a long way from home, a long way from family and friends and things like that. But they are the kind of things that make you stronger.

“These are the sacrifices that I’ve been making since I turned professional. And these are things that will stand by me too.”

Donegal

It doesn’t take long to get a feel for how proud Quigley is of where he comes from. A heightened patriotism comes naturally to emigrants, but it’s even more understandable when you’re away representing your nation in a much more literal sense.

But Quigley, like many from the north-west, is a particularly proud Donegal man. Those colours are closest to his heart, as seen by his recent support of Joseph Duffy after the UFC fighter’s impressive win against Mitch Clarke.

And his love for all things Donegal seems to carry into almost every sporting realm.

“I used to play hurling, Gaelic football, soccer, everything when I was growing up.

“Whenever I started getting serious with the boxing I had to get away from all that. I had lost my way a wee bit with other sports but now I’m getting back into things again.

I’ve always supported Donegal and Finn Harps. They’re my local teams, I know a lot of the players, I know a lot of the staff.

“I really am a big fan of Donegal and I know the lads are in an Ulster final now so I’ll be cheering them on this weekend and I’ll be up early to tune in.”

As patient as Quigley needs to be right now he can’t help but start thinking about the long-term goal of having a world title around his waist. And he has some pretty big plans on the way to realising that ambition.

“I’ll take it one fight at a time. But this is a business now as well and I need to start looking at the future a wee bit more.

“I need to start to setting my plan out and my plan is to become world champion,” Quigley said.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to become world champion.

“Before the end of the year I want a few more good fights, a few more 10-round fights and I’d love a massive fight back in Ireland, a massive fight on the east coast of the US, you know New York or Boston.

“After that, putting in a few great performances there, hopefully the titles won’t be far away.”

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