HE CAN see the stars, but Jason Quigley knows that he must first earn his stripes.
By Chris McNulty at Fantasy Springs Resort & Casino
As he readies himself for the 17th fight of his professional career, the unbeaten Ballybofey man (16-0, 12KOs) is aware of what could be in front of him. Equally, though, Quigley is seasoned enough to know the pitfalls of gazing too far into the distance in a sport where one flick of a wrist can alter history’s course.
Quigley is, potentially, within a handful of fights from a shot at a world title.
Competing in a stacked middleweight division, the possibilities are massive for Quigley, who defends his NABF middleweight strap against Freddy Hernandez on Thursday night in Fantasy Springs.
“I’m blessed to be a middleweight fighter at this time,” Quigley says.
“Canelo is the cash cow and the face of boxing. He’s a middleweight and that’s what makes it. It’s not the weight – it’s the fighter and how good he is. There’s not just Canelo at the moment. You have Andrade, Golovkin, Jacobs, all these great middleweights in the one era.
“Every fighter at this level, they’re all looking to become the world champion.
“Every fighter who enters the pro game has a dream of being the world champion. That’s a dream I have. It’s a journey and a process. July 18, for now, is my world title fight. I’m excited.
“I’m on an amazing journey and to be possibly three fights away from a world title fight is so exciting things for everyone following me.”
Quigley is in a good place right now.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing, however.
Frustrations arrived in the form of notable roadblocks.
In winning his first professional belt in March 2017, Quigley sustained an injury that was described by Los Angeles medics as a ‘one-in-ten-million’ set-back, rupturing the tendons in his right hand. There was much to admire in how Quigley was able to go eight rounds practically one-handed in order to defeat the durable Glen Tapia.
Unaware that Quigley’s right paw felt as if it was threatening to swell through his Everlast gloves, some commentators were critical of the Donegal man’s inability to put Tapia away. Two-handed, Quigley had been in command and a stoppage, for a time, appeared imminent.
Last October, Quigley had to dig deep in the trenches as he defeated the belt against the seasoned Freddy Hernandez. Quigley, at the time, admitted that he got drawn into a brawl that might have been avoided.
He has never been one to look back at his performances.
A deep thinker, he just knows without needing to seek out the proof.
“I don’t watch much of my fights, maybe just looking back at my mindset, my mentality and how I was feeling,” he says.
“The mind is one of the most important things. It’s so important to stay relaxed, focussed and controlled when the mind is under pressure. That’s what I be tapping into – how I’m feeling in the ring in the first round or in the tenth round.
“One minute, one boxer could be on top. The next minute, the other one is on top. It’s a matter of how someone responds to a shot mentally. People overlook how to deal with a shot and these are very specific things in boxing.”
The hand injury resulted in a year of inactivity for Quigley, who returned with an impressive sixth-round stoppage of Daniel Rosario in Boston. The year in between saw significant changes as he swapped Los Angeles for Sheffield and changed trainer, moving from Manny Robles to Dominic Ingle’s famed Wincobank stable.
Quigley had two fights in 2018 and this is is second of 2019. Some observers believe he should be busier, but Quigley is content to trust the process and the judgement of Ingle, management team Sheer Sports and promoters Golden Boy.
“Over the past while, I’ve learned to become patient and understand that I’m doing everything right,” he says of the noise.
“Everything happens for a reason and it is coming for me at the right time. I fought last October, in March, now in July and I could have two more by the end of the year. There aren’t many people at this stage of their careers, at 16 or 17 fights, who are that busy. Four fights a year is an active fighter.
“It’s important that I stay patient now and make the right moves at the right time. Patience has paid off so far and there might be another hurdle down the line that I’ll have to take care of.
“No matter what you do in life, you’re always learning and growing. Life goes on, no matter if it’s a fight or a job interview. After every one, you’re more mature, experienced and educated. I’m at a stage now with so much experience and learning behind me.
“Right now, I’m at a stage where it’s exciting and everything is starting to fall into place. I’m excited and looking forward to the journey.”
Johnson represents a significant step-up opponent for Quigley, who aims to maintain his unblemished professional record as he visits Fantasy Springs for the seventh time. Already, he has put Tolutomi Agunbiade, Michael Faulk, Joshua Snyder, Freddy Lopez, Tapia and Hernandez to the sword at a venue that has peculiarly, in the heart of the desert, become like home.
