CHANGES to our lifestyles plus gentrification in many major cities means that the old-fashioned greasy spoon is starting to go the way of the local pub. I’m talking about those proper places where they serve fried liver and the menu has been the same for a decade rather than the deli style facsimiles that serve a deconstructed full English that has been garnished with fennel, and is then served up on a spade.

It is a totally different kettle of fish when you visit the market towns that surround Manchester, though. You can barely move around Bury Market without stumbling across a proper café. When I arranged to meet Scott Quigg, 35-2-2 (26), at The Bury Cafe the place was heaving.

As I drank my first and so far only coffee of 2020 — one of those milky ones with a skin on top that they used to serve you in school — and waited for him to arrive, I realised that the smell of frying food was floating over to where I was sat. Then I realised it probably wasn’t the best place to meet a fighter who has to make weight.

“It doesn’t bother me,” said the former WBA super-bantamweight title-holder as he sat down for a catch-up with Boxing News. Bury born and bred, the 31-year-old knows the place well, as well as knowing what places like this mean to the community. “Cafes like this are what the people like and it keeps the centre going,” he said. “This place is hammered on a Saturday and even during the week.”

If you head out the of the café you can get to the town hall within minutes, the Castle Leisure Centre is also nearby, and on the way in I passed the school that Quigg left at the tender age of 15 with the consent of his parents in order to pursue his boxing career. That decision raised a few eyebrows yet for Quigg it was a life-changing moment.

It meant that he missed out on the rites of passage that take place when you leave school: that first summer of total freedom, drinks in either the park or the pub — if you looked old enough — and the transition to nights on the town. For Quigg, though, it was a case of making long-term gains as it removed temptation from his path and meant he could become an early full-time student of the university of the gym.

Photo: Mark Robinson

Despite a lack of formal schooling, Quigg had the nous to manage his own career from an early stage. He showed his negotiating skills when working to overturn a ban on boxing in Bury that was put in place as a bemusing reaction to Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ear back in 1997.

The sanction was a barrier to Quigg and that is the argument he made when taking his fight for the right to box at home to Bury’s councillors.

He won the right to fight at home then beat Andrey Kostin (rsf 1), Santiago Allione (KO 3) and Franklin Varela (rsf 7) at the Castle Leisure Centre between 2010 and 2011. “Me against Kostin was the first fight here for many years,” he recalled. “That is probably up there with the top three nights of my career. It was a big thing, a big occasion, and it makes me proud.”

Sadly, it is unlikely to happen again, he had hankered after a fight at Bury FC’s Gigg Lane only to see those hopes go up in flames when the club was expelled from the league last year due to haphazard management that led to the inability to field a team.

“Gigg Lane would have been ideal,” he said. “Unfortunately, the football club is gone now. The loss of the team was a massive loss to Bury. It gave the town a boost when matches were on. You’d see how busy and how much life there was about town on match days. There are people who lost jobs. People have lost their enjoyment of following the team at the weekend. They work all week and looked forward to that. We had core fans who have now had to miss out. The bad decisions were made from owners who aren’t from Bury and don’t really care about the club — it was a business to them.”

Getting back to the business of boxing, the last time we sat down Quigg was preparing for a WBO featherweight title shot against Oscar Valdez. He had talked about preparation, professionalism, and planning, then he missed out on making the weight by three pounds, forfeiting his right to fight for the title. It was an opening in his defence that some critics had been looking to exploit for years, with claims of ill-disciple or gamesmanship bandied about.

In mitigation, Quigg had been carrying an injury to his foot going into the fight, he told me that every effort had been made to make the weight and that he couldn’t give a damn what people had to say.

“Those last three pounds just wouldn’t shift,” he revealed. “I don’t care about these people who give out all this stick online. They haven’t got a clue what I tried to do to make the weight. It got to the point where I’d trained for four weeks with a fractured foot and I wasn’t going to kill myself to make the weight.

“I wasn’t going to put my health at risk by draining myself, especially as I was already hampered by my foot. I didn’t put on a load of weight overnight, either, so it wasn’t an advantage. You can’t do it if your body has already gone into shutdown. The intensity of the roadwork and the training wasn’t the same because of the foot.

“If you have never stepped into that ring or done what a boxer has to do then you can’t really understand it. People are entitled to an opinion, but too many of them take it too far. It would infuriate me when I was younger, I’d want to find them so they could say it all to my face, now I just find it irrelevant. I box because I love it, the opinions of others who don’t really don’t matter.”

