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Jason Quigley: Nine minutes from a World title

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“Vanish, o night! Fade, you stars! Fade, you stars! At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!” – Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’

BY CHRIS MCNULTY
c.mcnulty@donegalnews.com

WHEN he presses play on his iPod in the moments before today’s World Middleweight final, Jason Quigley will listen to a powerful tone that has acted as his inspiration for yeas.

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The reasons behind his love of ‘Nessun Dorma comes not from a love of Pavarotti, but rather an admiration for Paul Potts’ rags to riches story.

In 2007, Welshman Potts was a shop assistant at his local Carphone Warehouse in Port Cashier when he won the Britain’s Got Talent show. His party piece of the time was ‘Nessun Dorma’.

Potts now has assets worth £5million. He hit the top and followed his dream.

The young Quigley took a keen interest and followed Potts’ story.

Quigley himself is almost at the summit of his own ascent – with three rounds, nine minutes, against Kazakhstan’s Zhanibek Alimkhanuly standing between the Ballybofey man and a World Championship gold medal.

One of Quigley’s endearing qualities is his positive energy and the belief he has in himself is frightening.

His demolition of the Russian, Artem Chebotarev, was a stunning display of the noble art.

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It was Quigley at his best.

Now, the 22-year old resident of The Beeches in Ballybofey stands on the cusp of something special.

“I’m not going to let anybody stop me from doing it,” he said.

His is a charisma that is rare in modern sport. He’s come the hard way, though, thanks to a sheer determination to make it to the top.

His dismantling of Chebotarev’s shell with a cunning and clever display of ring craft showed Quigley in almost every light possible: At every distance, Quigley could control his destiny. Or, as Conor Quigley would put it: “He absolutely boxed the head off him.”

Chebotarev landed at the semi-finals via some seriously impressive stop-offs. In thee of his four bouts, the Russian had the contest ended inside the distance.

Denis Thomas, Ross Weaver and Azizbek Abdugafurov were all beaten by TKOs by Chebotarev, who also ended the Championship hopes of the World number 1 and top seed, Brazilian Esquiva Falcao.

For Jason Quigley, though, it generally becomes a case of, the bigger they come, the harder they fall.

At the European Championships in June, Quigley had to defeat Ukraine’s number 1 seed, Evhen Khytrov in the semi-final.

“As Jason goes on in the tournament, he always gets better,” his father and coach, Conor, said from Almaty.

“Once he gets over the line, once he secures a medal, once he knows the penny is in the bag, it’s a matter of changing the colour. He loves changing the colour.”

Indeed, Quigley has never settled for a bronze medal at a Championship. Silvers are rare on the mantlepiece, too.

On Thursday evening, Quigley and the Irish team sat down and talked tactics. Chebotarev would be no push over. A game plan was devised – and executed to perfection by the Irish and European champion.

Billy Walsh, the Irish Head Coach, was puzzled. He needn’t have been.

“We sat down for hours trying to figure this guy out,” Walsh said.

Jason has risen to the occasion. The better quality the opponent, the better Jason has been.”

Walsh has seen Quigley rise from the young boy competing at the National Cadet Championships in front of an empty National Stadium to boxing for World titles.

He said: “Jason takes everything on board and he lives the life to the full. He doesn’t take any short cuts.”

Walsh has led the Irish boxers through a golden age and with the likes of Quigley and Joe Ward now coming of age, the future looks increasingly promising.

Walsh said: “The talent has always been here, but we have never actually harnessed it.

“With a bit of structure we have been able to deliver consistently. Now we’re in to doing things back-to-back because of the consistency of the training.

“If we stay still, everyone will catch up on us.”

Four times in the final round of the semi-final Chebotarev, under a cross-examination from Quigley, had to visit his corner to have blood wiped from his nose.

All the while, Quigley was the picture of cool – just as he had been when he entered the ring.

Quigley said: “That’s experience. That’s learning through the years that if you hurt a man that is when he is at his most dangerous.”

On Thursday night, Quigley lay awake, tossed and turned before he had enough of it. The restless and sleepless night was then punctuated by the sound of the American super middleweight Andre Ward snapping leather in a win over a Russian champion.

“I done it very similar to him,” Quigley said.

Paul Potts’ dream continues to inspire the Quigley dream.

Father and son, Conor and Jason Quigley, will speak today as they always do before the bout.

The spirit of the hard days in Ard McCool and The Beeches will be coursing in the veins for the Quigley’s.

Conor Quigley mentioned the other day on Twitter how ’15 yrs of hard work was defined in 9 minutes’.

Another nine today await before the ultimate prize can become a reality.

Billy Walsh believes he can do it.

“Absolutely,” he said.

“We said to him: ‘There is somebody going to win it, why can’t it be you?’ That is a fact.

“He has a fantastic unbeaten record and has three European gold medals.

“Now he is in a world final and the world is his oyster.

“If he believes he can do it, why can’t he?”

Quigley has the heart of a lion – and, against the home favourite, Alimkhanuly, joint seventh in the AIBA rankings with Quigley, in an intimidating and packed venue, he’ll need to call on it all.

But he feels ready.

He said: “This is my sport. This is my life and I put absolutely everything into it. I’ll die in that ring if I have to.”

As the light went out in Almaty last night, those familiar words will have been ringing.

Today, as he readies in the dressing room to walk with that confident stride into the arena, the lion’s den of the Baluan Sholak Palace of Culture and Sports in Almaty, they will be the words that sent him to battle: ‘At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!’

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