Johnson has lost just twice – to regarded opponents in Curtis Stevens and Sergiy Derevyanchenko – in 23 professional fights.
“Tureano is the best fighter I’ll be in with in my career,” Quigley notes.
“Look at it on paper: He’s been to the Olympic Games and I haven’t; he’s a lot more experienced and he has fought at a higher level in the pro game. But I’m relaxed. I know I’m up against a brilliant fighter.
“This is a massive fight because we’re both searching for a shot at a world title. He’s had a world title elimination fight and put up a massive fight in it. He did himself proud. We’re both at a very high level in our careers.
“I have a lot of respect for Tureano. He was in line, at one stage, to fight Golovkin. I think he’d have given Golovkin a lot of problems.
“He’s looking for a world title shot and he’ll be 110 per cent prepared.
“Tureano has been to a higher level as an amateur and a professional. Not many men have that over me. He’ll be a great opponent. He can box, he can fight and he has a lot of experience.”
Eleven years ago, Johnson fought at the Olympic Games in Beijing, losing to Kanat Islam from Kazakhstan after wins over Rolande Moses (Grenada) and Olexandr Stretskyy (Ukraine).
By the time the next Olympiad rolled around, in London 2012, Quigley’s mind and heart were set on the professional ranks. Defeat to Darren O’Neill in the Irish middleweight final ended the aspirations of being the 75kgs representative in the ExCel Arena and a late bid to qualify at welterweight was halted by Buncrana’s William McLaughlin – whose win in the Irish Elite Championships of 2012 remains Quigley’s last defeat upon an Irish canvas.
Since then, Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, in the middleweight final at the 2013 World Championships in Almaty, is the only man to have his hand raised against Quigley, now with just one defeat in 49 contests, amateur and pro.
“I don’t really have time to sit back and see how well I’m doing,” Quigley says.
“I just have the head down and I’m working hard to be the best I can possibly be. Maybe one day I’ll be able to sit down and be proud to tell my stories. But I plan to tell bigger stories and create a bigger legacy.”
When he came home from Kazakhstan in 2013, Quigley was the world’s number one-ranked amateur middleweight.
Now, his name is listed prominently by three of professional boxing’s sanctioning bodies. Quigley is ranked fifth by the WBC and eighth by the WBA. Recently, he entered the IBF listings for the first time, slotting in at 14.
Quigley says: “It’s nice to be in the rankings and it’s a good confidence booster.
“It is a bit of an achievement to get into the rankings. For me, I don’t look at them because I have my own goals of where I want to get to.
“My focus is all about fight-by-fight and the rankings can change massively in one fight. I don’t plant myself or my ambitions on rankings, although it’s nice to be highly ranked and rated.”
For a brief spell last year, Quigley looked set to face Ryota Murata for the WBA middleweight title.
The talks were so advanced, Quigley had a flight arranged to Tokyo for a press conference to announce the fight.
At the eleventh hour, the WBA ordered that Murata instead fight the mandatory challenger, Rob Brant. Quigley and his team went back to the drawing board and, instead, prepared for Hernandez.
The lessons were both valuable and priceless.
“There are things that are outside of my control, but the things I can control, I do them to the best of my ability,” he says.
“I do all the things that I can do right.
“I live a good life, a clean, healthy life. You don’t know when you could be put into a mandatory position or someone gets injured. I want to be the best version of me that I can at all times. Whatever falls there at that stage, it’s just meant to be.
“If things arise or if an obstacle is put in front of me or a fight is put in front of me, I take them with both hands. You don’t go searching for these things. Yes, you win fights to get the mandatory contests, but how many mandatory men never got the shot at a world title?”
Quigley is a keen believer in concentrating on the controllables – those things over which he has control.
He’s at home in Fantasy Springs, in spite of the searing afternoon temperatures in the heart of the Colorado Desert. And he’s determined to hold onto his belt.
“I’m very relaxed coming into this fight,” he says.
“Confidence comes from preparation. You have an exam to do and you have done all the study, so you’re ready to rock and roll. You’re ready for all the questions because you’ve revised everything. I’ve got all my preparation done.
“You have to get in there confident and I’m in there to win…”Tags: