By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two years ago, exciting Irish prospect Jason Quigley aborted his dream of competing as an amateur at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and turned professional, a decision he has not once regretted.
Though he readily concedes he will be keeping an eye on the Rio Games via television, he is much more focused on a breathtaking start to his professional boxing career that has produced nine knockouts in his first 10 bouts.
Quigley's next appointment in the ring will be on May 7 in Las Vegas where he will face Mexico's James de la Rosa, and his fans will no doubt expect another early knockout from a fighter who has only once been taken the full distance by an opponent.
"You get in there with a game plan to win the fight, and whether that means going the distance or taking the guy out, that can change at any second in a fight," unbeaten middleweight Quigley told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"I've trained in the gym and I am prepared to go the full 10 rounds, to take this the whole way and come off as a decision winner as well.
"But at the end of the day, I am a fighter and if I get that opportunity to take this guy out early, then I'm going to take it for sure."
The 24-year-old from County Donegal has compiled a perfect 10-0-0 record as a professional, having ended his amateur career after a stellar 2013 campaign highlighted by a gold medal at the European Championships and a silver at the world championships.
Asked if he had any regrets over missing out on the Rio Olympics, Quigley replied: "Not one. I served my country proud as an amateur, I wore that Irish vest with pride and I fought my heart out every fight I put on that Irish vest.
"And every time I get into the ring as a professional, I am wearing that Irish flag around me. So I am doing my country proud every time I get into that ring and I am representing my country every single time.
"Of course, when I watch the Olympic Games on TV, am I going to be thinking, 'Oh jeez, it would have been great to fight there'? Of course I will, it's only natural. But would I go back and change anything? Never."
What has changed for Quigley, who will be fighting on the Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez-Amir Khan undercard on May 7, is his approach to boxing since he joined the professional ranks in April 2014.
"Coming from amateur boxing, it's a different sport from professional boxing," said the Irishman, who is managed by Sheer Sports. "In amateur boxing, you open your toes, you run in and out, pop, pop, pop. But you can't do that for 12 rounds.
"You've got learn to settle down, you've got to learn to relax, you've got to learn to put your punches together and make them count.
"It's not all about just hitting the target, it's about hitting the target with force behind it and that's what I have been working on, and it's been coming together great."
Quigley, who delivered the fourth first-round knockout of his professional career when he stopped Mexican Freddy Lopez in his most recent bout in March, has his 'big picture' sights set on becoming the best middleweight in the world.
"This is why I'm in the game, this is why I've made the sacrifices that I've made, this is why I've left my family and friends back at home in Ireland," he said. "I want to be the best in the world, no matter who's out there.
"Canelo has a belt right now. Daniel Jacobs has a belt. All these guys have what I want. They are the guys on my radar as my targets but of course I have hurdles, I have obstacles in my path before I get there and James de la Rosa is one of them."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)