Former amateur star Jason Quigley has become one of boxing’s few genuine blue chip prospects since ditching the vest and turning professional two years ago. Tonight, the 24-year-old faces the biggest test of his career when he faces James De La Rosa in the first ever boxing event at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Q: How did you get into boxing?
My father always trained me in the house. He had a set-up in the kitchen and he’d put a CD on and train. I always watched him training and I got to the stage where I tried my hand at it. So it all started back at home in the kitchen with my dad. He was the one who took me on with the pads and did bits and pieces.
Q: Were there any particular fights you remember watching as a kid?
Marco Antonio Barrera fighting Prince Naseem Hamed in 2001. That’s the reason I turned professional and that’s the reason I started boxing in the first place. I was only a young fella sitting at home watching it. I remember getting goosebumps watching it, I was only about 9 at the time. It was the first time I got goosebumps or had that feeling come over me. I knew from then on that boxing was for me.
Q: When you turned professional you relocated to Los Angeles, how have you found it?
It’s definitely a different lifestyle without a doubt - from the weather, the time change, all of that, everything has been a massive change for me but I have to say it has been a change for the best. I’m settling in now and of course it took a bit of time to get settled in but once I did, every morning I was waking up with the sun shining and it felt like I was on my holidays. It’s strange to get used to all that.
Q: LA is a bit different to Donegal, was it tough to get used to?
There were times when I wondered if I had done the right thing. Without a doubt you’re always going to question major moves like that. But as the time has passed, the doubt has decreased. Everything for me has just been so positive. It was definitely the right thing to turn professional out here — I would never have turned professional back in Ireland or anything like that. I had my promoters, Golden Boy, and they’re based out here and keep everything at hand for me.
Q: Was it always your plan to move to America?
My father always said that if I was going to turn pro it would happen in America. It has been the plan for a long time. Me and my dad used to sit up until 3 or 4 in the morning to watch the fights here in Vegas. it was always in our head. For me, Vegas is the capital of boxing, this is where the greats have become great. That was one of the reasons I chose to move out here — to LA especially — being so close and being able to fight here. When I’m going to make it, this is the place it will happen.
Q: Wayne McCullough also made the move from Ireland to America when he turned pro – have you spoken to him about it?
Wayne was texting me last night, he only lives down the street from me in Marina Del Rey in LA. Wayne’s a top-class guy and he gets me — we’re Irish! Of course, I had a talk with him about professional boxing and everything else. Just to sit down, have a coffee with him and pick his brains was unbelievable. It’s great to have him on the end of the phone.
Q: Is it hard out here on your own sometimes?
You get a lot of lonely days. You get demons creeping in and you start asking yourself questions that you don’t want to answer. It’s crazy and you have to be mentally tough. It’s not to say I am mentally tough, it’s just that God gave me a gift to be able to deal with some things but there are other things I can’t deal with. That’s why I have a team around me.
Q: This is your third fight in Las Vegas – Do you enjoy it here?
I love it here and it’s so good to be here early in my career. I don’t want to be coming over here as a wee Irish fella thinking ‘wow this is unbelievable!’ I could completely forget about the fight. Now is the time for me to gain that experience, to gain the awareness of the set up over here so it can become second nature to me.
Q: You could have been boxing for Ireland in Rio this summer, do you have any regrets?
Whenever I sit down and watch the Olympics, I will sit back and think ‘f**k, that would have been good’. But at the end of the day, professional boxing was the fire burning deep inside of me — to become world champion. I got beat in the world final and I couldn’t handle it. I bawled my eyes out like a little baby girl after the fight.
Q: You were only 22 when you turned professional, why do it so young?
With Irish boxing, you don’t have much security. You could be an Olympic gold medalist, come back and get beaten in the national championships and they’ll cut your funding. You’ll be working in a grocery stores after that. People will say ‘oh look there’s the Olympic champion — pack those beans as well will you’. That’s the sport that we’re in and that’s why I turned professional.
Q: You’re fighting James De La Rosa tonight – why such a big test in only your 10th fight?
I’m in here because we think this is the right time to step up in class and make my mark in the middleweight division. If I wasn’t ready for this fight I wouldn’t take it. Boxing is a short career and, really, life is short. It can all be over, all be gone in the blink of an eye so I’m not here to wait around. This fight feels like the real start of my professional career.
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