By Ryan Maquiñana
“The road to get here was never easy, so why would it be easy now?” Peter Quillin replied when asked about defending his WBO middleweight crown for the first time this Saturday against Fernando Guerrero this Saturday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
BoxingScene.com sat down with the introspective Quillin (28-0, 22 KOs) about a variety of topics dealing with his newfound fame and how he perceives this weekend’s title defense against Guerrero (25-1, 19 KOs).
BoxingScene.com: Well, Peter, after a long delay, you’re finally going to defend your belt for the first time.
Peter Quillin: Yeah, I am. I’m really happy that people can see the steps and strides that I’m taking in the sport, and I’m ready for this fight.
BoxingScene.com: Essentially you’ve had to stage two training camps with the main event (Danny Garcia-Zab Judah) being postponed and pushed back from the original date. How did you adjust to that?
Peter Quillin: Well, putting myself through a long agonizing camp, and then to have to be able to come back and do it again was exhausting. But when I thought about it, I saw an opportunity to get better. What did I learn? What could I improve? What mistakes did I make? This reflection has made me even more of an animal to take the victory on April 27th.
BoxingScene.com: Have you been training nonstop, then, or did you at least take a break before resetting, so to speak?
Peter Quillin: Yeah, that’s part of having a very important team and good people surrounding you, like my trainer, Eric Brown. They allowed me the time to kind of reset and take some time off. I went back to New York and showed my support at a charity event to knock out cancer. I was doing other things, but I kept eating right, got my mind together, and when the time was right, my team brought me back for camp.
BoxingScene.com: Since your win over Hassan N’Dam, a lot has changed in the sense that now you’ve got the target on your back. The national attention is increasing; in fact, you were just in the latest edition of Playboy. How have you dealt with it all? Have you changed in any way?
Peter Quillin: Look at the trees. The seasons change and the leaves fall off, and the trees are bare by the wintertime. But springtime comes around and the trees are in full-bloom. Then it cycles off again. What I’m saying is that things around you change all the time, but you have to keep real what’s inside you.
As far as who I am as a person, I want to keep being who I am. A lot of people don’t believe me when I say, ‘Crap is only crap when you eat it. I know because it tastes like crap.’ What it means is you’ll believe your own hype if you allow yourself to. Anything that somebody says about you, if you truly believe it and let it go to your head, then it becomes truth.
I take everything one day at a time. I try to be a better person. That’s my test, and my true fight, to make sure I just keep being me, and that anything I do makes me a better person.
BoxingScene.com: After your win over N’Dam, Bernard Hopkins told me how you had the chance to take the ‘American middleweight torch,’ so to speak. Moreover, he impressed he was with your hunger, and how it showed when you kept coming and floored N’Dam six times. What does that mean to you to hear that coming from Bernard?
Peter Quillin: I’m very humbled by him saying such kind words. Bernard always gives me some of the best words of wisdom, and I’m blessed with it. Yeah, I’m still hungry. I learned something by going through how I’ve been living these past few months.
The road to get here was never easy, so why would it be easy now? I’m mentally, physically, and spiritually on a different level, in a different place after the N’Dam fight. I’ve got so much more to express as far as my ability, so every time I step out and fight, I know the whole world’s watching now.
BoxingScene.com: What’s at stake here for Peter Quillin?
Peter Quillin: I have a lot to prove in this fight. Not only do I have to win, but I’m trying to lay down my name in history. When I get in there April 27th, it’s not like, ‘I’m going to kill Fernando,’ or anything like that. But my true test to myself is to be able to beat this guy and show the world that I’m a way more better champion than he is.
BoxingScene.com: Let’s talk about the matchup with Fernando Guerrero. How do you think this fight transpires, and why?
Peter Quillin: When someone talks out of confidence, you can feel it. Fernando’s a good guy, and we could probably be friends outside the ring, but this fight’s a different story. I don’t think he’s as confident as he thinks he is. Our hunger comes from two different places. My hunger comes from being 28-0 and wanting to keep my record. His hunger comes from already having tasted defeat, and not wanting to taste defeat no more.
For me, the easiest thing for a mouse to do is when he runs from a cat, he runs in a hole. And one day, he gets tired of running. He says, ‘The next time I’m in a situation, I’m going to put my life on the line and fight the cat.’ So the cat chases him the next time, and the mouse stands up and fights. He puts up a good fight for a while until he figures out it’s a fight he can’t win. And the easiest thing the mouse can do, when he gets an opportunity, is to run back in the hole.
