Hailing from Ballybofey, County Donegal, Jason Quigley is on a mission to make a big statement in 2017 and rubber stamp his place as the Emerald Isles leading boxing contender. A highly decorated amateur, the unassuming and highly focused Irish middleweight is determined to continue his march up the world rankings and secure his first professional title when he takes on the experienced Glen Tapia in California on March 23rd for the NABF crown.
Quigley, who is undefeated (12-0 – 10 KOS) since turning professional in 2014, has matured into a seasoned pro under the tutelage of renowned Mexican trainer Manny Robles and the promotional guidance of Oscar De La Hoya’s Goldenboy Promotions. The likeable 25-year-old is benefitting from learning his trade diligently with a close-knit group of world champions and up and coming prospects including Irish Olympian Michael Conlan at The Rock Gym in Carson County.
Recently touted as one of the leading boxing prospects by ESPN, Quigley was at his destructive best in his last outing when he crushed the outgunned Jorge Melendez inside a round in December 2016. El Animal will be looking to add another impressive knockout victory to his resume and produce a standout performance against Tapia when he headlines the first ESPN/Goldenboy show on March 23rd.
We caught up with Quigley to discuss life in the USA, his upcoming bout and get his prediction on a potential Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor match-up.
What should we expect from Jason Quigley against Glen Tapia on March 23rd?
My goal for the 23rd is to just go in there and perform to the best I can. If I go in there and perform to the best I can then there is not a man in the middleweight division who is gonna have an easy night with me. On March 23rd I am gonna be 110 percent ready and put on a great show for the fans.
Have you worked on anything specifically in the gym to prepare for the Tapia fight?
I work on everything. I try to perfect everything in my game – my speed, my power, my agility, my footwork, movement and defence. I just work on everything so I can perform to the best I can, so I know that when I get in there my speed is gonna be on point, my power, timing everything.
I’m working on my overall game and Glen Tapia is gonna have problems with me because he is not gonna be able to figure me out. I can box, I can fight. I can do whatever it takes to get that victory and that is exactly what I am gonna do on March 23rd.
You fought a tough opponent in James De La Rosa on the undercard of Canelo v Khan and won on points. He is renowned for his durability and recently went the distance with Curtis Stevens. How hard was that fight? And what do you take away from that experience?
That was a great fight for me of course because De La Rosa is a very experienced fighter who has fought and beaten a world champion before (Alfredo Angulo). He fought the likes of Curtis Stevens and gave Stevens problems.
For me, anyone that really watched that fight will see that De La Rosa never gave me any problems, I was in control throughout the whole fight. I did hurt him and wobble him a once or twice and I didn’t go in for the kill because I knew it was my first 10-round fight and he was very experienced. I didn’t want to blow myself out and leave myself hanging later on in the rounds. It was a great fight for me to learn to be patient, that I have it in me to go ten rounds and to keep strong and stay focused.
I know styles make fights, but at the end of the day I thought I beat De La Rosa a lot more comfortably than Curtis Stevens did!
Moving forward Curtis Stevens will fight David Lemieux on March 11th in New York. Would you fancy taking on the winner of that fight?
You know at the end of the day it is all about climbing your way to the top. You know I have a great team in Goldenboy Promotions and Sheer Sport. They know exactly the path I have to take to reach the top. Right now the only name in my head is Glen Tapia on March 23rd. I can’t overlook Glen Tapia.
He is a dangerous opponent, he is coming in there off two losses, two knockouts. So you know he is gonna come in there hungry, he is gonna come in there determined and he is gonna be looking to get his career back on track.
It is up to me to make sure that he doesn’t and that I keep going where I am going and that is straight to the top.
Why did you move to the States?
I am here to learn from the vast majority of fighters out here. You get to train with world champions, former world champions, leading contenders. You have them all over the place here and the experience that you gain is vital.
You know you are in with hungry young fighters, world current world champions and veterans that have been there and done it. You know you are learning all the time. I am here to serve my apprenticeship and to learn. The whole experience is going to help me get that world title.
There can be many distractions there with the media, friends, family and fans. Do you feel you can concentrate on your career easier in the States? Is it nice to be outside the ‘fishbowl’ in Ireland?
Of course, exactly and that is another reason. Ireland is a small Island you know at the end of the day. Once you achieve well and do big things and you are from Ireland, you know people have a lot of access to you and it can get busy. So for me I was a fish in a fishbowl there and now I am a fish in an a big ocean. This is exactly where I want to be and this is exactly where I belong in my career right now. This (being in the USA) keeps me away from all the distractions, it keeps me focused and helps me keep my head down everyday, stay focused and keep going to the gym and get in shape for my next fight.
That is what it is all about staying sharp, staying focused and that is exactly what I am doing right now.
It doesn’t help having the TECATE girls at the weigh-in?
That can be a bit of a problem sometimes. On the very last few days of lent they can really test you… ha ha (laughs). You know you go to the press conference, the media workouts, the weigh-in and you know there is temptation right in front of you.. ha ha (laughs)
I watched a great sparring session between yourself and Nathan Cleverly from back in 2012 online. You really held your own. You sparred recently with Liam Smith. who have you been sparring with recently?
