EXCLUSIVE BY CHRIS MCNULTY
ZAUR Antia believes there is much more to come from world silver medalist Jason Quigley.
The 22-year old Ballybofey man has had a stunning 2013: Winning his first Irish senior middleweight title, following that up by winning the European senior championships and going on to claim a silver medal at last month’s World Championships in Kazakhstan.
Quigley was beaten in the world final by Kazakhstan’s Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, his first defeat in 33 fights.
Antia, the IABA’s technical coach, insists that the best has yet to come from the Finn Valley ABC man.
“Perfection has no limit,” he says.
“You always have to improve. If you stand in one place and don’t improve yourself, the opponent will improve. There are always problems but we have to always feed ourselves with the best ideas. Performance is most important and then the winning and everything else will look after itself.
“Jason really is a very good person; a fantastic young man who trains hard, who listens, tries to learn and asks the right questions. He is very committed. He has the best lifestyle and believes God, which is the best thing in life.
“I met him quite a long time ago. I saw a young talent, but not only talent, but someone who pushed the talent and worked on the talent. There became a very good relationship between us. I wish everybody was built the same as Jason.
“He has great technique and tactical experience. When you get good physical condition, the most important plan is psychological. You have to develop in the gym first in the sparring and preparations and then you keep the boxer fresh for the competitions.
Quigley defeated Vijender Singh, Aston Brown, Zoltan Harcsa and Artem Chebotarv to reach the final in Almaty. With Anthony Fowler having to withdraw from their semi-final, Alimkhanuly had a significant edge against Quigley, whose semi-final win over Russian Chebotarev called upon all the weapons in his warchest.
Against Alimkhanuly, a class act whose path will cross with Quigley again. The reaction of Quigley to defeat was bitter disappointment. Quigley often says ‘second sucks’ – and the defeat in Almaty will grate him until he gains redemption.
As the tears flowed from Quigley in the immediate aftermath of the final, Antia could manage a smile. He knew then he’d be getting his boxer back with a renewed zip.
Antia said: “That tells you that he is still hungry. When we were in Beijing and the Olympics (2008) we had one silver and two bronze medals – believe me I was still not happy. The second time (London 2012), Katie Taylor got the gold medal, John Joe Nevin got the silver medal and we got two bronze medals. I am still angry about John Joe Nevin as well.
“What I saw with Jason was that he is still hungry. When I saw his tears, that tells me that he will not satisfy with this silver medal. That is important.”
Antia was first employed by the IABA in 2003 – and has been at Billy Walsh’s side for the golden period in Irish boxing. They’ve returned seven Olympic medals and have taken Irish boxing quite a step up the ladder.
Antia and Eric Donovan were at the Raphoe ABC on Saturday to conduct a session with 32 local boxers. Antia is a former three times Georgian light welterweight champion.
The success of now is in marked contrast to his first days in Ireland.
He said: “Boxing is growing in Ireland. When I came to Ireland in 2003, we had only one day for the training session. I go crazy!
“This made a problem because as boxer grows, coach grows as well and if you only train one day that will not improve you. You can go bad and this is no good. After that people worked in the federation and everything changed. The best thing that happened was when we had three medals in Beijing. That raised boxing and the four medals in London means that boxing is booming in Ireland.
“They need more work with the boxers and coaches. You have to open you eyes and look at the regions, reach them with new things. They are so smart they grow boxing. This will continue. Ireland, in the future, with proper approach, working together and the correct support, like from the Government, can be number one in the world.
“I came to Ireland ten years ago and I met the right people in the right places. We started work together and I used my connections in Russia, Ukraine, the post-Soviet countries where boxing is very strong. We grew our boxers at the training camps with these countries. They were coming to us and we were going to them and boxers improved.
“They really, really improved and today Ireland is one of the best in the world. Everybody in the world pays attention to Ireland and everybody worries when they draw Ireland.”
Antia sees things most others cannot. His knowledge of the sweet science is forensic.
He arrived in Ireland with minimal English, but now when he talks boxing you are left in no doubt about either its meaning nor the Georgian’s passion for the sport.
He said: “There is a formula of boxing.
“Show me your footwork and I tell you what kind of boxer you are. The technique is most important – good technique and good footwork. Most important after that is the powerful punch. That is my plan. And with tactics it is the attack, making the right attack at the right time. Don’t make the attack without protecting and that means good defending.
“Defence is very important, of course, and the transfer: Going from attack to defence, defence to attack. All those things we implement in the gym. In the gym we have to make it harder because in the competition it will be harder.”
Quigley is fast becomming the jewel in the crown of the IABA. Offers have come from the professional ranks and Quigley will compete in the World Series of Boxing for the Italia Thunder team. The National Senior Championships and the defence of his Irish belt is coming on the horizon too – and Antia believes Quigley should remain in the amateur game for the time being.
“We have good things as we know our weaknesses and we know our strengths,” he said on Quigley’s hopes for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
“We have to work to improve to make our strengths better and get rid of the weaknesses. The weakness can hurt us and that’s the plan: To work and work with the approach to get better.
“Jason, especially, because he is such a good boy. He knows the problems we have to sort out. If you don’t train properly, if you relax too much with the problems it is not good. The most important thing is the proper performance. Keeping the regime and routine are important for a normal lifestyle. Everything should be in balance.”
When Quigley wears the Irish vest, it is Antia who accompanies Walsh to his corner.
Antia knows Quigley’s game better than most. Perhaps it is only Conor Quigley who comes close.
When Quigley sits on the stool in those crucial few moments between rounds, Antia’s message is key.
“First of all I say: ‘You are good…you are good, but keep going’. You can only say two things. If there is something I don’t like then I say: ‘It’s ok, but it can be better if you do this’,” he says.
“There is no negativity. It is always positive.
“You can, you will, you are.”