Scott Quigg: The quest for perfection

John A. MacDonald
23/02/2016 11:30am

At 9:30am on Christmas morning, when the majority of the country was either still in a deep slumber or excitedly pulling off colourful wrapping paper to reveal gifts from loved ones, Scott Quigg was in the gym.

For the fighter from Bury, Christmas was cancelled; 25 December was just another day in training camp in preparation for his unification bout with IBF junior featherweight champion Carl Frampton on 27 February at  Manchester Arena.

As his family and friends gathered, as they do each year for Christmas dinner, Quigg (31-0-2, 23 KOs) ate alone. While others were feasting on turkey and all the trimmings, it was Salmon and vegetables for him.

Some may perceive this as sacrifice but for the 27-year-old WBA 122lbs champion, it was perfect. Quigg is possessed by an all-consuming desire to become the best. This isn’t hardship to him, but simply what must be done.

“I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. It couldn’t have been any better for me,” Quigg told Boxing Monthly over the phone from his home.

“When people say to me: ‘Do you make sacrifices?’  I say: ‘No.’ Because sacrifices are something you want to do but can’t do because you’ve got to do something else but I really didn’t want do anything else other than what I did - being in the gym. I didn’t sacrifice Christmas as it wasn’t appealing to me this year. It didn’t mean anything to me.”

Almost every fighter who makes it to the top level has to be dedicated. Talent alone can only get you so far, but Quigg believes what he has surpasses dedication, that what he has is an unyielding obsession. Boxing isn’t part of his life – it is his life.

As a harsh self-critic, he is constantly analysing his own performances. Studious notes are kept, every element of his training is video taped; bagwork, padwork, sparring. Hours are spent watching and rewatching each element of his preparation.

If he’s not reviewing his own performance, he’s studying his opponent, or watching the greats of sport to see what he can gleam from their fights. He has watched Carl Frampton’s two fights with Kiko Martinez so many times he can offer you a round-by-round commentary from memory. This is all part of his never-ending quest for perfection.

“It’s an obsession with becoming the best I can be,” Quigg confessed. “I want to improve every day. There’s no day when I wake up that I don’t think about training. There’s not a day where it’s not on my mind. Would I advise anybody else to be like me? No, because I don’t think people could handle it. It’s madness. I was thinking about it last night; it’s a disease I can’t get rid of and I don’t want to get rid of. It’s so obsessive the way I am.

“Every quarter of the year I evaluate what I’ve done. I’ve got diaries going back six years. I can tell you on this date six years ago what I had to eat and what I did; how many press-ups etc. You name a day in the last six years and I’ll tell you exactly what I did and what I ate. That’s the way I’ve learnt to adapt and to see how your performances are getting better, how you tailor your training camps to certain opponents, how you tweak little things. It’s all because I want to become the best I can be.

“The only way you can be like that is if it’s an obsession, an addiction. It’s an addiction to become the best, an addiction to win. I have a fear of failure, not just in boxing but in anything I do – I have a fear of failure. That’s why I put everything into what I do. It doesn’t have to be physical – I could be watching tapes over and over. I can do two hours of studying at night watching what I need to do, watching my training back. These are little things that other people will find boring but I don’t because I know it’s making me better. The only day I’ll be a normal person is the day I retire and I won’t be retiring for a long time.”

The mindset is pivotal to his success in the ring, yet could potentially be detrimental to relationships outside it. Thankfully for him, his fiancé Beverly and their families are supportive.

Hours after his win over Kiko Martinez (TKO 2) in July, Quigg was booking a trip to Los Angeles. Although he brought his fiancé, his mother and his sister out for a week – this was no holiday. Instead, it was an opportunity for him to train under the tutelage of Freddie Roach in the Wildcard Gym. His loved ones accept that a holiday will rarely be just a holiday and Quigg expressed gratitude for their support.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know how I’m still engaged,” he revealed. “I don’t know how I’ve still got my partner because she must hate me. We don’t do anything. I live the life. I’m very selfish in the way that boxing comes first. Once I’ve finished my boxing – as in my day’s training is done – then if we have half an hour to spend then yeah, I’ll spend some time with her and watch a bit of telly. Other than that, it’s just training. I can’t thank her enough for the support I do get off her because if I wasn’t with her, I don’t think anyone else would put up with me.

