Boxing

Cowboys Stadium And Coldplay After-Parties Won't Change Donegal Boy Jason Quigley

Cowboys Stadium And Coldplay After-Parties Won't Change Donegal Boy Jason Quigley

Five years removed from the Guillermo Rigondeaux - Willie Casey non-event, which now manifests itself as a faded memory in the very bowels of Irish boxing's collective subconscious, professional boxing in Ireland has drawn to a halt.

It begs the question as to whether the current crop of indisputably talented fighters can reinvigorate the sport, and in turn, rediscover the so-called 'boxing boom times' of the late noughties - or - whether that's even possible with the current lack of promotion, resources and infrastructure conducive to sustaining a healthy professional scene.

In the eyes of most fans and scribes alike, the man tasked with creating a big bang of his own, and birthing a new era for Irish pro boxing, is Ballybofey middleweight Jason Quigley. The explosive former World silver medallist is rapidly taking names in the middle echelons of the 72kg division Stateside, and fresh off the back of a career-best victory over James De La Rosa, the 25-year-old just been confirmed to box on the undercard of Canelo - Smith in Dallas' 110,000-capacity Cowboys Stadium.

It's absolutely amazing to be honest. These are the kind of things that most young fighters and young professionals dream of - fighting on these big shows, fighting on these big cards, and this is the reason why I've moved to LA and signed with Golden Boy Promotions: To get these opportunities. When my time comes to fight for a world title I won't be overawed by these big stadiums or these big crowds.

I'll be there for full fight week - doing all the media stuff, interviews, grand arrivals and everything like that. It's all becoming second nature to me now. I belong on these stages because this is where I perform at my best - this is what brings the best out of me as a fighter, and I'm really, really excited.

The 11-0 (9KOs) boxer-puncher has captivated a wide-scaling audience in his adopted homeland, not least the Latino gymmates who bequeathed upon him his boxing moniker, 'El Animal' - this born of his beastly work rate in camp. Quigley enthrals both in and out of the squared circle, his media-friendly persona a sub-editor's dream relative to his footballing and GAA equivalents. He realises, of course, that talking is part of the game - particularly if you're an Irishman striving to make it in America:

A lot of fighters come over here to America to fight for a world title or defend a world title, but whenever they're here they forget about all the media that you need to do and everything like that. And it can tire you out - it can drain you if you're making weight.

I'm learning now how to manage everything, how to work everything around training and making weight. This experience is unbelievable, like. You get the likes of Conor McGregor now trying to shy away from the media stuff, and his last fight with Diaz was called off because of that. But it's just part of the business we're in. We need to sell the fights, build hype for the fights and we need to put people's asses on seats.

Quigley traversed the Atlantic aged just 23 when he signed with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, and is perceived to have blazed a trail for other young Irish fighters to follow in due course. Two years on, he returns to Ireland less frequently, but bursts with an amalgamation of gratitude and pride that Ireland can visit him in work three to four times a year. Not that he doesn't miss them in between, though:

Advertisement

I'm over here now and it can be very lonely, you know, in the sense that you have no family and no Irish accents or home comforts over here. Whenever you get to the venue and it's fight week, you start seeing the green tops and the jerseys and the Team Quigley outfits, and then you start to see people that you know - your family, your friends.

When you walk into the ring you can hear them roar your name on and it's absolutely unbelievable, because you've been away from them for so long it means so, so much... Whenever you're walking into the ring and you've got all that hard work done, to have your family there and your supporters there really is unbelievable.

Quigley departed The Hills of Donegal for those of Hollywood, and in keeping company such as GBP honcho De La Hoya, it's natural a young and talented sportsman would be mixing with familiar faces. Recently, for example, a 'Team Quigley' jacket was spotted behind the scenes of Coldplay's ongoing world tour.

13669128_10208333824515774_2890579723755472829_n

The boxing equivalent of a random GAA jersey sighting, according to the man himself, was no fluke:

Coldplay are wearing one of my jackets on their world tour right now. They invited me and a few of my friends to their gig at the Rose Bowl, I think it's in two weeks' time. They'll be giving us the special treatment, all the behind-the-scenes stuff!

I'm good friends with the security guy who works with Coldplay - that's how it all came about. So now the guys are always asking him, 'when's he fighting next?' and they got me and my mates a few tickets for their gig. We're invited to the after-party too but it won't be much of an after-party for me with the fight coming up! Maybe I can invite them to my own after-party in September.

Last week brought with it a trip to the NFL franchise which will host Quigley's next fight, where the middleweight prospect spent time with both players and in particular the Cowboys' owner, Jerry Jones:

Advertisement

To be honest it was an amazing experience all-round for me. Getting to meet people that I never would have dreamed of meeting... Like, just meeting the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones - and it's me, Jerry Jones, Jo Jo Diaz and Oscar [De La Hoya] looking down from the box, watching the guys training. And there's a few college guys paying and Jerry Jones was telling me, 'look out for this guy, this is a guy we're looking to sign' and everything like this.

