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Unbeaten Quigley 'like a caged bear' ahead of tonight's bout on Hopkins undercard

The Donegal middleweight is promising fireworks at The Forum in his bout against Puerto Rico’s Jorge Melendez.

AT TIMES LIKE this it’s easy to forget professional boxing careers don’t always travel at breakneck speed.

It’s not that Jason Quigley hasn’t been making serious strides — it’s quite the opposite in fact. He’s an unbeaten middleweight on the rise in the US, he’s had a taste of the big-time in Las Vegas on the Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez-Amir Khan undercard, and recently spent time shooting the breeze with Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard, among others.

But tonight is Quigley’s first fight in seven months and it marks another massive milestone in the young yet storied career of the 25-year-old from Donegal [11-0, 9KOs].

It’s time for professional fight number 12, at a venue just 20 minutes from his now second home in California, as a support act for the farewell of a genuine boxing legend — the remarkable 51-year-old Bernard Hopkins.

Hopkins, who at 49 became the oldest champion in the history of the sport, will step into the ring for the last time tonight when he takes on Joe Smith Jr at The Forum, a 17-500-capacity venue that Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac fame, will make her own just 24 hours later.

These are the occasions Quigley puts his body through the wringer for, session after session, day after day.

Source: Everlast

The former world amateur silver medallist faces Puerto Rican Jorge Melendez [30-7-1, 28KOs] in what is Quigley’s first pro fight since his impressive unanimous decision win against James De la Rosa at box-office central — the T-Mobile Arena — on 7 May.

It’s the longest Quigley has gone without a fight since he made the decision to turn professional in April 2014 — a minor injury setback interrupting his previous plans.

A wrist sprain forced him to give up his spot on the undercard for Alvarez-Liam Smith in Dallas in September and the Ballybofey man admits that has him chomping at the bit to get in the ring tonight.

“Now is the time where you just want to let go,” Quigley, who is now 14th in the WBA’s middleweight rankings, tells The42.

“It’s like being a bear in a cage, you just want to be let out now.

“You just want to get in there, you just want to perform.

“You just want to get in and give it absolutely everything you’ve got. All the hard work is done.”

It may be seven months since Quigley’s Vegas victory but the self-assured Golden Boy Promotions fighter has no concerns about ring rustiness.

“That doesn’t worry me at all because I’ve been staying in the gym, I’ve been staying ready. I’ve been working hard, I’ve been sparring,” he adds.

“I have been out of the ring but I’ve been in the gym every day and waiting for the call for the fight to be agreed.

“It was mainly just waiting for the hand to fully recover and once that happened it was all about getting the fight together.

“It was just a sprained wrist. It just put me out of training for my last fight because I wasn’t able to spar or anything like that.

“Everything is good now, and we’re ready to rock.”

Source: Valentin Romero

Melendez, 27, has a lot more pro fights in the bank. He forged an excellent career early on at home and in the US, only losing twice in his first 29 bouts, but five defeats in his last seven have tainted his record.

Quigley, as you’d expect, is promising a big performance at the Inglewood venue. The hard yards are done and in his mind tonight’s result is a formality, no matter what Melendez brings to the table.

“He’s definitely an experienced fighter,” Quigley reasons.

“But he’s going to be in trouble either way. If he comes prepared he’s going to be in trouble and if he doesn’t come prepared he’s going to be in even more trouble.

“I don’t worry about him. I let him worry about me. I know who I am and I know the way I’ve dedicated myself to this fight and to all fights that I do train and prepare for.

“Of course I take nobody for granted. Every fight I get into I treat it as a world title fight.

“This is another chance for me to climb that ladder and get one step closer to what I’m chasing and that’s a world title. Melendez is just another hurdle on my journey.”

Quigley with US welterweight Timothy Bradley.

A proud Donegal man, Quigley’s accent is weathering the Stateside lifestyle with ease, but he admits to feeling more and more at home in California.

A recent trip to MLS club LA Galaxy, to meet the likes of Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard, was a helpful exercise, getting to pick the brain of stars who are so used to the limelight and at the opposite end of their careers.

“I went down and met the players at the LA Galaxy and Robbie and Stevie Gerrard.

“We were just chilling and chatting like normal lads. It’s great to be able to sit down and talk with these fellas like that.

“Robbie wants to come down and watch me train and everything as well in the gym.

“He’s going home now for Christmas so he won’t be able to make my fight but hopefully he’ll be able to come to one in the near future.”

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Quigley, like the rest of us, is keen to know where Robbie is off to next but the Dubliner was giving nothing away.

“I was actually trying to get it out of him,” Quigley quips.

“I asked him what’s the craic with him and where he thinks he’s going but he said he’s going to take a bit of time first, sit down and have a think about where he’s going to go.”

Unsurprisingly, the solid Irish community in California has already got behind this middleweight’s quest towards the top, in a division which boasts names such as Gennady Golovkin, Billy Joe Saunders, Alvarez and Daniel Jacbos. And of course, Limerick’s Andy Lee.

Quigley, nicknamed ‘El Animal’, is expecting a few hundred Irish fans, coming from coastal hotspots such as San Diego, Huntington Beach, and of course Donegal, to make their presence felt at The Forum tonight.

Further down the line, Quigley is also looking forward to welcoming a good friend to the area in the new year when 2012 Olympic medallist Michael Conlan moves to LA to begin his assault on the pro game. Conlan will once again share a gym with Quigley as the pair work under the expert eye of Manny Robles at The Rock Boxing Gym.

“Michael is getting his place and everything like that sorted and getting ready to set up camp and everything here for his fights.

“It’s going to be great for the two of us to team up together and put Ireland even more on the map in professional boxing.

“Me and Michael get on the best, we do. We would have been good friends just alone from the national team and going to all the tournaments and everything like that with the Irish amateur boxing team.

“Outside of that me and Michael are good friends. Holidaying and everything together outside of boxing. We have good aul’ craic as well.”

Paddy Barnes, John Joe Nevin, Jason Quigley and Michael Conlan Paddy Barnes (left), John Joe Nevin, Jason Quigley and Michael Conlan at the European Championships in Minsk in 2013. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

With Conlan and Katie Taylor due to fight in New York around St Patrick’s Day next year, Quigley would love to get a piece of the action. But whether he does or not is out of his hands, his team will make the call.

What is in his hands though, is the power to extend his unbeaten record with another victory tonight.

If he continues to keep his part of the bargain he knows everything else — a fight in New York, another in Ireland, and a world title — will follow suit.

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