By Thomas Gerbasi
Boxing’s loquacious elder statesman Bernard Hopkins may be headlining Saturday night’s Showtime card at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City against Karo Murat, but it’s the young man in the co-main event, WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin who described life at the top of the boxing world better than even “The Executioner” could.
“I had to learn how to deal with it,” said ‘Kid Chocolate’ when asked if he was comfortable being the fighter now with a target on his back placed there by his fellow 160-pounders. “Even my friends will want to fight me because I have the belt, and I have to respect that and learn what being a champion is all about. So I don’t look at it as being comfortable; I don’t think life as a fighter can be comfortable because I’m on the borderline of sanity and insanity doing what I’m doing. It’s like a big mental game that I’m playing with myself, and that’s what boxing is all about. I fight through so much BS to live through good moments of my life, like being a winner, inspiring kids, and showing somebody that they can be what they want to be. So I can never be comfortable. And especially coming from where I come from, I could never be comfortable. I always wanted more; I was always working towards being a better person.”
Despite being less than comfortable at the top, it’s evident that he has made it, both in boxing and in life, though neither seems to be letting up in throwing curveballs at him. The ones in the ring are easy enough for him to deal with, considering that he only has to face one man with two fists in sanctioned combat every few months. The ones outside the ring, they’re always tougher to deal with simply because you never see them coming.
Heading into Saturday’s bout with Gabriel Rosado, Quillin is still heavy-hearted after his wife suffered a miscarriage of their child earlier this month, but he’s put on a brave face and made it clear that this won’t affect his performance on fight night. Granted, it’s not easy to deal with, but if anyone can persevere, it’s the New Yorker who was once homeless as he looked to make his fistic dreams become a reality.
Today, he’s got a world title belt in his possession and a bright future in a hot division. But the road to get better doesn’t end, something you don’t have to tell him twice.
“I’m just glad to be positive and learn about myself and inspire people,” said the 30-year-old. “It’s been a road to remember. I would have never thought I’d be where I’m at right now. I’m just glad that I can be evidence of what hard work can get you.”
Want more evidence? Less than a month after Saturday’s fight, Quillin will be taking the last test to earn his GED. You might wonder why an established world champion with the potential to make millions in the coming years and set himself and his family up for life would do such a thing, but Quillin is more curious why you would even wonder why.
“How can I tell kids to stay in school and don’t be a fool when I’m sitting around here without my education?” he said. “I took the hard road and boxing fell into my hand and became such a passion, but I look back and what I would want to promote to my kids is having an education. It’s something that I thought was a very responsible thing to do, and I’ve been working hard to do it, but with such a busy schedule, it’s been tough.”
Next month, that will be another item on the Quillin bucket list to check off. The first one on the current list? Keep his title, and that means vanquishing the always-tough Rosado.
“I look at him as just another guy I’m fighting, another personality, another style that I’m gonna learn right there in the ring, and I can never say that I’ve been in there with a person like Gabriel Rosado,” said Quillin, who just celebrated his one year anniversary as champion on October 20th.
On that 2012 night in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Quillin put France’s Hassan N’Dam down six times en route to a 12 round unanimous decision victory. Six months later, Fernando Guerrero visited the deck four times before being stopped by Quillin in the seventh round. The win over Guerrero lifted Quillin’s pro record to 29-0 (21 KOs) and established him as one of those fighters you will make sure you’re watching whenever he’s on television. New York fans always knew this about their hometown favorite, but the rest of the world was slow to catch on, leaving Quillin on the outside looking in for longer than most.
“I tried not to worry about the guys before me that were getting opportunities that I felt I wasn’t getting,” he said. “I just had to let them worry about their own stuff and I worried about my own. I figured my time was gonna come, and I would have to appreciate it.”
Signing with Golden Boy Promotions and winning a June 2012 bout against Winky Wright finally accelerated the process for him, and when matched with N’Dam, he made the most of his opportunity. Today, he refuses to look back.
“Now it’s my time, and I’m appreciating everything that’s going on,” he said. “When it comes to the past, it’s like bumps in the road when you’re in a car. You go over a bump and you’re like ‘damn, that was big,’ but eventually, when you get to see the bump, it’s in your rearview, and the further you go, the bump disappears. So I stay in my present, don’t worry too much about the future, and forget about the past. And now, I have to work even harder.”
If he gets by Rosado, that will be another win, another paycheck, and another step toward bigger fights. At middleweight, the established champion is Sergio Martinez, the heir apparent is Gennady Golovkin, and the dark horse of the championship quartet is Darren Barker. Fights for Quillin against any of those three are appealing, even if promotional and television ties may make them pipe dreams at the moment. But as far as Quillin is concerned, he’s a firm believer that things find a way of eventually working themselves out.
“The mind is a powerful thing and if you use it to your advantage, you can see huge rewards from it,” he said. “Back then I may have had penny thoughts, but I always had million dollar dreams.”
Now it’s time to cash in on those dreams.