FOR the dilettantes who dabble in boxing as a hobby, retirement from our full-time “day jobs” is a distant land, and one that is moving further and further away under austerity. It’s a place where we will stop to draw breath for what will probably seem like a few moments before old age and infirmity come creeping in.
For boxers, though, retirement happens early, sometimes suddenly. Still relatively young men and women, they are left staring into an abyss of years with their first, defining calling now behind them. In many cases they end up tumbling into a chasm of regrets: ‘Did I make the right decisions? Did I work hard enough? Was I true to myself?’
Scott Quigg, 34-1-2 (25), certainly will not enjoy retirement when it comes calling, he relishes training and fighting too much, but he told Boxing News that he has put measures into place to ensure that he does not look back wistfully on his career once it is over.
The Bury-based boxer thought long and hard following his February 2016 decision loss to Carl Frampton. Accused of starting slowly and ceding advantage, as he had also done against Yoandris Salinas in October 2013 (a majority draw), Quigg shouldered the blame for some squandered early rounds.
“Sometimes if you are in with a massive puncher you can’t start too fast,” he said. “With the two fights where I started a bit cautious it is me who is in the ring. We come up with plan in the gym and I followed the instructions, but I could have changed it in the fight so it came down to me.”
Quigg also came out of the Frampton loss with a broken jaw, which forced him to take time away from the ring to contemplate his past, present and future. Eventually, this thought process prompted him to take the plunge and move to America full-time. He had enjoyed busman’s holidays to Freddie Roach’s LA-based Wild Card Boxing gym before and decided that the time was right for an amicable split with Joe Gallagher in order to try something completely new as his journey entered a crucial stage. They had one last fight together, a ninth-round stoppage over Jose Cayetano in December 2016, before parting company.
Under Roach, Quigg has scored victories over Viorel Simion [w pts 12] and Oleg Yefimovych [w rsf 6] but both drew mixed reviews.
“I’ve come out more aggressive in my last few fights because of who I was fighting,” Quigg explained about the perceived foolhardiness. “We’ve been working on getting behind the jab in the gym, using more head movement and just practising good, smart pressure fighting.
“People might look at my last few performances and think it is very crash, bang, wallop, but there are subtle little things going on too. I might have been more aggressive, especially in the last one when I got a little bit complacent because I wasn’t fearful of his power so was a bit reckless at times.”
His relationship with Gallagher has remained strong yet the lure of the US, particularly the Wild Card, was stronger and dovetailed with his desire to ensure that he could eventually walk away from boxing without any lingering ‘What ifs?’ trailing behind him.
“I just needed a change,” he said. “I felt I was getting a bit stale. It was nothing to do with the training, I’d been there for six years and think I needed to freshen things up and Joe agreed. I’m lucky that I’ve been around good people, [former trainer] Brian [Hughes MBE] taught me a lot then I spent six years with Joe. I saw Joe deal with the business side of things and took a lot from that, I’m appreciative of that and the time he spent with me. We had a good win against Cayetano and then parted on good terms.
“I didn’t leave because of Frampton, I left because I didn’t want to be sat on the couch in 10 years thinking: ‘I wish I’d have gone to America’. I know that I’ll have done what I wanted to do in my career and hopefully achieved what I wanted to achieve, and beating Valdez would help me with that.”
“When I do hang up the gloves I will have no regrets, I’ll have been as good as I could ever have been,” he added.
“There will be no excuses over drinking or not putting enough effort in. I’ll retire when I want to retire and that day will come when my body tells me it is time.
“If I start to slip — no one beats Father Time — or I slow down then I’ll know it is time to pack it in.” When asked if the chance to stop and reflect following the Frampton fight had come at an opportune time, the 29-year-old thought for a second then said: “Are you taking the p**s?” There was a moment of silence before he added: “I didn’t choose to have a break, the broken jaw forced it on me.”
This time the silence came from our end. Stumped and about to stumble into the next question, BN was put out of its misery by the former British and WBA super-bantamweight title-holder. “I’m winding you up,” he said with an accompanying chuckle.
“Don’t get me wrong, the injury meant I had to have a break. It gave me the chance to think about how the camp went and what I needed to do to get back to where I needed to be. I sit down and evaluate things to see if I’ve made mistakes or need to change anything. After that one, I had a lot more time to do that and I saw certain things that I hadn’t seen before. It is a big injury, but I never worried about it going again.
“When I came back to the gym I was sparring and just thought: ‘If it goes, it goes’. If I was going to have those thoughts in my mind I might has well have packed it in. If a footballer comes back from a serious break they still have to go into hard tackles without the slightest hesitation because if you hesitate you will get hurt, especially in boxing.
“If you don’t give 100 per cent you are in trouble and are disrespecting what you do. Boxing isn’t a game, people can and have been hurt so you have to take it seriously. If not, you may as well go away and do something else.”
No one could ever accuse Quigg of half-stepping when it comes to his profession. His dedication even reached the point of ridicule in some quarters when he revealed the full extent of his almost fervent commitment to the cause. ‘Eat, train and sleep’ is more than just a mantra for Quigg, it is his entire life. So much so that the shock of the injury and subsequent layoff also impacted on those closest to him.
Although it’s hard to envisage Quigg sitting around watching Loose Women, eating rag pudding, chips, peas and gravy — his favourite meal, from his nan’s chippy — before throwing a series link down on Diagnosis Murder, he did end up spending a lot more time in the house. He found himself nestled under the feet of his parents and with the small circle of people who are close to him.
“Oh yeah, they hated me, I think they wanted to belt me and break my jaw again!” he joked. “They were used to me being out and about training then coming home and going to bed before starting all over again. They got more time with me, and obviously we enjoyed it, but they could see how much the defeat hurt and how much boxing means to me. They were there behind me, supporting me and telling me that the jaw would heal and I’d come back.
“Because I don’t drink or anything like that I have always had a small circle. I’ve seen people suffer defeats and then all the people that were around are no longer around. I’ve always been observant of other people, how they are treated when they are doing well and what happens when they are not. I try to learn from other peoples’ mistakes so that I don’t make them myself. You can see what happens with them and avoid it.”
Sophocles wrote that ‘Children are the anchors of a mother’s life’, which was turned into the Mother’s Day-friendly fridge magnet slogan: ‘Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life’. In Quigg’s case, the saying applies both ways. His mother, Lynsay, helps out in camp, regularly takes him on the pads and will join him in LA. “My mum and [fiancée] Bev are the two people I spend most of my time with, they were supportive after I lost and you need those good people behind you,” he revealed.
“Your mum doesn’t need to see you with a broken jaw so she could have tried to convince me to go another way and just enjoy life. It was the opposite with my mum. She is part of the camp, part of the training team, and it is nice to have her out there.
“People know that my mum comes with me. They all know her now as part of the team and no one finds it strange. The relationship to me and the support she gives is something they all admire. I’ve moved in with Bev now. We’ve got a nice house and all that, but if anyone asks me I tell them home is where my mum is, and that’s the way it will always be.”
Not to mention when you move out of home you discover that it was your mother who kept the biscuit tin and chocolate drawer stocked for snacking.
“Yeah, the first thing I do when I go back home to my mum’s is go to the cupboards and the fridge,” Quigg concurred. Albeit only when not in full training camp, of course.
That said, Quigg is not quite ready to draw a line under his career, not least because of his sense that he still has some unfinished business with Frampton should they both continue to win at their new weight. He said: “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got some years left. I can only see me winning this fight. Then it opens big doors, like the possibility of a rematch with Frampton or another fight with Valdez.”