BoxingScene.com: You’re referring to Guerrero’s stoppage loss to Grady Brewer, which is the only one on his ecord. You know, that was the only fight where he went down to 154 pounds.
Peter Quillin: Whether or not there were weight issues, Fernando has tasted defeat against Grady Brewer. In his mind, he knows what it feels like to lose. So if he’s ever in a tough fight again, I just believe it’s going to be easier for him to taste defeat again, because he knows what it’s like to run back in the hole.
BoxingScene.com: Have you broken that particular fight down on video?
Peter Quillin: Someone told me that I should go back and watch the whole fight, but I just watched the knockout. What I try not to do is go and underestimate him. That’s the most important thing. When I go in there and fight him, I’m not going to look at that loss. I’m going to look at him like he’s got his back against the wall, and he don’t want to run back in that hole no more. He wants to prove to himself that he can be the champion he wants to be, and something we’re going to find out on April 27.
BoxingScene.com: In his last fight against J.C. Candelo, with his new trainer Virgil Hunter, Guerrero displayed a tighter defense and was much more economically sound with his punches. Have you seen that fight?
Peter Quillin: No. Do I want to watch it? No. When I get in there, I’ll be different from any other fighter he’s ever fought. I always respect my opponents, but he made a mistake picking me because I’m from a different class and a different cloth.
BoxingScene.com: He’s a southpaw. How have you prepared for that style?
Peter Quillin: I’ve had a lot of ring experiences with southpaws like Craig McEwan and Winky Wright. My whole camp, I worked with guys like Ronson Frank and Sechew Powell, both southpaws, so I’m used to fighting them. It’s no problem. It’s one day at a time.
BoxingScene.com: Speaking of the Winky Wright fight, a lot of people still thought that his boxing ability would be too much for a relatively inexperienced opponent, even at age 40, but you proved everyone wrong and took his weapons away.
Peter Quillin: A lot of people told me that Winky was going to school me, and it bothered me and got me emotional. Winky Wright was 40 years old, and not to take nothing away from him, but if I couldn’t beat him, I’d have no business doing this. If you can’t beat a guy coming off the bench at 40 years old, you have to retire.
I respect Winky Wright so much because he’s someone I watched growing up, and he beat my favorite fighter, [Felix] Trinidad. I had to prove to myself that I could do the things I wanted to do in the ring.
BoxingScene.com: I know you don’t want to look past Guerrero, but the landscape at 160 pounds is exciting. You have Sergio Martinez, Gennady Golovkin, and several other fighters who would make for some great matchups that people would want to see. How do you see the road ahead?
Peter Quillin: A fighter won’t be nobody unless he has archrivals. Those are my archrivals out there. I don’t fear nobody. I only fear God on this earth. That being said, those guys are good fighters.
Sergio Martinez, being among the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters out there, that’s a true challenge within itself to want to fight a guy like that. Then you have Daniel Geale, to me, out of all the middleweights, doesn’t get all the props he deserves. He’s another good fighter. You’ve got the most avoided fighter, they say, anyway, in Gennady Golovkin.
Those are all future pay-per-view fights for me. With that being said, it’s not what they say and how they build these guys up, but what they do in the fights. For me, it’s staying focused. Fernando Guerrero is my next challenge and my next step. I keep my tunnel vision on him, but when I can, I’ll broaden my vision to see the whole picture because I know they’re next on the horizon.
BoxingScene.com: You’re returning to New York, the place where you once slept on apartment floors to scrape by each day. Considering your tough upbringing in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Chicago, and everything you’ve overcome to get here, do you still look back at these moments, or do you try to block them out and move forward with your life?
Peter Quillin: I definitely remind myself about it. I look at it like I could’ve been in jail. I could’ve been on drugs, strung out. Or I could’ve been dead. But instead, I proved to myself that what I thought in my head came true. I could actually be someone people look to and be inspired by. It’s been pressing on my mind. It makes me want to keep striving even harder.
Only good things can happen if you keep working hard. Being middleweight champion gives you a platform to promote everything God’s given me, and like I said, I’m trying to establish my name for the history books. Now that I’m at this point, why should I change what I’ve been doing? I think everyone can relate to a person like that. Everyone has their own journey, and my story isn’t more special than the next, but if it helps someone else, it’s a blessing.
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.