DERRY KICKBOXER, Daniel ‘Pinta’ Quigley could, tomorrow night, become the Heavyweight Champion of the world!
SIMON COLLINS reports
Already that sentence sends shivers down the spine of the local fighter but history will be in the making as the hard-punching ‘Pinta’ ducks between the ropes in St. Columb’s Hall to contest the vacant International Sport Kickboxing Association (ISKA) title against French man, Pacome Assi.
Regardless of the outcome, it is already a significant achievement as ‘Pinta’ becomes the first Irish man to fight for the title on what is the first time a world professional kickboxing title is contested in the city.
Adding to the occasion will be the attendance of Dungiven’s WBA light-welterweight challenger, Paul ‘Dudey’ McCloskey who is taking a break from his training camp to cheer on the 25-year-old.
Already boasting both the ISKA European and World Cruiserweight titles, Quigley has dominated the division since his victory over the experienced Wayne Turner at the Clanree Hotel in 2008. He must now step up to 96 kilos for undoubtedly the toughest test of his professional kickboxing career.
And he is confident that he can become Ireland’s first professional heavyweight world champion kickboxer and add to his already bulging scrap-book of honours.
In excess of 850 people will cram into the Orchard Street venue tomorrow night and ‘Pinta’ - who will enter the ring to the soundtrack of the film, ‘Braveheart - wants to make it a night to remember for local fight fans.
“I feel like I’m in my prime now,” he explained “At 25 years of age, to be heavyweight champion of the world would be amazing. We started our preparations before Christmas because we knew this fight was coming up. I wanted to move up from the Cruiserweight division because I couldn’t get enough fights.
“I was struggling to keep the weight down at Cruiserweight because you have to stay at 85 kilos and I like to eat,” he laughed. “I’m more comfortable at this weight. I’ve stayed at 95 kilos for a while now and you have to be at 96 for the fight.”
His opponent, the 29 year-old French K1 fighter, arrived in Derry yesterday and boasts a fearsome record but Quigley refuses to be intimidated and is confident his preparations and intense fighting style will prove too much for Assi.
“We have a motto at PT’s that we like to follow, it’s ‘Seek and Destroy’, so that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. As soon as the bell goes I’ll be going straight in and going at him.
“It’s just my style of fighting. Hopefully I can get a bit of payback for the Irish against the French after the World Cup,” he joked.
“If you have him under pressure, he doesn’t like it and he goes backwards and drops his guard. He’s been on some big K1 fights and he’s fought live on Eurosport. But I don’t want to know how good he is until after the fight. I don’t want to show him too much respect.
“People have been stopping me in the street, wishing me luck. I don’t think it’ll sink in what I’ve achieved until I’m older when I can show my children what I’ve done. I keep all the cut-outs from the newspapers and keep a scrapbook of all my fights, my European title stuff and now my world title fights so hopefully this will be another one to add to my collection.”
It will be a momentous occasion for the Derry man and he can be forgiven for feeling the pressure ahead of tomorrow night’s title decider.
“The nerves are kicking in now,” he added. “I was saying to Paddy (Toland) last week that I was feeling a bit too nervous but he took me aside and told me I needed the nerves as long as I can overcome them on the night.
“I’ve got that bit more experience now. I’m more confident in myself. I’ve seen videos of him and I know he’s big and strong but I think I’m going to be too fit for him.
“I’m not taking anything for granted,” he continued. “I don’t want to study him too much because you start showing him too much respect then. I’ll watch a few videos and then it’s all about looking after yourself.”
In his corner will be three-time world amateur kickboxing champion, Paddy Toland who, he believes, provides him with an added advantage.
“It’s great to have someone like Paddy in my corner,” he explained. “He’s one of the heads of ISKA, that’s worldwide and he won ‘Coach of the Year’ last year. That’s a massive achievement, to be the best out of all the kickboxing coaches in the world. So to have a man like that in your corner is fantastic.
“He’s taken us up to professional level. He tells us he now gets more of a buzz watching us win titles than when he used to win titles. I was kind of worrying about the fight last week but he puts you at ease because he has faith in me.
“The hardest part is waiting to get into the ring while all the other fights are going on, but once you get into the ring you’re grand. I’ve always had to wait to the end so I’m used to it. I’ll try and soak up the atmosphere.
“If I win the title then I’ll defend it and if I have to travel to France for a rematch afterwards then, I’d love to do that. There will be a whole list of top calibre fighters looking to fight you.”
Finding the time required to devote to the sport and remain as a professional has its obvious financial strains and Quigley is grateful for all the support he receives.
“I’d like to thank my sponsors for their help, Lifestyle Fitness at the Sports Complex and Dan McLaughlin who owns Dan’s Bouncy Castles. If anyone else wants to help out and become a sponsor I’d be extremely grateful as it would help me concentrate on my fighting.”
Pinta takes kickboxing classes for beginners at PTs Gym, Kilea on Monday and Wednesday nights from 7.30 p.m., everyone welcome to attend.
Also on the bill tomorrow night, which starts at 6 p.m., will be Irish light-middleweight champion, Aidan Lafferty who will fight for the Commonwealth title and world middleweight champion, Tommy McCafferty.