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Why It's High Time To Hop Aboard The Jason Quigley Bandwagon Ahead Of 2017

Why It's High Time To Hop Aboard The Jason Quigley Bandwagon Ahead Of 2017
By Gavan Casey

There was a tinge of irony to the black hole which engulfed professional Irish boxing following Big Bang's deflating one-round defeat to Guillermo Rigondeaux in 2011.

RTÉ slipped out the side-door, perhaps somewhat understandably given the obvious difficulty in putting aside funding for a sport with no set schedule, and now lacking a marquee name in Ireland following the much-since-pined-for 'Bernard Dunne Days'. Indelible promoter Brian Peters, whose cards - many of which lit up weekend nights on the State broadcaster - went on hiatus from the sport. The distinct lack of 'a good Dub' was his David McWilliams-like premonition; get out while the going is good, and batten down the hatches for a harsh winter.

Nobody could have foreseen the five-year barren spell on the domestic front which was to follow, and continues to this day - the significant interventions of Andy Lee and Carl Frampton on the global stage somewhat removed from the stagnant Irish scene which Lee in particular was forced to leave behind on his quest for world honours.

And yet, for all the bleakness of recent years, there flickers more than a sliver of light as we approach 2017.

"Oh, it definitely feels good," says undefeated Donegal middleweight Jason Quigley.

"Back in action now, ready to rock 'n' roll. I just can't wait to put on a show now on the 27th."

Naturally, I'm 10 minutes late for our transatlantic phonecall, and the 25-year-old former European amateur champion and World silver medallist is already en route to The Rock Gym for some fine-tuning ahead of his scrap with veteran Jorge Melendez in Inglewood, California this Saturday.

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The easy-going Ballybofey middleweight, though, will make time for a natter with any old sod - particularly of the Irish variety - and so fires me on his car speaker:

My main goal, and my main focus, is getting in there and putting on a sensational performance - number one. If the knockout comes, it comes. Of course, I'm a fighter - I'm an entertainer - I want to put on a show. I want to put a smile on the fans' faces. I want to get them up out of their seats roaring and shouting. And if that opportunity arises, and I see a weakness, I'll not give him a second chance. I'll take him out of there.

My last fight was my first real step-up. This is another step-up. 2017 is going to be a massive year. My management team and Golden Boy have massive plans for me. But right now, for me, it's about finishing the year off with a bang - putting my name out there even more, and putting my name in the heads of all these other fighters in the middleweight division. I'm going to let them know who Jason Quigley is, and that I'm here and I mean business.

He can talk alright, this boy.

Following his rapid and almost unprecedented rise through the amateur ranks between 2012 and 2013, the supremely-talented boxer-puncher was involuntarily considered a 'Chosen One' of sorts; the burden lay with Quigley, the hard-hitting up-and-comer signed by Oscar De La Hoya himself, to rekindle the Irish pugilistic flame from 8,000km to the west.

It's a responsibility never far from the forefront of his mind, even with career-biggest fight to date mere days away. And now, joined in the pro ranks by former teammates - his soon-to-be gymmate Michael Conlan, along with Irish boxing icons in Katie Taylor and Paddy Barnes - Quigley foresees a second, or indeed third coming of sorts, as Irish eyes begin to smirk once more on the fight front. From the ashes, he believes, rises a monster:

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It's the same as life - it's the same as everything in life. Think of the boom we had in Ireland; everyone was working, the money was coming in left, right and centre, people were buying houses, getting big mortgages - everything like that.

And then it takes a massive dip. And it dips and dips. But we're heading to the height, again, of Irish boxing.

He's spoken in times past of his admiration for fellow Ulsterman Carl Frampton, Ireland's current leading light and a bona fide contender for Fighter Of The Year. Even a brief mention of Frampton's achievements, or those indeed of his middleweight compatriot Andy Lee, stokes a guttural monologue - not just regarding his own aspirations, but his hopes for the sport in his native land.

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You mark my words: This is going to be one of the biggest years in professional Irish boxing history. The talent that Irish boxing has is truly unbelievable, and we're going to make a statement. This year and in the years that follow. Because you look at the likes of it... You have the likes of Mick Conlan turning pro. You have Katie Taylor turning pro. You have Carl Frampton already, a two-weight world champion. You have the likes of myself, you have Andy Lee. We have all of these great fighters out there that have already put Ireland on the map, and now you've got us young breed coming through - young, hungry fighters.

