Ireland is a country with a rich boxing tradition. Jason Quigley is proud to follow in those footsteps. After a distinguished amateur career in Ireland, Quigley moved to the United States, turned pro and has rapidly moved his way up the middleweight division. Fighting under the Golden Boy banner, Quigley is positioning himself as a fighter to be reckoned with. Before his net big fight on December 17th at The Forum in Inglewood, California, Quigley took a few moments to speak with AQ.
How does a lad from Ballybofey, in the County Donegal of Ireland get the nickname El Animal?
Well (laughs), it’s funny; I’m such an easy going, happy go lucky kind of guy, people wonder why I have that nickname. But plain and simple, once you get through the ropes, you have to flip the switch and turn into a different person. The guy across from me is there to take something away that I’ve worked so hard for and that I’ve sacrificed so much to get. So it’s like the animal kingdom. You have to be on your game all the time, or you’ll be taken as prey. You have to be the hunter.
If you’re such a happy go lucky guy, why did you choose boxing?
It all started with my father. He was an amateur boxer and a national champion as well. He always kept in shape, and I was always in that environment, watching it. The first time I felt a love for fighting was when Marco Antonio Barrera fought Prince Naseem Hamed for the world championship in Las Vegas. I stayed up until four in the morning to watch it. I remember watching Barrera all week, calm and collected at the interview and the weigh in. That all changed when he went into the ring. I was 10 years old, and I remember getting goose bumps on my arms. I said to myself, “Whoa, I want to do this!”
How young were you when you started?
In Ireland, you can fight at 11 years of age, so I started fighting then. My first, second, third years, I was winning a lot. I was a three-time national champion; I won regional titles. Obviously, I knew that I was talented at a young age. But I was also doing other kind of sports. I was very good at soccer at 15 years old, but I was also on the Irish national team as a boxer. One day, I spoke to my father, and he told me I should do whatever makes me happy. That year, I played soccer all summer. I went back to the gym one day to work out. I did some sparring. I remember the smell of the gym, the sweat, the environment. After that session of sparring, I said it’s boxing. Simple. No question. I was so glad to be back in the ring. It’s a very strange thing to happen, to have that feeling at such a young age.
When you turned pro, why did you decide to move to Los Angeles?
Los Angeles, the West Coast, everything is here. It’s the capital of pro boxing. Every gym you walk into has past, present and future world champions training there. All the big fights are here in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. This is where champions are made. The amount of people I have met is incredible. If I had stayed back in Ireland, I just wouldn’t have met so many people and been training and sparring with world champions. I’m out here earning more experience, growing and learning my trade.
Was it a tough adjustment?
I’m from a small town in Ireland, moving to big, bad Los Angeles—the people, the environment, the weather, everything is complete different. It has taken a lot of time to adjust. I miss my family, my friends. It’s always nice running about my town, eating whatever food I want, hanging out with mates. But I’m so lucky and blessed, living such a great life in LA with an opportunity to better myself and make a life for me and my family.
How small a town is Ballybofey?
It’s a rural town. Where I’m from, there’s maybe 3,000 people in the whole town, where everybody knows each other—brother, sisters, uncles, grandparents. That’s what is so special about it. You’re so close, and everyone supports each other. It just gives you more pride and passion. I’ve lived in LA for over two years. I still can’t tell you who lives next door to me. In Ireland, I can tell you everybody who lives in my town. That’s a big adjustment for me.
Have you felt the support of the Irish population here in the United States? They are huge boxing fans.
It’s amazing. Obviously, where you are in New York, the population of Irish is more than here on the West Coast. But when I fight here, the amount of Irish people that turn up that I never knew was here, it’s incredible! They come in bus loads. When I fight on December 17th at The Fourm, they’ll come from Los Angeles, San Diego, Huntington Beach. That’s why I’m so grateful to be from Ireland. The Irish people get behind us with such pride and passion. They’re behind you 110%. I can hear their shouting through the ropes!
Someday, if you become world champion, could you see yourself defending the title in Ireland?
That’s exactly what I want to do, to support my Irish fans who have been with me from day one. All my family and friends that have traveled around the world to support me. They’ve come to LA, Las Vegas, Boston to cheer me on, as my career was progressing. To come back to Ireland and put on massive events in front of my people, to bring back big time boxing to them, it’s an opportunity I dream of.
How close is the dream? Do you feel you will fight for a belt soon?
I believe it’s in the very near future, the way I’m progressing mentally and physically in every aspect, it’s all going in the right direction for a world title fight. That’s why I’ve been patient climbing that ladder, getting closer to a world championship and it’s definitely not far away. That’s what drives me every day in the gym—to get closer to those belts and to bring them back to Ireland.
Jason Quigley (11-0) will battle Jorge Melendez (30-7-1) on Saturday, December 17th at The Forum in Inglewood, California.