Monday 11 December 2017

Quigley positive after final loss

John O'Brien

So steep has been his ascent through the world amateur middleweight ranks these past few months, so sharp his appetite to climb higher, that it will weigh heavily on Jason Quigley this morning that he cannot call himself world champion.

Quigley battled fiercely in the 75kg final in Almaty yesterday but met a brick wall in the shape of home fighter, Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, and was forced to give best, losing all three rounds on the judges' scorecard. For the Finn Valley 22-year-old, there was crushing disappointment, but not an ounce of shame. In reaching the final, Quigley had survived four tough fights to become the first Irish boxer to contest a world championship decider.

That Alimkhanuly had enjoyed an extra day's rest – having received a bye into the final – gave him, unquestionably, an advantage, but the power he exerted, as well as the composure he showed, was, at times, devastating and hugely impressive to witness.

Afterwards, Quigley tried to come to terms with defeat, his first such experience in 33 bouts. "It's just a shame I couldn't go that one step further," he said, fighting another losing battle, this time with his emotions. "It's been a dream of mine from day one and for my family too. I knew before I went in he was a good lad. I'll probably go away and look at things and see the positives. But it's hard."

In truth, he could have few complaints. Before Quigley's bout, the home nation had already plundered three gold medals, but Alimkhanuly quickly swatted aside any fleeting notions that he might need the help of some erratic judging to hold sway. In April in a tournament in Belgrade, Alimkhanuly had been decisively beaten by Zoltan Harcsa, the same fighter easily dispatched by Quigley in Wednesday's quarter-final, but that formline proved woefully deceptive. The Kazakh, just 20, proved himself one of the rising stars of the middleweight division.

For Quigley, the imperative was a quick start, imposing himself on his opponent, silencing the noisy home crowd. That plan never reached lift-off, however. After a cagey opening, Alimkhanuly caught him with a solid left midway through the round and dropped Quigley to the canvas. That meant the concession of a point which wasn't disastrous, but the confidence boost it handed Alimkhanuly proved more devastating.

Quigley was chasing the fight thereafter but, for all his bravery, never quite caught up.

"We couldn't ask any more," Ireland head coach Billy Walsh said afterwards. "He's had five very tough fights in this competition. The semi-final was a grueller. To have to come back less than 24 hours later while his opponent had a walkover was a telling factor. I could see the fatigue in his punches. But he left everything out there, to the soles of his boots. He's a legend."

Overall, Walsh can reflect on another fine major tournament. Given John Joe Nevin's defection to the professional ranks, a silver and bronze return was an honorable achievement. While talk of others following Nevin's lead won't abate any time soon, in Quigley and Joe Ward, Walsh will know he has a solid foundation on which to base an assault on the Rio Olympics in 2016.

"We wanted to bring back that gold medal," he said proud and unvanquished. "We'll just have to wait another while."

Sunday Independent

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