As I pull into Glasgow Central station, from wherever I’ve been, I can’t help but smile. It’s a natural reaction. To see the way the lights dance off the water, breathing in that sharp air and having my ears reminded of the harsh-yet-rhythmic colloquialism; being home.
To others it may be cold. The streets may seem grey and empty. But, if it’s your home, you nod acknowledgingly, knowing the warmth you’ve felt and the hope that marches up-and-down the concrete. Whether an hour away or a day further, it’s easy to become detatched from everything that seemed organic. Accents change (so I’m told), people change and heritage can be compromised – if not severed at the roots.
Irish middlweight contender Jason Quigley (13-0, 10KOs) opened up during my time with him, detailing his stay in Los Angeles and his recent decision to return to the UK.
“LA was great, I had a great experience, a great life experience inside and outside of the ring. I had great career experiences and a great time all round in Los Angeles… but, what can I say? The real Donegal Irishman came outta me and I’m a Donegal man. I’m from Ireland! I’m not made to be living in Hollywood or living that lifestyle, it’s not what I grew up with.”
Into his fourth year as a professional, the Goldenboy Promotions fighter has tasted a life of sacrifice. Some fighters rely on unfamiliarity in order to sharpen their mind – for ‘El Animal’ however, it seemed to have the adverse effect. The days and nights without his partner and close family, passing like a foggy dew.
I say sacrifice, well aware that strolling down Hollywood Boulevard or attending boxing’s biggest transatlantic events would be heaven for many! The sport presents its subjects with various obstacles, mainly physical, yet Jason was quick to look at the mental aspect of competing at the highest level.
“I was very lonely out there, it was tough. It really was. Boxing is a hard game. It’s very physically challenging and mentally challenging. You’re not doing this as a team, you’re doing it yourself. A lot of fighters need to go into camp and need to get away from distractions at home. For me, I’m such a disciplined fella, you know, I don’t drink and I don’t smoke – I love to party! But, I know when to do it.”
“Personally, for me, LA felt like a holiday. It’s a great place to go for two or three weeks, maybe a month. But do you ever hear people when they say, ‘I went on holiday for a week, it was amazing I wish I had longer!’ then there’s other people who say, ‘I went on holiday for two weeks. I couldn’t wait to get home to my own bed.’ It’s very, very similar to that and I think that’s the best way I could describe it.”
It’s been a holiday that paid dividends, as Quigley has established himself in the top-fifteen of three governing bodies. The WBC rank him #8 in the World, a gift and a curse for a young fighter. Filled with pride and a sense of accomplishment, it also means the boxer can no longer take ‘gimme’ fights. They are judged in-and-amongst the best on the globe, for better or worse.
The Donegal man spoke to me from Sheffield; a far-cry from The City of Angels! Having linked up with renowned trainer Dominic Ingle, we discussed his return to the ring following the freak injury suffered in his last fight. Quigley headlined Goldenboy’s first ESPN show for his first professional title against the shop-worn Glen Tapia (23-3, 15KOs).
“The Doctors were surprised! It’s a one-in-ten-million chance of that happening, breaking the bone and tearing the tendon right off the bone at the same time, it’s not something you see every day. There was a lot on the line and for that to happen in the second round I was like, ‘For fucksake!’. The worst thing was, in the 5th and 6th round, I kinda forgot myself. I seen the opening. He dropped his hands and just, natural instinct, I let the right hand go again full whack! That was sorer than when I broke it in the 2nd round!”
One-in-ten-million. Mind-boggling odds, overlooked by critics when calling the main event at the Fantasy Springs Casino.
I wondered how the boisterous environment created by Billy-Joe Saunders, Kid Galahad and Kell Brook had compared to his stable in LA. Playing pranks and living in each others pockets wasn’t everyone’s idea of fun.
“It’s very much like going back to my amateur days at your local boxing club. Everybody just gets on! We train together, we eat together – we don’t sleep together! We do everything else and it’s a good vibe, good atmosphere and it’s a close-knit community, that’s what I missed in LA. We all co-operate well with each other and it’s kinda like a family to be honest.”
Dominic Ingle had ruled with a steely focus on fitness and I was sure it must have differed from his time in Manny Robles’ camp, mixing sun with serious training sessions.
From talking to Jason, it was clear his move to Sheffield had been calculated. There was nothing drastic about his decision and it was comforting to see a young professional spotting areas for improvement and subsequently implementing change.
With Kell Brook out on March 3rd and Billy-Joe defending his WBO middleweight crown on April 14th, there was a keeness to shake off the rust from the WBO #15 ranked contender. The impact of a long lay-off remains to be seen, but Quigley told me of his recent meeting with Goldenboy officials in the US, where he will continue to do battle.
“Anyone that’s been following me will know, I’m not your typical boxer that does a Ricky Hatton between fights. I was over at Goldenboy for a meeting before Christmas and they said, ‘Jason, you know there’s no dates or fights just now…’ they said ‘You’re in better shape now than some active fighters are!’. I keep myself in great shape. This is a sport where you only get one shot at it. I am gonna grab this opportunity with both hands and give it my all, because this is a career I have put a lot into for years.”
As a celebrated amateur, Quigley captured the AIBA World Amateur silver medal, throwing down a marker on future success for Ireland in the professional ranks.
As the family and friends of the young prospect celebrated, one of the nation’s domestic grafters was preparing to trawl the small hall circuit once again. Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan, a now-World-ranked middleweight, had to battle through boxing’s politics in order to cement his place on the televised shows with which he became synonymous. It’s hard to know whether he kissed his opponents at those weigh-ins, no-one really cared.
I asked Jason how he felt about Spike – both Irish, both middleweights and both Goldenboy Promotions.
“We’ve mainly communicated through Social Media. I would call Spike a friend and he’s a fellow Irishman looking to go out and achieve his dreams. At the end of the day, that’s outside of boxing. If it comes to it and Spike comes into my path and is an obstacle for me on the way to a World title then I’d be happy to take that fight. I’d get him out the way and move on to my goals and dreams of becoming a World champion.”
A potentially mouth-watering clash for a homecoming, long overdue. The plan for the new Steel City resident is to get out over the next couple of months, perhaps splitting the aforementioned dates of his stablemates. Testing the hand, as much as the team that now act as his support unit, alongside management arm Sheer Sports’ to whom Jason paid immense credit.
As we gassed over all things boxing, I couldn’t help but like Jason. He had it all, I thought. Funny, charming, well-skilled and prepared to face adversity head-on. Ten million times over.
He told me he fancied Canelo to beat Gennady Golovkin in their upcoming rematch, blaming the Mexican’s tendency to ‘lean back on the ropes too often’ for the scoring discrepancies in their opener. Frequently used as an analyst for televised broadcasts, he broke down the clash expertly, displaying a media profile built on natural charisma.
“I will be back in Ireland for the homecoming for all the fans. It’s not easy coming to America to watch me fight. That’s why I wanna come home so bad. I wanna give the fans the opportunity to just drive up the road and watch me fight!”
Whatever the next year holds for Jason Quigley, his addition to the domestic scene and involvement in a thriving Ingle camp is exciting and a credit to Ireland. Can he make it to the very top? Time will tell…
It was easy to notice the love he had regained for the sport, fuelled by a feeling of ‘home’. Ready to push on, finding devil in his work since departing the City of Angels and preparing to bring an eye-catching shine back home to The Diamond.
“At the end of the day – I’m a very, very proud fella from Ireland and I love where I come from. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to relocate far from my home roots. I was gonna come back a lobster or something!”
Written by Craig Scott