Jason Quigley: The Golden Boy of Donegal
If you’ve never been to Donegal you really should go. Situated on the northern tip of Ireland, it is a place known for its areas of outstanding natural beauty, where miles of low peaks inland give way to yet more miles of labyrinthine coastline. It is also where Shay Given comes from.
Donegal's tourist brochures claim: 'Up here, it's different' and that might explain Jason Quigley's response when asked what he misses most about home, having swapped Ulster's largest county for Los Angeles almost 12 months ago.
“Hailstones,” he says, without too much hesitation. Donegal's 'Golden Boy' is certainly different.
“Ok not just hailstones,” he adds. “But sitting there in front of an open fire, hearing them hitting the window while you sit there with a nice cup of tea. That's what I miss most.”
You don't get much by way of precipitation where Quigley now lives, near Venice Beach in California, his base since signing professional terms with Golden Boy Promotions last year.
His next fight, the seventh of his burgeoning career, takes place on 12 July almost a year to the day since his first one and he says the last 12 months could not have gone much better.
He reflects: “It has been an amazing year for me. It has been a great start to my pro career and I've had a great experience, a lot of learning and a lot of growing as a fighter and a person. It has been absolutely amazing and it has been a complete change of life for me.”
Which takes us back to that old Donegal slogan. Quigley, a charming Irish middleweight with a world silver medal and European gold under his belt, had the pick of promoters across the world. So it came as a surprise to many when he chose Golden Boy. There was certainly an easier path.
“You know, I think whenever you look at it, Golden Boy in my eyes are the one of the best promoters out there,” he explains. “They're putting on the most fights, putting on the best fights and they're keeping their boxers active.
“Having the likes of Oscar De La Hoya behind you has just been amazing because I think Oscar is one of very few promoters to have reached the very limit in professional boxing himself.
“He knows exactly what boxers like inside and outside the ring, he knows which way they should be training and he's an absolute gentleman. To be honest, I couldn't have picked a better promotional group and I'm so happy with my decision.”
It just so happens that Quigley's arrival in the Golden Boy stable has coincided with arguably De La Hoya's toughest time as a promoter. A seismic split between the former six-weight world champion and right-hand man Richard Schaefer against the backdrop of the Al Haymon Generation had threatened to strip some lustre from the Golden Boy himself.
But, despite the departures of some of his biggest names – Amir Khan being just one example - De La Hoya kept on throwing back. He repaired his bitter relationship with Top Rank supremo Bob Arum, got back into bed with HBO and was even named the 2014 Promoter of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
Quigley goes on: “That's the fighter coming out in him. Of course, as you can see, he got knocked down but he has got back up and he is fighting harder than he has ever fought before.
“It shows because every young fighter, every prospect, is getting an opportunity now to show Golden Boy what they have. It's up to us to grab it now. Of course, some of the big names have gone but you still have the likes of Canelo flying the flag.”
Without Khan, it has been left to Quigley and people like Anthony Ogogo to fly that flag this side of the pond. And despite spending '90 per cent' of his time Stateside, Quigley's profile back home has never been better.
The 24-year-old says: “It's pretty mental so it is. It's mental in an amazing way.
“I go back home and try to get involved as much as possible – I visit schools and everything. I make sure I get to them because seeing the smile on a young kid's face and being able to inspire them in any small way is a great reward for me. I don't know, sometimes I think I get more out of it than they do.
“Back home there's no such [thing] as popping to the shops for some milk – it's more like 'I'm going down the shop so I'll see you at some point tonight!' I always bump into people I haven't seen for a while or people wanting pictures and stuff. It means the world to me to be out in LA and have the support back home.”
His first six professional fights have all taken place on American soil and his seventh – his first six-rounder - will take place in California too. So when will the prodigal son return?
“Golden Boy have talked about it before and hopefully in the very near future we'll have a homecoming fight back in Ireland,” he says. “So, maybe another year or 18 months and we'll be back. That's the word so it's just up to me to keep winning.
“It all depends on how I'm going. In a year or a year and a half, if I can be fighting for a title or a final eliminator that would be grand. But I'm taking one fight at a time and I won't be looking past what's in front of me.”
It just so happens that one of his compatriots currently holds a portion of the belt in his weight class and Quigley can't help but think about a showdown with WBO king Andy Lee.
“That's what dreams are made of,” he adds. “The Irish people would love that.
“I think anybody that has a belt in Ireland, if I ever got the chance to fight them for a belt, it would be absolutely amazing. I'd grab it with both hands.
“To fight a fellow Irishman for a world title would be a big achievement for Ireland, I'd love to be involved in that.”
And it's not just Lee. Matthew Macklin continues to plot a path to his fourth world title shot while Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan's style and personality will ensure a crack at world honours if he can continue to win.
Quigley says: “We're all on a different path but we're all leading to the same end goal – world titles.
“I think a lot of us are going to cross paths. We'll all come into connection somewhere in the future and there will be some serious mega fights if everybody keeps steadily walking that path.”
Representatives from Tipperary, Limerick or Cork may stand across the ring from Quigley in the future but it will be down to him to prove that, up there in Donegal, it really is different.