In former times, a journeyman was a worker who had finished learning a trade and who was employed by someone rather than working on his or her own. Collins English Dictionary.
In the context of boxing, the term ‘journeyman’ has a slightly different meaning. The men and women who travel the country, fighting the up-and-comers, often at a moment’s notice. This is Jamie Quinn’s life. There are other strands to his existence of course – his personal training work, walking the dog, fishing, along with being the registered carer for his Grandad.
“Somebody asked me a question on Instagram – ‘Why do they call you a journeyman?’ I was a bit stunned by it because I was like, ‘I don’t know!’
"I thought it was because we travel up and down the country, always on a journey! This guy than said he thought it was because we were always helping prospects on their journey! I said, ‘Do you know what, I’d never thought of it like that.’ Anyway, I take no offence from it, but I prefer ‘Road Warrior!”
It is a bright, warm Thursday morning and Jamie’s throwing a tennis ball for his dog Ruby, a German Shepherd cross, on a large field close to the house he shares with 73-year-old Kevin Quinn. It’s been a week peppered with hospital visits for his beloved Grandad who has dementia - “His name’s actually George. When I brought him to the hospital the other day, the nurses were calling him George. We’ve always known him as Kevin! Turns out he didn’t like ‘George’ when he was younger so told people to call him Kevin!”
While the ‘have gloves, will travel’ mantra is true, Jamie won’t leave Grandad for long – it’s the first consideration when accepting fights. Home is a tight-knit council estate in Romiley, Stockport on the outskirts of Greater Manchester, surrounded by fields and rolling hills that stretch to the nearby Peak District – “It’s a million miles from the big city, this. I love it round here. You never get bored.”
The pair live in the house Jamie grew up in, although there were spells living over the road with his mother. “I was always back and forth. I’d have a little fall-out with me mum and then stay with me [late] Grandma and Grandad. I’ve been solid with my Grandad for about 12 years now.”
It is all a far cry from the man who fights under the moniker ‘Devil Child.’ The name was coined by a coach at a boxing camp in Wales when Jamie was a kid. More to do with his cheeky exploits outside the ring. It stuck.
Inspired by his uncle Ste, who was a schoolboy champion, Jamie started his boxing path as a nine-year-old at Bredbury Stockport Boxing Club. He quickly warmed to the sport, eventually binning his first love – “I wanted to be a professional rugby player, but I was too small!”
‘Quinny’ is one of the busiest and certainly one of the best boxers of his type currently operating on the UK professional circuit. A familiar sight on the undercard of small hall shows to big arena bills – highly respected trainer/manager Joe Pennington always in the corner.
From 121 fights there are 111 defeats (only three stoppages), seven wins, two draws and one no contest. The record is deceiving. Fighting in the away corner is an art form in itself - teach the prospect a few lessons, provide a test whilst not getting hurt or stopped. Pop out the odd win but be very careful.
“In my first year as a pro, I never went in to lose. I used to always have a go,” Jamie says, before launching the ball once again. “There’s a few I definitely won but they’ve not given it us. Then the phone’s stopped ringing. That’s when I started to realise the game.
“To go in there and have a fight, it’s hard work. It’s tiring and every time I let my hands go, I leave my head open. I’m putting myself at risk. If I get stopped or get a cut, I can’t fight for 28 days. When you’ve got fights lined up, why take the risk? There’s nothing fun about getting hit. It’s horrible.
“You can’t be a good journeyman without being a good boxer. You could probably be a good punch bag if you’ve got a hard head! People don’t realise what goes into it. These prospects are always full of tricks, and you come up against a different person each time. You come across all different styles, so you have to be ready for whatever style comes at you. If you’ve got no boxing ability, the last thing you should be is a journeyman.”
Ruby and Jamie tire of throwing the ball. The UK’s mini-heatwave is taking its toll – mainly on the dog. Part two of the day is about to commence. Grandad is being looked after by Jamie’s mother, so he takes Ruby back to the house, picks up his fishing kit and training bag before heading off on the short journey to the Peak Forest canal.
“I like to fish for carp at Etherow [Country Park], but when you’ve only got a couple of hours to spare, I head down here. I just like being outside. Even if I don’t catch anything, I’d rather be sat here than sat in the garden or me dusty room. If you catch something, it’s a bonus.”
It is a tranquil setting, a small forest running down one side of the canal, with an old mill building on the other casting a perfect mirrored reflection across the water. The odd cyclist heads past down the canal path, otherwise, all is serene. Jamie unfolds his fishing chair, and chats as he sorts the rod, meticulously threading bait over the hooks.
“After all the chaos boxing brings, it’s good to have a bit of time to meself. You can’t beat it when it’s sunny like this. You wouldn’t catch me here when it’s pissing down!”
When a boxer is as active as Jamie Quinn, the work/life balance is key. Training is a little more laid back than is the case for other fighters. Keeping the pounds off is not a problem for a man who has campaigned across five weight divisions from featherweight (9st) to welterweight (10st 7lbs).
