All mighty in Almaty as Quigley becomes first Irishman to make world final
Joe Ward can’t tag elusive Cuban Peraza as he bows out with bronze in Kazakhstan
Jason Quigley celebrates beating Artem Chebotarev of Russia in their World Championships middleweight semi-final bout in Almaty, Kazakhstan as coaches Zuar Antia, left and Billy Walsh, second left, are interviewed. Photograph: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Donegal middleweight Jason Quigley, right, in action against Artem Chebotarev of Russia in their World Championships semi-final bout in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Even the austere Kazak guards permitted a small security breach yesterday. Conor Quigley, Jason’s father, was ushered through to meet his son as he walked from the cameras, his place in the World Championship final secure.
He lifted him high in the air and as he did Jason reached down and planted a kiss on his head. It has been a long road from Donegal to Almaty but one walked together by father and son, one now bringing rewards that were once the idle thoughts of a child.
It was Conor who sat with Jason and the Ireland coaches to write the prescription for the dissection of Russia’s Artem Chebotarev. It was also his father who tutored him from his first fight as a seven-year-old against Noel McBride of St Mary’s, Annagry, and who has now brought him to the verge of being judged the best amateur middleweight boxer in world boxing.
High performance can now start to have headaches. Professional offers will roll in.
A freshly-minted European title still cooling from the summer and unbeaten at senior international level, Quigley’s breathless counter-punching first two rounds followed by a hawkish, salty third of bruising exchanges, where he clearly hurt the Russian, has instantly installed him as a medal hope for Rio 2016.
“We dreamed of it since he was a child, since he was seven years of age,” said his father and coach. “Fifteen years of hard work whenever he achieved his bronze medal.
“Fifteen years of hard work has been defined in nine minutes. Fifteen years and now there is another nine minutes, a world final. Unbelievable. Words cannot describe it.
“He’s an absolute brilliant, brilliant lad and very, very talented. That Russian he beat in there today was one hell of a boxer. But he was just annihilated there today.
“Jason was the man carrying the power and he had the speed. He was countering the Russian every time he made a mistake and he was faster to the punch. He was absolutely fantastic, completely nailed the performance, and he knew he had to. He knew he had to do it against that man.”
Reaction in Donegal has been loud. But a mark of Quigley has been his willingness to believe in his imagination, chase the fancies of his childhood and he has never shied from demanding of himself in the pursuit.
“We’ve just tried to keep things down on a level playing field because things can get carried away a wee bit too much and we haven’t really achieved what we want to achieve,” added Conor. “It’s absolutely incredible to get a bronze medal but Jason Quigley is used to winning gold medals. He doesn’t settle for bronze. He went in there today and he’s bagged silver.”
Quigley played chess for the first six minutes, wearing a path around the edge of the ring, feinting and bobbing, winning the brief exchanges as a frustrated Chebotarev laboured to unleash his power.
The 22-year-old never stood still, countering the Russian and beating him to the punch with his speed and movement.
Quigley won the round 2-1 but began the second scoring early with a right hand and while he staggered Chebotarev with a left it was the Irishman who was, incorrectly, given a standing count with just 19 seconds left in the round.
That didn’t cloud the judges scoring and they could see it was Quigley who was cleverly boxing his way through the fight, countering and winning the short exchanges.
In the third round Quigley chose to go to war. Immediately, the tiring Russian was in trouble with a bloody nose, the referee intervening three times to wipe him clean. By then the result was secure, Quigley ending the round dominating, the final bell bringing him to his knees.
“Every boxer amateur and professional wants to win a world title,” said Quigley. “It’s a lot harder here. It’s a lot harder in amateur to lift a world title than it is in professional.”
Just six Irish names since the championships began in Havana in 1974 have won medals at world level, Tom Corr, Michael Carruth, Damaen Kelly, Stephen Kirk, John Joe Nevin (twice) and Joe Ward. All of them bronze, Quigley now steps out on his own.
“The fact of being in the world final everything has taken over. It wouldn’t matter if I was going in with one arm. I’d still be ready.”
The fast hands of the elusive Julio Peraza brought Ward’s tournament crashing down. The 19-year-old from Moate couldn’t tag the Cuban, whose speed and reflexes repeatedly drew Ward down blind alleys.
His hands low and flicking out jabs, Peraza floated and stung. Ward was never in danger of a premature end but neither could the southpaw unload his heavy left land.
The judges sent the Cuban through unanimously. But the former European champion is back on the world stage after 18 months of vexation and injury. In defeat he was stoic.
“I can’t complain,” he said. “I had a great tournament. I lost fair and square in there today. I got a bronze medal. I came for a medal. The way I look at it is he’s just an exceptional boxer and I couldn’t get the reach at all, or the distance.”