It's crazy being in that position. Some people would kill to be there. I'm very grateful and blessed to be given these opportunities. Even going down on the field and meeting Tony Romo and checking out their setup was amazing. One thing I noticed about Jerry Jones was his passion. You can really see the desire in him, and that's what I came away with most: the passion and desire that he had in him got me really excited for my fight in Dallas because that stadium - he built it not just to be known in NFL but to be known all over the world. I like his determination and his hunger, and hopefully I can bring some of that into the ring on September 17th.

Quigley's opponent is as of yet unnamed; his last outing versus a fringe contender would suggest he'll once more have his work cut out for him to impress a growing American audience. It's this level of opponent, says Quigley, which he needs to mix with to continue his development and quest for world honours:

I've heard of a few names already, and it's going to be a very experienced operator that I'm up against. A guy with a lot of fights. And it's going to be a 10-round fight because this is the stage I'm at now - I'm there to learn as much as I can and get that vital experience that you need to get to that world title level. The plan is to obviously take them out as well while I'm doing that, and put in a great performance and get that 'W'. I'm just waiting on confirmation so I can dial down, start studying them and start putting a gameplan together.

A fortnight ago, Quigley's fellow Irishman Carl Frampton landed on the opposite coast with his own gameplan, tearing the WBA World featherweight title from then-undefeated three-weight world champ Leo Santa Cruz. It was a historic moment for Irish boxing and indeed Irish sport in general, and one which Quigley is doubtless keen to emulate or even surpass in the not-too-distant future.

Frampton's mammoth display lay down a marker for Irish and British fighters arriving in America for title shots, and the magnitude of the Belfast man's achievement is not lost on a man who watched on beaming from Los Angeles:

I was very proud of Carl. I didn't really know him personally but I'd seen him in the [National] Stadium a lot and we trained in the same the High Performance United for a while. Every boxer knows what another boxer has to go through. Carl has a family, he has kids - it's going to be hard being away from them like that and putting in the gruelling work in training camps away from home. I can understand how difficult that is. To see him succeed and achieve what he did, a fellow Ulsterman, I was very, very proud.

You know, it sets the bar even higher for us young fighters coming up now. Carl's a two-weight world champion so I'm going to have to go and become a three-weight world champion! This is what's great - the bar keeps getting higher and higher, and it's great friendly competition. Hats off to Carl and his team, it was amazing. He's starting to really prove himself now as a pound-for-pound great.

Advertisement

And yet where Frampton leads the way for the younger Quigley, the latter will now play mentor to another Ulsterman new to the pro ranks. Back in May, it was announced that 17-year-old pugilistic prodigy Aaron McKenna, he of Monaghan, would join 'El Animal' in the ranks of Sheer Sports Management in the States.

A perennial national champion at youth level, McKenna leaves Old School Boxing Club for pastures anew across the pond and then some, and his Sheer Sports stablemate predicts a golden future for the teenager:

It's going to be an amazing life experience for Aaron, whatever way it turns out. He's getting some quality sparring, and a lot of pros are finding it difficult in with him over here because he's so tall and rangy and picks his shots so well. Aaron is giving everyone over here a lot of trouble in that ring, and opening a lot of eyes over here - he's got a big future ahead of him.

13880240_10208391656281532_410606648071491220_n

I just hope everything goes so well for him, now. I just hope he stays settled because he's still so young at 17. He's at an age where things can go one way or the other way. But he has a great man in his father behind him, and a great team behind him, so I hope things continue to go well for him because he's a very talented kid and he can go far in the professional game.

McKenna certainly can't be blamed for joining his compatriot in California considering the state of the pro scene back home, even allowing for FS Promotions' recent Stadium card. In light of this stagnation - and frankly lack of interest - Quigley has been widely tipped as the perfect candidate to transcend the sport in Ireland like Dunne and Steve Collins before him. The Chosen One. No pressure, then.

Rather than shirk the responsibility, though the proud Donegal man embraces it. In fact, he gratuitously raises the issue himself. He has two career goals that, ideally, he'd like to see overlap: to headline a pro card back on his native isle and to win a world title:

I want to bring big time boxing back to Ireland. I want to bring massive fights back to Ireland. I want to bring Golden Boy over there. What better way to make professional boxing massive again in Ireland than to bring some of the world's best over, with Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy putting on a great show with me as the main attraction?

It'd be absolutely amazing, and to have Aaron [McKenna] on the undercard as well. It's going to give young kids great opportunities and help us put Ireland on the map again in professional boxing.

For Quigley, it's not just a privilege. It's a responsibility. He's an athlete born of Irish boxing, and one who wishes to kick-start the circuit he bypassed en route to Hollywood. No Coldplay after-party tickets are likely to change that:

I would love to get a big fight back in Ireland very shortly - world title fight or not. I'd love to get back there and wet the lips of some of the supporters, and to build up a bit of a hype. And for them to be able to come and watch me build towards that shot at the world title.

My dream is to win or defend the world title in my own country, and Golden Boy are aware of that. They're fully behind me - 100%. But at the end of the day it's one step at a time, one fight at a time, and I've to take care of business on September 17th before any of that.

Until then, we wait for the stars to align as Jason Quigley's stock expands from California to Texas. If he can make it in a sky full of them, he'll make it back here eventually.

Gavan Casey
Article written by
Former handwriting champion. Was violently bitten by a pelican at Fota Wildlife Park in 2001.

You may also like