“Through the lockdown, I had a bit of time away from the ring so when I got back into training, we had to do a lot of sparring to up the tempo. But I’ve not got much of a routine, I just play it by ear. Sometimes I’ll look out my window and if it’s pissing down, I’m not going to want to go for a run. If I feel like going for a run, I’ll go for a run.
“But I wouldn’t box if I didn’t enjoy it,” he says casting out once again, eyes transfixed on the still water of the canal. “Some people think I’m crazy for doing it. I think they’re crazy for working in an office, doing the same thing every day. Seeing the same people, same faces. That’d send me insane, that.”
The occasional, “Ooh, might have a bite” punctuates the chat as he continues to gaze at the red-tipped float bobbing gently in the murky green water. But it is not happening, there will be no catch today and it is time to pack up in any case. The gym beckons.
The drive from Romiley to Pear Mill in Bredbury takes roughly ten minutes. The huge red-brick Edwardian building, a former cotton spinning mill with a white pear-shaped concrete dome on top, is home to dozens of retail outlets, offices, and other businesses, including ‘Magic Hatton Boxing & Fitness.’
The head coach is former European welterweight champion Matthew Hatton. Now training professionals, including his nephew Campbell, and working on community projects with boxing charity Maverick Stars Trust, Matt has provided a space for Jamie to conduct his personal training sessions.
“The venue where he was working shut down, I’ve got a great venue here so he’s good to have along. He’s a busy guy! Fair play to him,” Matt says. “Quinny’s boxed at such a good level. When you look at his record, he’s been in with a who’s who. He’s only been stopped a handful of times, which is absolutely amazing. Shows what a tough guy he is. He’s got his trade absolutely boxed off.”
First client this evening is a local man in his 30s called Graham. The session comprises warm-ups, bags, pads and circuits in the sweltering gym. Another familiar face wanders in. Scott Williams, 32, is a fellow ‘Road Warrior’ who grew up on the same estate and boxed as a young amateur with Quinny. With 13 pro fights to his name, Scott is yet to register a win, but he understands the business inside out.
“I didn’t enter the game to be a champion and get wins all the time,” he says with a smirk. “I did it to better myself, better my family and have a career – something I can be proud of one day. I’ve been on the wrong path before, so it was time to better myself. Boxing’s the best thing to do that sometimes.”
After a few rounds of pad work with Quinny, Scott leans on the ropes and gestures to his pal who is stood in the corner. “He’s a legend of the game. He was born for it. I hope I can be as respected as him one day.”
The boxing community – fellow fighters, promoters, pundits, and officials – all recognise the skill level and talent in fighters like Jamie Quinn. It is an old cliché about journeymen being the lifeblood of the sport, without whom there is no professional boxing. But, while it is a fact, it does not stop the abuse many away fighters experience when boxing in an opponent’s hometown.
“The only people that disrespect me are couch potatoes that’ve never been in a ring in their lives. Anyone who knows anything about boxing, knows how hard it is. I do get a lot of respect from them.
“But I love a hostile crowd, me. It gives me that fire inside. I’ve had it where the crowd has been really disrespectful to me. I remember walking to the ring one time and this group of lads were in my face screaming, ‘Smash the ginger c**t’s head in!' Funny thing was my opponent was ginger too! So anyway, I thought, you know what? Watch this! And I’ve turned him over.” He giggles recounting the tale.
So, who was the opponent? “Nah, I don’t want to name names. I don’t want to disrespect any fighter. But a load of these fans that criticise journeymen, coming to watch the prospects, they don’t realise that their money’s going in my pocket! That’s why I’d rather be on the road than selling tickets. I don’t want to be paying no-one else’s wages. I want them paying my wages!
“The home fighter has to sell at least £1,100 worth of tickets to pay for his opponent – someone like me. Say it’s a thousand pounds for [my] wages and one hundred pounds for travel. Now, say his promoter’s taking £200 off him as well? A lot of these prospects are fighting for nothing.
“After a fight I’d get an envelope – recently it’s being going into the bank – but I used to get an envelope full of cash with a wage slip in it. Cash and dash we used to call it.”
A reliable and capable ‘Road Warrior’ can make a very decent living. Last minute phone calls from desperate promoters can mean a bigger pay day, as is the case when going in against a serious prospect.
But steady, prolific work is Quinny’s bread and butter as his recent schedule on the Fightzone platform proves. The new streaming service showcased weekly fight nights from a purpose-built outdoor arena in Sheffield. Over seven consecutive weekends, the 31year old boxed five times. Each fight he provided a stern test for the prospect, entertained a ‘playful’ crowd, and added another ‘L’ to his record.
“My dream was always to make a living out of boxing. That’s what I’m doing now. I’m living the dream! People who criticise [journeymen] boxers – they’re at work now. In this weather! Look at me! I love my life.”