“I’ve always said: ‘I’m going to make the most of this and then hopefully we are secure, we can have a nice house, we don’t have to work. We can enjoy life. We’ll enjoy life together because I won’t have any regrets. I will know I was as good as I could ever have been because I couldn’t have done any more and I will have achieved what I wanted to achieve. If I’m happy, we’ll be happy together. If I wasn’t happy because I spent more time with you now, and it hindered my boxing and I didn’t go onto achieve what I wanted to achieve, you wouldn’t want be with me because I’d resent you.’ The connection we do have and the support I have from her, I cannot thank her enough.”

While his family and friends are accepting, in his trainer Joe Gallagher, Quigg has found a kindred spirit who not only accepts but understands as he is afflicted by the same drive and focus. Gallagher meticulously views hours upon hours of footage whilst formulating gameplans for his fighters. This single-mindedness makes Quigg believe they are a perfect match for one another.

“Joe puts in more than any other trainer I’ve ever been around,” he revealed. “He’s another one that has that obsession and the fear of failure. He’s like me, he’s obsessive. He wants to find ways to be better all the time; in himself and to find ways his fighters can improve. When you’ve got a coach who works like that and a pupil, a boxer – like me – who works like that, you have a winning formula.”

Quigg’s approach to his craft is clearly studious and meticulous but, doesn’t appear to have impressed his rival, Carl Frampton, who has been dismissive of both Quigg’s intellect and his training regime. Frampton told the media on the press tour ahead of the fight: ‘He has to train hard because he is not a natural, he is manufactured.’ Rather unkindly, Frampton added: ‘He doesn’t have a brain, never mind a boxing brain.’

While Frampton – the more confident public speaker of the two – may win these exchanges at press conferences, Quigg remains unfazed by his opponent’s taunts.

 “Listen, he knows he’s in trouble,” he said regarding Frampton’s remarks. “He can come out with all the smart-arse comments he wants to make, it’s water off a duck’s back. When I talk I stutter a bit – naturally – it’s just the way I talk. It’s all nonsense at the end of the day and he’ll soon be silenced on the night. I rate him as a fighter – anyone who’s a world champion deserves respect – but believe me I’ve got the beating of him, no problem.”

If their last fights are anything to go by, perhaps Quigg is right. Quigg stopped former world champion Kiko Martinez in just two rounds. The Spaniard was known for his durability and had only previously been stopped once, by Frampton in the ninth round of the first of their two encounters.

The opening round saw Quigg under tremendous pressure from the unrelenting Martinez, with the British boxer on the back-foot – a sight not often seen. However, an uppercut early in the second instantly altered the contest and led to Terry O’Connor stopping the contest after two knockdowns.

Some have been critical of Quigg’s performance, claiming he was struggling with Martinez’s aggression and that he was saved by a ‘lucky punch’, an assertion he strongly refutes.

“People thought I was coming under pressure in the first round,” he told BM. “Hey, I’d rather not have got hit with a couple of those jabs that landed but if you come round to my house now, I could show you every sparring session I did in that last camp and that first round of every sparring session would have been exactly the same as on fight night. I wish someone would come round and watch it – it’s blatantly there, you can see it.

“He fell right into the trap. Did I think he’d bite so quick? No, but as soon as he came off his stool in the second round I knew straight away he was going to come and I thought: ‘I’ve got him.’ I thought I was going to get him out of there between rounds four and six but he went for the bait in round two and he paid the price.”

If Quigg’s most recent contest went exactly to plan, the same cannot be said for Frampton. The Northern Irishman was riding the crest of a wave – on the back of a series of impressive performances - when he faced Alejandro Gonzalez Jr in the second defence of his world title as he made his U.S. debut, on the same night Quigg fought Martinez.

Frampton found himself on the canvas twice in the opening round, but rallied to claim a unanimous decision. Despite crediting the bravery his rival displayed to rise from the canvas, Quigg remains critical of the performance.

“What you’ve got to realise is, they [Frampton’s team] picked Gonzalez, they picked that opponent,” he said “They watched him on tape, they thought they were going to go over there and blow him out. Gonzalez isn’t a world class fighter, he’s not!