See that is the thing about out here. You get different sparring partners everyday you know. You get the likes of Liam Smith coming over from England. On Monday I was in sparring with Alfredo Angulo, you know a former world champion. Whatever type of sparring I can get, whatever style you know prepares you for everything. But as we draw closer to the fight I will be looking for a more similar style to my upcoming opponent. You know that is where your coach comes into play, getting the right sparring, the right opponent.
Did you notice the difference in quality in the sparring when you arrived from Ireland? Did it take time to adjust and get up to speed?
Yeah mainly just setting down on your feet a lot more and putting the combinations together, whereas I was moving a lot, up on my toes, jabbing and moving you know. By the time I got to the 5th or 6th round I was wrecked. You know it more about settling down, relaxing and putting your shots together.
Who was the middleweight that you look to as an inspiration? Hagler, Hearns, Robinson, Leonard etc? or was it simply Irish fighters that you looked up to as a youngster?
Well you know Sugar Ray Leonard when he moved up to middleweight he was fast, he was sharp, he was exciting to watch you know. At the end of the day he was unbelievable as well. He could adapt to any style. He could box, he was fast, he was strong. So really Sugar Leonard. I like the look of fighters who are all round fighters. Fighters who are not one-dimensional, that can mix it up, change and adapt to different styles.
Those are the type of fighters I look up to, idolise and try to emulate and add what they do to my armour.
Is Canelo Alvarez someone you have had the chance to get in the gym with? or managed to spar with yet?
No I have never been in the gym with Canelo. Of course I have done media work, press conferences and things like that. But I have yet to share the gym with him or spar, but I am sure I will in the near future.
You fancy a spar with him – Canelo?
Oh yeah definitely. I want to get in with all the best. I wanna see what they are like, see why they are the best, why they are world champion. I want to set the bar high and see where I am at myself.
How good is Canelo? Do you think he is underrated by people. You are about the same age.
Yeah Canelo is definitely right up there. You know the only time I think he really got exposed was against Mayweather. But look at Mayweather, who he is and what he has done to opponents in the past. So you know right now Canelo is the man out there. He has beaten everyone that they have put in front of him and he is doing it in ease and in style. You know he is a very strong and well put together fighter and you know he is doing great things at the moment.
The Irish have a good record against the Eubank family. Is Chris Eubank Jnr someone you would be interested in fighting in the future?
Yeah exactly. That is what boxing is about – the best fighting the best. But boxing is also a business, so it has to make sense money wise. It has to make sense with the belts on the line and what it is for. This is a short career so you have to make the best out of it while you can. For me, I have no enemies out there and no rivals out there. I’m not someone who says “I wanna fight this guy or that guy”
I just want to fight whoever is out there that is gonna help get me to the top. You know right now I am on my way to doing that and whovever is out there to get me a step closer to those the belts, that is who I want to fight. If the people out there are saying that they are the best and nobody can beat him, then they are the type fighters I want to fight. I want to live this career and do this career and know at the end of the day just how good I am!
I know how good I am and I want to prove to everyone just how good I am!
You have Michael Conlan training with you know at The Rock gym, he has gained a lot of notoriety after the Olympics. You are very different people. What is the most important thing to you in boxing? What drives you on – becoming a world champion? The money? Recognition?
My number one aim and my number one goal is to become a world champion. That is why I started boxing as a kid, that is why I have done this up until now. Now if I wasn’t getting paid then obviously I would have to choose to do something else.
We have to get by, we have to pay the bills. I am in this sport first and foremost to become the best I can possibly be and to be a multiple world champion. Then number two is to make as much money possible as I can out of this.
You know we get in there, we put our lives on the line. You know we wanna get our pay and we wanna get paid what we deserve. You know we get in there and we put on a show and give the fans what they deserve. But you know we need to get paid for that. But first and foremost my goal is to be a world champion and be the best I can be. I wanna live a happy life after boxing.
How did the friendship with Conor McGregor come about?
You know Ireland is a small fishbowl and if you are doing well and achieving then people recognise each other. Conor is achieving at a high level and I am achieving at a high level, so you know the two of us obviously know each other. We crossed paths many times also because of the sport we are in, so you know that is how we came together from meeting at events. So we keep in touch. So whenever he is out here we have a catch up.
You know it is all good, typical Irish. We are from the same place and you know we just stick together and catch up with one another.
You know from the hard graft you put in to reach a championship level in boxing how hard it is to succeed in the ring. No one has come close to reaching Floyd Mayweather’s level. What chance would Conor McGregor have in a boxing ring with Mayweather? Would it purely be a punchers chance?
Yeah exactly. You put McGregor into the cage with Mayweather then he destroys Mayweather. If you put Mayweather in a boxing ring with Conor, Conor.. it is a closer fight than it would be in MMA, but at the end of the day I can’t see Conor beating Floyd in a boxing ring. Look at who Floyd has beaten over a decade and how he has betean them.
You know I just don’t see Conor coming into the boxing ring and upsetting Floyd after everything Floyd has done.
It would be nice if Conor could slip a kick in there?
If he could then it would definitely be party over.
How proud are you to headline the first ESPN/Goldenboy show in March?
I am very proud for me and my family. It is great for everyone back home and Irish fight fans to have an Irishman out here in LA headlining an ESPN show. You know I am born and bred in Ireland and I am looking forward to doing my country proud.
Interview and photos by Eoin Mundow