The fight was brutal during the early going. Quigg’s nose was broken and he picked up a cut to his left eyebrow, Valdez had suffered a broken jaw in the fourth and lost a few teeth. Ironically, Quigg believes that the damage he inflicted on the titlist in that initial to and fro battle went against him.

“I enjoyed the fight,” admitted Quigg. “I just thought ‘Bastard!’ when I heard the nose crunch. I didn’t have any breathing problems with it because it was already bent so if anything it went back the other way a bit. The worst thing about it all was that his jaw went so he went on his bike. I’d have fancied my chances if it had stayed a shootout.”

Scott Quigg
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Some boxers make the decision to duck out of a fight like that once the physical damage starts to become too much. Victor Ortiz infamously pulled himself out when fighting Joselito Lopez because his jaw had been broken during an exchange in round nine. Quigg said that he can understand why a fighter might make that decision, he also told me that he understands why people often never forgive a ‘quitter’.

“It is probably the smart decision to make when people do that,” he said. “Boxing has got no friends, if you carry on too long it will get to you. The critics we get and the stick that we get when someone pulls themselves out is from people who probably wouldn’t even get in the ring in the first place. It is my instinct and mentality to carry on in a fight like that — everyone has to make their own choice. Some fighters make a choice that is right for them.

“Instinct makes you either carry on or think: ‘Shit, my jaw is broken or my nose has gone, do I carry on?’ If you decide to carry on you have to stick by that decision and the plan, if you don’t you could get hurt even more. If you are going to carry on you need to have control of your mind, because your mind is going to give signals that say ‘I can’t carry on’, so you have to keep control of your mind, keep your head, and cope under a crisis like that.”

Quigg posted a second-round comeback win against Mario Briones up at super-featherweight in October 2018 yet a bad bicep tear while preparing for a fight against Jayson Velez in April derailed his plans for 2019. A planned outing against his next opponent Jono Carroll on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jnr in December was spiked due to concerns that it could flare up again.

“I was sparring, I threw a left hook and I just felt a rip down my arm,” he said. “It just didn’t feel right. The x-ray revealed that I had ripped my bicep, it was literally hanging on by a thread, so it was a 95 per cent tear and I had ripped the tendon on my elbow — it was a double whammy.

“I went out to camp for the Saudi show and it didn’t go well. I held off sparring for as long as I could and sparred with one hand. The first five spars went well, the movement was coming, and then when the time came to let the left go I felt a little niggle in it. I got it checked and there was a little tear again, but not off the bone, so it was a risk. I decided that I needed to prepare properly so took the surgeon’s advice to pull out.”

Quigg once told me that no one beats Father Time. Rather than seeing the injuries as a sign that he is coming towards the end he believes that he has learned and adapted. He argued that the injuries have prevented us from bearing witness to Quigg Mk. 2.0 and we will see the best of him against Carroll.

“It is just one those things,” he answered when the question of age being more than just a number was put to him. “Maybe there are more miles on the clock yet I’m punching with these things [he lifted his fists] pretty much all the time. Boxing has an impact on your body so there is nothing that you can do about that. I am at physio three days a week because prevention is better than a cure.”

“The enjoyment would have to go,” he added when asked what would prompt the word ‘retirement’ to pop into his head. “If my body was shutting down you wouldn’t be able to do what you do in training and enjoy it, so if that stops you know it is time to pack it in. My body is fine, the injuries are part of the sport. I still enjoy what I do and can perform. I’m still doing things better than ever and improving as a fighter.”

“He is a dick,” spat Quigg when Carroll’s name came up. “After the Kiko Martinez fight he was asking for photos with me. I had nothing against him until there was talk of me fighting Tevin Farmer and he said: ‘Who the fuck is Quigg — I’ll smash him’. I thought: ‘Where did that come from?’

“He comes up with that much garbage you just expect it from him. My shutters were already down at the face-to-face. People get wound up, I’ve been there before. Talk as much s***e as you want, just make sure you get into that ring. He isn’t going to produce on the night — I won’t allow it.”

The fight’s relatively short turnover meant that getting a Visa to train in LA with Freddie Roach was not practical, so Quigg teamed up with Joe Gallagher again as the pair remained on good terms when parting company in 2017. “I didn’t want to be rushing about,” he revealed. “I wanted to do it properly so put the call through to Joe. We parted ways amicably so there was no issue there. Joe knows me, I know him, and together we will get this job done with no problems.”