Whether working off the ring-rust at Kings Gym (Oakland, CA) or seeking solace from the crowd after a devastating first round stoppage loss, one thing is certain. Boxing is a lonely, old sport. Punching your heart and soul into every heavy bag, you’d be forgiven for taking the easy way out. Not Peter Quillin, though. That’s not in his DNA.
“I had a typical boxer’s childhood. Very rough, deprived and being cared for by a family that wasn’t loving. I think I shared the typical ‘Black American’ story when it comes to that.”
Instead of quitting or settling for an average life, Quillin started grinding towards the unthinkable. He turned professional after only fifteen amateur fights, a giant leap of faith that paid dividends.
“At that time I felt I really had nothing to lose.”, he told me. The influence of his peers gave him a slither of hope that maybe, just maybe, he could cut it.
“The decision wasn’t difficult because of my financial state at that time. The coaches that I was working with and the fighters I would spar always made it their business to tell me I had power. But, I never knew what power felt like because I had never been on the other end.”
Having reached the pinnacle of the sport and captured a portion of the World middleweight crown, the sky was the limit for the man from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Quillin was undefeated and ready to be propelled towards super-fights. His career, however, took a different turn. Quillin explained to FightTalk.net the reasons behind him relinquishing what many fighters can only dream of achieving,
“Several important factors played a part in my decision to vacate my belt. My family. It wasn’t the right time for me because I was settling into something new with my family. Having my first child and at the same time I find out that my Uncle, who was a major father figure in my life, was battling cancer.”
“The hardest thing to deal with when it comes to this situation is how people brush it off when I tell them the fact that my uncle had cancer and passed away three days after I decided to fight again. It just let me know how important it was for me to say no in the first place, but people don’t listen to that. I tell myself people react this way because maybe they never experienced the feeling of having a loved one die from cancer.”
‘Kid Chocolate’ as he is known, faced criticism from all angles as media outlets and prominent figures such as ESPN’s Dan Rafael and Top Rank’s Carl Moretti struggled to comprehend his motives. The emotions of a man raised for battle, scarcely understood. Through his difficult upbringing, the word family always carried weight with Quillin and his decision is not something he looks back on with regret.
In December, it will be two years since he has graced a professional boxing ring. A fight with Danny Jacobs, stopped in the first round in a haze of adrenalin, is his lasting echo. Quillin opened up to me on his road to redemption,
“Since then, I’ve been facing a lot of turmoil. Before I had the draw, and then taking the loss… (before those) I looked unstoppable! That just lets you know how a turn of events made me get to this point. I have honestly been trying to rebound since vacating my belt and since then, I have been having a lot of turmoil.”
Having moved on to pastures new, the 34-year old Al Haymon fighter is looking to drag himself back into title contention with new trainer Virgil Hunter.
“I have spent over a year out here training
with Virg’ and now I’m just ready to fight. Working with Virgil Hunter, securing the team that I’m working with, (I know) the man I want to be outside of the ring, where I stand with God, where I stand with my family and my friends.”
With a fight date unconfirmed, he seems laser-focused. Contemplating his options weight-wise is another thing Quillin is balancing. Previously campaigning at 160lbs, he is looking to fight at a catch-weight next before a potential move to super-middleweight. A far more comfortable preperation for a much refined, more mature athlete.
The Netflix documentary Counterpunch (by Jay Bulger) was a behind-the-scenes look into boxing in the USA on various levels. Starring in the documentary, ‘Kid Chocolate’ was exposed to a wider audience. The caring, loving family man. The businessman. The fighter, whether inside or outside of the squared circle.
I was fascinated watching his pre-fight and post-fight footage when facing Andy Lee.
Quillin dropped Lee heavily in the first and third rounds of their battle, testing the canvas for himself in the seventh round. It was a back-and-forth war in which many felt Quillin had done enough. The judges scored a split-draw. I asked Peter if he felt bitter over the scorecards? Were these a result of his previous political conflicts with the WBO?
“No, the story is written the way it’s written and I don’t have any control over that. I’m not the type of person to sit down with myself and look at a situation and talk about what it would have been, could have been, or should have been. That’s always going to be a question for people who can’t just give things up and look forward into their future.”
Finally, I wondered what his goals were at this late stage of his career. This was a man who has reached the top of the World. During our chat he told me about the jobs he used to work, in order to support his career. If you needed; a roof fixed, oil changed, excellent customer service, fast food, a butcher or your tires changed – Peter Quillin was your man! A man who grafted, from the ground up, to earn enough money to treasure his own family. What mattered to him now?
“My plan for the future is to go out there and fight hard to capture another World title and finish my career with a part of a legacy attached to my name. That wasn’t really important to me at first because I never knew the value within myself. I’ve been learning the value I possess and how I can learn new things even at this age and stage in my career.”
Only Virgil Hunter and the man in the mirror can tell Peter Quillin whether he has what it takes to snatch another shot at the top. One thing’s for sure, this time he is a different animal. He has suffered loss. His family, his World title and to some extent his reputation. Now, every drop of sweat in Oakland is in the name of redemption and in the name of that family he holds so dear.
Written by Craig Scott