BY CHRIS MCNULTY
JASON Quigley is the new middleweight king of Europe.
The 22-year old Finn Valley ABC ace defeated Romanian champion Bogdan Juratoni in the final at The Sports Palace in Minsk.
Quigley was physically tiring as the bout advanced, but the batlling Ballybofey man came through on a split decision from the Italian, Honduras and Azerbaijan judged.
The determined Quigley took the first round 30-27. A solid combination and that wiry agility was on show in the first three minutes, but Juratoni found his stride in the second round.
The Romanian appeared to have an edge in the second round, but it was Quigley who held sway, ever so slightly.
The Romanian, the number two seed and a bronze medal winner at the 2011 World Championships in Baku, was beginning to take the upper hand and the drained Quigley was starting to feel the pinch, as shown when forced into a wild right hander, but he found something deep in the reservoir and crashed home to take the decision – and completed a remarkable hat-trick of European golds.
He won the European Youth Championships in 2009 in Poland, before winning the European U23s in Russia just before Christmas.
This, though, is undoubtedly the crowning glory – and he is now the only Irish boxer with three continental medals aside his name.
“This is a man’s one,” he said. “I’ve won the under 18s and the under 23s, but now I have the senior and Paddy and the boys can’t slag me anymore!
“The plan was to get the first round and I did that. I’ve been through a hell of a week: I boxed the number 1, I boxed the number 4 and I boxed the number 2 in the final. I took them all out.”
Certainly, this was no cakewalk.
After beating Austrian Arbi Charkaev in his European senior debut on Tuesday, Quigley entered medal territory on Wednesday when he defeated the German Stefan Haertel.
After booking a bronze, Quigley upped the ante and sent ripples through the boxing world when he sent world champion Evhen Khytrov crashing out in yesterday’s semi-final.
Quigley claimed a 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 win over a Ukrainian fighter with Olympic experience. It was a win that announced Quigley as one of the top middleweights in the world – and after this afternoon’s triumph he is the top middleweight in Europe.
What a remarkable six months it has been for Quigley.
In December, he defeated German Dennis Radovan in Russia 17-11 to win a European Under 23 title. Quigley’s big aim, all the while, though, was making the senior breakthrough in Ireland – and he did just that in February.
Having already seen off his old nemesis, Darren O’Neill, Quigley defeated Roy Sheahan 15-6 in the National Senior Middleweight final on a night of high emotion in the National Stadium for the Quigley clan.
The gas didn’t lift and he claimed a gold medal in a highly-rated multi-nations tournament, the Usti nad Labem Grand Priz in the Czech Republic in March, when he impressively dispatched Serbian’s Olympian Alexsandr Drenovak, 14-6.
John Joe Nevin had become the ninth Irish boxer to win European senior gold when he defeated Ukraine’s Mykola Butsenko in the Bantamweight final. Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes – who was unable to fight in his final due to a fractured nose – take home silver from another memorable championships for Billy Walsh’s boys who just keep delivering.
And now a Donegal man by the name of Jason Quigley will roll into Dublin airport’s arrivals hall tomorrow evening for that famous snap of the gold between the teeth.