AFTER a long and mostly monotonous journey that involved, variously, two trains, a London tube and a Manchester tram, I meet Action Images photographer Craig Brough on a suitably anonymous Bury side street. Together, we eye the humble façade that heralds the house of Scott Quigg. When the host grants us access, our initial presumptions are confirmed. A narrow passageway gives way to a small utility and trophy room on the left then an average-sized lounge directly ahead of us.
Wet clothes are strewn across the radiator – a remnant, Quigg is quick to insist, not of any slovenliness on his mother’s part, but a play fight the previous evening with his 17-year-old sister – while a lively Jack Russell/Pug cross, later identified as Wilfredo (after the legendary Gomez), can be seen through the door that leads into the garden, animatedly jumping up at the barrier blocking his route to home and master. This could be any suburban family home in the North West, little marking out either the quiet road or the property itself as the residence of a reigning ‘world’ champion – the inverted commas are designed to pacify boxing’s raging hardcore fanbase who contend that Quigg’s WBA 118lbs belt is inherently inferior, due to the haunting presence in that division, for the majority of his reign, of a Super champion crowned by the same avaricious sanctioning body.
After granting us access, Quigg is away like a whippet, loath to ruin, at the last minute, the healthy lunch he has been preparing. Displaying adroit multi-tasking skills, Scott grills salmon, while simultaneously steaming vegetables and boiling mushy peas.
That Quigg prepares his own meals serves as just one indicator of a compulsive obsession with boxing that precludes friends, fun – at least of the kind that you or I would recognise – and distraction of any kind. The 26-year-old has not tasted alcohol since coming of age, refuses to leave his comfy environs for a game of pool because it necessitates standing up when he would be otherwise horizontal, and is considering employing his mum as ‘Best man’ when he weds long-suffering fiancée Bev, whom he rarely sees during the week. I am in fact lucky to be accommodated at all, as Quigg usually sleeps at this time, fulfilling a need for slumber that his nightly eight hours somehow fail to satisfy. Quigg’s singular focus is at once admirable and alarming. As we recline on the sofa, Scott talking through mouthfuls of his self-made feast, it becomes clear that boxing success is not his primary objective; it’s his only one.
“People go to me, ‘You don’t do anything, you’re boring, you only box’, but this is all I wanna do,” he says, impaling a carrot with his fork. “After my last fight, I went to Dubai with the girlfriend and all I’m thinking about is, from the moment I woke up, ‘I can go running now, do a bit in the gym then chill all day.’ I’d spent a whole year in the gym! That’s the point where it affects my girlfriend. She has to live half of her life like me, we don’t do what normal couples do. We can’t go out eating all the time, I don’t drink at all, but I refuse to go to Manchester and have something to eat while she has a few drinks; I won’t put myself in that environment because I don’t like it. In a way it’s selfish but it’s the way I am because it’s got me to where I am today, so why am I gonna change? I know when I finish boxing I’ve got a lot of making up to do and I’m very lucky to have someone who’s supportive like that, because nobody else would put up with me, because I’m so diligent.
“The other night, she come round and I’ve got [Mexican lighter-weights great] Ricardo Lopez on, you know ‘Finito’, and I’m watching him for about an hour, just sat there. She sat there too because she’s just there to spend time with me. If I weren’t with her I wouldn’t be getting with anyone.”
They have spent the last six years together and while it’s hard to picture the reticent Quigg ever actually approaching his partner, it comes as little surprise the pair met in a gym. The boxer believes he was “mature” from a very young age, but the drive that now consumes him can be attributed to other catalysts. Hearing stories of the way in which his father missed out on the dream of becoming a professional footballer – an ambition Quigg inherited – and watching his older brother flounder in two sports through similarly inconsistent dedication, have each had a significant effect on Scott, while the fighter’s indefatigable work ethic mirrors that of his mother.
“My dad grafted, he’s a window-fitter and ran the factory floor, but my mum… she used to do a milk round at half-four in the morning, she’d have three parcel rounds through the day, then she’d work at my nan’s chippy,” Quigg recalls, more than a decade later still apparently in awe, as he scrapes together the last of his peas. “My mum’s grafted so hard to give us the best. She funded my first two training trips to America and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
“I was up yesterday at five in the morning, me mum was timing me in the pool. Me giving everything I’ve got and seeing my mum there, nothing could drive me as much as that, because of what she did when we were growing up. I’d do anything for my mum. She’s one of a kind and not only is she my mum, we’re best mates. If my mum was to see me get beat, it would crucify her and crucify me and I don’t fear anybody, I fear losing and that’s why I train like I do.”
Recounting the lessons learned from the relative failings of his dad and brother evokes some endearing self-awareness. “My dad was a semi-pro footballer and he were very good, he should have made it professional,” Quigg notes, finally putting his cleared plate to one side. “He might have gone out and had a few beers instead of staying behind for that extra couple of hours practising. That’s why he fell short, he told me that. My brother was told the same but he chose to ignore it, whereas I listened and didn’t make the same mistakes. Still now, I’m the first in the gym and the last out, and that’s the way it’s gotta be until the day you retire.
“My brother was a very good footballer and Thai boxer, naturally better than me at both. He didn’t have the drive and the will to become the best; because it come natural he didn’t have to try. I’ve been given a natural gift in determination – and a bit of ability – but I’m not as naturally gifted as other people; I have to work at things.”