Carl set the mark. Andy Lee set the mark. They've laid out the goals for us to go out and achieve. And of course now, we want to go out there and become the first three-weight world champion that Ireland has ever had. The first pound-for-pound world champion that Ireland has ever had. We've had Barry McGuigan, Wayne Mcullough. Now it's time for myself, Michael Conlan, Katie Taylor and us young breed to come through, and boxing is going to become huge again in Ireland. It really is. It's going to be a very exciting time the fans, the people of Ireland and us fighters.

Highly regarded by both his promoters Golden Boy and a dedicated management team in SheerSports, Quigley has already won the hearts of thousands on America's west coast. The Latin contingent in Manny Robles' Rock Gym have already bestowed upon him the ring moniker 'El Animal', and Quigley remains in his element experiencing a microcosm of the so-called Hollywood lifestyle while climbing the middleweight rankings.

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After just 11 fights, he's already rated as world number 14 by one organisation, and is widely tipped to make further waves Stateside. His dream, however, is to leave the Hollywood Hills - if only briefly - for the real Hills, those of his home county, and bring a major fight back to those who have followed him from day one. Pressure continues to build on poor Rachel Charles, his esteemed manager, along with his promotional team to send him homebound for a throwdown. But while Quigley has already agreed with Golden Boy that he has to fight in Ireland eventually, he also makes it clear that he wants his homecoming to be for a meaningful fight, and not a ladder-climber at this formative stage in his career.

We are the future, you know? Whatever the people want, the people get. That's the way it has always been. But you look at social media and everything now, people are going to be asking. Like, the amount of people who want me to go back and fight in Ireland is unbelievable. And I'm telling everybody, it's going to happen. I can't wait to come back and fight in Ireland again, in front of those Irish fans. And not only that but fight in front of all of the people who have followed me, and spent their hard-earned money following me as an amateur, travelling up and down the country - and to every shithole in Eastern Europe!

That's my goal, that people won't have to fly hours to LA to see me fight, but just travel a couple of hours in the car or whatever it might be. But it's about putting big shows back on in Ireland. Big, exciting fights. Pay-per-view fights. When was the last time there was a pay-per-view fight on in Ireland? That's the goal. That's what I'm aiming for. But as I said, it's one fight at a time - I can't overlook anybody. My focus is on December 17th, and if I keep taking that one step at a time, everything is just going to fall into place.

Last time we spoke with El Animal, he spoke of being joined by former Irish teammate Mick Conlan in The Rock Gym, jokingly scoffing at having a 'familiar accent' amongst his largely Latino pals: "Familiar accent? Sure I don't know what the fuck the wee man says!"

On such nuggets has Quigley endeared himself to headline writers throughout the Irish boxing media. Having since had the 2015 World amateur bantamweight champion train alongside him with Manny Robles, he's a little more sincere regarding the prospect of having Conlan for company in the new year:

It really is nice having Mick over here. It's a nice refreshment also in the gym, to have a good familiar face that you're friends with - we've been friends since years back. I mean, even outside of boxing we've gone on holidays to Magaluf together! We've definitely enjoyed ourselves together. So there's going to be plenty more of that as well. It is pretty special.

The two of us obviously understand each other; we're both chasing the same goals, and we're both here for each other to spur each other on. And then outside of the gym, of course, we'll have a bit'a craic and explore LA, and see what's happening out here! It's going to be great for Michael and I, but not just for us; for the people of Ireland and Irish boxing fans as well, because we're going to give it absolutely everything to be successful and make our country proud.

And so from a boxing gym-slash fitness centre in Carson, California does the great Irish boxing renaissance begin in earnest. Quigley and Conlan will fly the flag Stateside while their former teammates, and the plethora or rising pugilistic talents, make headway back home. Prepare for heads to roll and names to be taken on either side of the Atlantic in 2017.

Jason Quigley fights on the undercard of Bernard Hopkins' final ever fight this Saturday, and the bout will be streamed for free live on The RING's website from 01:30am Irish time.

Listen: Pilot Congratulates Passenger Katie Taylor For Second Pro Victory

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