“Shane [McGuigan] did an interview afterwards: ‘Oh he’s [Gonzalez] going to drop down to bantamweight and he’ll definitely become world champion.’ Why are you saying that? Because he gave your man all sorts of trouble. In his fight afterwards he got beat by Karim Guerfi who is not world level. [Guerfi] went in and beat Gonzalez no problem, he outboxed him.

“There was nothing special about [Frampton’s] performance. People say he showed great heart. Full credit, he went over, he got put down twice and he got the win. A win’s a win, I’m not denying that. Fair play to him, he did well to do that because he came through sticky patches. Don’t try and blow smoke on the performance when in Gonzalez’s next fight - after Shane saying he was going to become a world champion at - he then goes and gets beat.”

Quigg believes the Gonzalez bout was the catalyst for the Frampton fight finally taking place. Frampton had signed with influential advisor Al Haymon prior to that bout and there was talk of potential contests in the U.S. against any number of Haymon-advised fighters.

Having previously flown to Belfast to meet Frampton in the ring - following his demolition of Chris Avalos – Quigg believes he has been the one actively pursuing this fight, and that the only reason it is now taking place is due to the fact they couldn’t secure any lucrative fights in the States.

“Listen, if he’d gone to American and blown out Gonzalez this fight wouldn’t have happened because he would still have come with his stupid demands; they deserve this, this and this,” Quigg proclaimed. “It was obscene, it was embarrassing but because of what happened he couldn’t have gone over to America and started going: ‘I want to fight [Leo] Santa Cruz,’ demanding big money because they would have laughed him out of the place. He’s had to come back, he’s had to eat a bit of humble pie.

“They had to come back, reign themselves in on their demands. With me demolishing Martinez like I did, it’s made the fight bigger as well. People are now talking, after seeing what I did, more people are now picking me than there was before. The biggest fight out there anyway – in the division – is me against him for both of us because of the rivalry we have over here.”

With the fight taking place in Manchester, home advantage lies with Quigg. Although Frampton is no stranger to fighting away from home – nearly half his contests have taken place outside of Northern Ireland – his best performances have always been in front of a rapturous home crowd.

Quigg believes this was also the case on their three-stop press tour. He is adamant that Frampton was more vocal in Belfast than he had been in London or Manchester, and that his rival may struggle come fight night without the backing of the partisan crowd.

“You seen what he were like in London, quiet as a mouse. He got a bit agitated with Joe [Gallagher] and Eddie [Hearn] but at the head-to-head, quiet as a mouse, Manchester quiet as a mouse. Then Belfast, he gets a bit brave in front of his fans.

“He doesn’t fight well outside of Belfast. His performances in England have never been the best; when he fought Kris Hughes, when he fought Robbie Turley, they weren’t the best. Then he goes to America. When he has those fans, they are a comfort blanket for him. When we were in Belfast he was making a big thing about the crowd, I said: ‘You are being brave now because you here. You just be brave on the night.’”

There is a perception amongst some that Frampton is the one with the more varied skill-set. He possesses the extensive amateur pedigree. He has displayed an ability to box on both the back foot and the front foot. However, Quigg strongly disputes this. He is adamant he can not only outfight his rival but outbox him and out-think him. This is steadfast belief. He will not be denied.

“They wanted a big ring, so it tells you what they’re gonna do. If anything, we should have had a phone-box and just gone toe-to-toe and given the fans what they wanted to see but obviously they know they aren’t going to come out on top trying to do that. Obviously, they want to run for a bit but there will be a time when I catch up with him and that’ll be it. They think I can only fight one way. I can out-box him. I’m very, very smart. I do the basics very well.

 “It’s like having two engineers; one who’s an apprentice and one who’s experienced. They both have the same tools but the experienced one knows when to use them tools, which ratchet to use at what time, how to put the engine together. The apprentice, he’s got all the good tools so he might look good but he’s not the experience to know when to use them at the right time. I know which tools to use and when to use them.

“I’ll find a way to win, that’s the top and bottom of it. I know what I’m going to do, I know what I need to do if he does this, if he comes out doing that. I know 100 percent what I’ve got to do. I will find a way to win.”