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Could journeymen be made obsolete?

Jamie Quinn
Philip Sharkey
With startling honesty about his role in the sport, Jamie Quinn tells Lewis Watson why journeymen could become a thing of the past

“IT WAS the single most embarrassing day of my life,” Jamie Quinn revealed to Boxing News from outside his Granddad’s house in Stockport, Cheshire. Quinn was referring to a headline in a national tabloid newspaper that declared him and his October 2019 opponent Qasim Hussain as Britain’s Worst Boxers.

“It’s fair to say I didn’t sleep well that night,” the 30-year-old continued. “Still, a lot of people showed their support after that, which was nice. We aren’t just bums or punchbags which people outside the sport seem to think.”

In the wrong hands, journeyman can be perceived as a derogatory term, but to Quinn and many fighters, it’s a badge of honour. But he has not boxed since March and he has no idea when he will again.

“I’m worried that this break is going to make journeyman obsolete in the future,” Quinn confessed. Boxing’s current hiatus has led fighters like 7-102-2 Quinn to consider their futures.

“There seems to talk about cutting our wages which is entirely unfair. But if they can’t fill buildings up, then they can’t get the money from the tickets that we rely on to get paid. It’s going to have a huge impact on the journeyman.”

Quinn lives modestly with his grandfather, earning £70 a week through carer’s allowance. Personal training has allowed him to make extra income to supplement his boxing career, but he has found himself surviving on limited savings since the pandemic surfaced.

Boxing’s shutters crashed down in mid-March, and most discussions since have focused around the impact at the top of boxing’s food chain. Quinn displays no delusion of grandeur, but fears fighters in his position may be left behind as the sport clambers back to its feet.

“Everyone is going to want to see the stars – they can charge more for pay-per-view to recoup the losses,” he added. “This won’t affect the fighters at the top; it’ll be the guys at the bottom that will suffer the most. These prospects will have to take risks earlier in their careers, which is a good thing for them, as it will get them noticed quicker and they’ll be able to make money quicker. But who’s going to want to fight a guy like me? A journeyman like me where they can’t prove themselves and aren’t getting paid much money?”

“I don’t have any sponsors or anything. It’s alright for some of these prospects who have their sponsors and can sell all the tickets,” Quinn said. “Some of these prospects get their arses wiped in boxing, whereas there’s someone like me who’s been fighting since they were nine, gone through the amateurs, but I won’t get that opportunity. They’ll take one look at our record and think, ‘we can’t put him on TV can we?’”

There was a time, six years ago, that Quinn considered himself a prospect. “I thought I’d be able to grab a few mini-titles,” he explained. “I wasn’t aiming for a world title or to be a superstar. I won my first fight, but I struggled with selling tickets. I didn’t know how it worked. Having to pay for the opponents if you’re a home fighter and then having to sell tickets as well seemed hard work. I didn’t really want to go down the path of being a journeyman; it was more the money that turned my head.

“In my second fight, I didn’t sell enough tickets, so I had to pull out. My manager Joe [Pennington] then got me one on the road, so I took that [l pts 6 vs George Thomson in 2014]. I took it a bit too lightly and ended up taking a beating, but it was nice to get the money without having any pressure attached. After that, I kept getting asked to take fights on the road. It started from there.”

Through understanding the benefits of playing the role of an away fighter, Quinn realised early in his career that he could settle into a comfortable lifestyle on the road. “We get £1,000 for four rounds, £1,500 for six and £1,800 for eight and so on,” he explained. “You can get more if you take fights last minute, or fight someone that they are struggling to match. Sometimes the promotor and matchmakers will really put their money where their mouth is.”

Like when Zelfa Barrett needed an opponent in 2015. “Zelfa’s opponent had failed his medical with the doctor, with a cold sore or something daft like that, I got the call, and I’d literally just had my tea and was out walking my dog,” Quinn said. “They said they’d chuck me an extra 400 quid, came and picked me up and put us on last. It was great. One minute I’m walking the dog, and the next minute I’m back home a grand-and-a-half richer!”

Quinn would lose to Barrett over four rounds, twice, and has since shared the ring with some talented fighters in-and-around the lightweight and light-welterweight limit. Sam Bowen, Issac Lowe, Anthony Cacace, Sam Maxwell and Stephen Smith have all recorded victories over the Stockport fighter.

“You’ve got to make sure you’re ready,” he explained. “Make sure you’re fit and prepared for the phone call. You can usually figure it out after the first couple of rounds. If they are strong lads and going to do me some damage, I’ll keep on my toes and lively throughout, throwing limited punches back and keeping my chin tucked in. If they get too close and rough, I’ll tie them up, get hold of their arms and get to the other side of the ring. It’s not as easy as it sounds. If you get those flashy boxers without any power, I find it’s better to live in their boots and keep close smothering their styles. You’ve just got to be prepared; you’ve got to be ready to come across anything – like any job it’s mixing the rough with the smooth.”

Quinn’s boxing record contains only seven victories but his hunger to get the ‘W’ strikes now and again, sometimes when he least expects it. “I’ll be honest, two of my last wins on the road I had no intention to win. One occasion, there was a proper noisy crowd that was winding me up, and the kid [Sam Larkin] had only had one fight before, so I thought I might have a chance here anyway. I was only there for a payday, but I heard the crowd and they were giving me some real abuse, so I was like, ‘av this’ and I beat him,” he said.

“The sport wouldn’t be the same without journeyman,” Quinn continued before admitting, “but to be honest it would be fairer. It would be a sport, not a business. But I’m not sure if it would work like that. Promoters are obsessed with fighters who still have their ‘0s’, so if they all get it on, then they’d make a killing and the shows would be great. No idea how these prospects would get on because they’ve effectively paid for their wins with ticket money, and protected their ‘0s’ that way.”

“I’m ready to fight again,” Quinn concluded. “I’m ready for the phone call now, but I don’t know when it’s going to come. It might not ring again.”

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