Jason Quigley turns professional as amateur boxing counts cost of success

The world silver medallist joins Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions


Just over two years out from the Rio Olympic Games and Ireland’s boxing plans are in need of recalibration. The sport is never without ambition but yesterday’s announcement that Jason Quigley had turned professional will be seen as more of a disappointment than a surprise.

Last October when bantamweight John Joe Nevin was in Dublin announcing his contract with professional outfit Greenblood Boxing, Quigley was on his way to the final of the World Amateur Boxing Championships in Kazakhstan.

Six months on, Quigley has crossed codes, yesterday falling for the million-dollar smile of Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions.

The middleweight will join a line of 79 listed professional fighters in De La Hoya’s stable. As one official put it yesterday, it’s a “Coolmore” to Nevin’s “niche” in Philadelphia.

Few will wish Quigley anything but good fortune, but with Nevin’s decision and now the 22-year-old from Ballybofey leaving the amateur ranks, two of Ireland’s medal prospects for 2016 are no longer available to Billy Walsh.

Despite the top Irish Sports Council grant of €40,000, a reputed Sky scholarship worth £30,000 and a sponsored car, Quigley chose the professional, not the Olympic dream. Who can blame him?

Three medallists
Katie Taylor aside, his decision to go leaves just three male boxers, Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Joe Ward, who have won medals at either Olympic games or world championship level.

Ward earned his first senior world stripe with a bronze medal in Almaty with Quigley last year. Barnes has two Olympic bronze medals from Beijing and London, while Conlan has a flyweight bronze from 2012.

While Ireland has been industrious in unearthing boxing gems, Nevin and Quigley will not be easily replaced, if at all.

At the recent World Youth Boxing Championships in Sofia, Ireland departed without a medal. Traditionally those championships have been the arena where Irish fighters have first shown potential, but this year that was not the case. That will have been noted around the National Stadium.

To compound matters, both Conlan and Barnes have repeatedly stated that they would, could, will, might turn professional if the right arrangement could be agreed, while Ward’s management are no strangers to considering what the professional ranks have to offer.

Conlan’s brother Jamie is a professional, while one of Barnes’ close friends is Belfast super bantamweight Carl Frampton, whose recent second- round knockout of two-weight world champion, Hugo Cazares, has launched him towards a world title fight.

Both know the professional game and the money and have remained in the Irish system, and this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is another likely showcase for the Belfast pair. Barnes will defend the light flyweight gold medal he won in New Delhi in 2010, while Conlan will make his debut.

In the April AIBA rankings Barnes is ranked third in the world at light flyweight, and in the 56kg division Conlan is second only to the Cuban world number one, Robeisy Ramirez. Joe Ward is ninth in the 81kg class, with Quigley still listed as second in the world in middleweight division, rankings that no other Irish sport can equal.

Barnes, however, has faith that in two years’ time Ireland will, despite the defections of the now injured Nevin and Quigley, again come good in Rio.

“Irish boxing is so strong. There is always someone who comes through,” he says with confidence.

“It can be done in a flash. I won the Irish senior title in February 2007 and then qualified for my first Olympics in 2007 [winning a bronze medal in 2008] .

“Jason was a big talent and he has the commitment to be a professional. It’s what he always wanted. He’s not stupid. He’s young. Golden Boy will take him in the right direction. He’s a dedicated fighter and I’m convinced he will do well. Yeah I think he can make the transition from amateur to professional, why not.”

Kenneth Egan, who won the light heavyweight Olympic silver medal in Beijing, also remains positive about Rio.

“We’ve Michael, we’ve Paddy and we’ve Joe, who has medal written all over him, so the standard is still there,” says Egan. “The only problem I see for Rio is the qualification system, which is going to be a nightmare. We still have names that need to produce, but the standard is there alright.”

Quigley has, so far, remained quiet, but Golden Boy have a scheduled show on June 5th in Boston’s “House of Blues”, where Nevin successfully debuted on St Patrick’s Day this year.

Quigley famously doesn’t drink or smoke and keeps himself in fine condition. It’s a fraught path even with his father Conor in the corner, but the two Irish hopefuls should bring renewed interest in professional boxing south of Belfast for the first time since Bernard Dunne. Rio’s loss could be Ireland’s gain.

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