By Ryan Maquiñana
Unbeaten middleweight Peter Quillin (25-0, 19 KOs) is leaving nothing to chance heading into the biggest fight of his career this Saturday in Cancun against Craig McEwan (19-1, 10 KOs) in what will mark the HBO debut for “Kid Chocolate.”
“I prepare for every fight like it’s on HBO,” the No. 7-ranked 160-pounder in the WBA told BoxingScene. “Come November 5th, I’m going to show why there’s been so much chitter-chatter about me.”
Always looking for an edge to take his career to unforeseen heights, Quillin took a page out of Homer’s book and has carved a circuitous path to the cusp of stardom in his 28 years of age. Originally born in Chicago, his family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, during his early childhood, which was a tumultuous period for him.
“My dad was a political prisoner in Cuba and came to this country,” Quillin told MaxBoxing in February. “He ended up becoming a drug dealer and tried to provide. He thought it was the best way to deal with things. He ended up in prison [for six and a half years] and my whole life changed.
His father has since returned and now plays an important role in his son’s existence, even cooking him Cuban cuisine at Peter’s Southern California apartment in Studio City. However, at the time of his incarceration, his son’s survival skills kicked in.
“We ended up with nothing,” Quillin remembered. “When my dad went away, my mom went straight to welfare. She was bringing up three boys by herself. I had to share clothes with my brothers. During my terrible teens, I had to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.”
Enter boxing, an avenue that took him from the Michigan Golden Gloves Gym, to the Crunch Gym in New York, and now to Hollywood’s Wild Card Boxing Club, where he works with Eric Brown and Freddie Roach.
“The street has nothing to offer other than getting caught by the police and going to jail,” he said. “You think about boxing and competing and challenging yourself. Boxing gave me the confidence and discipline to believe I could do anything. Now that’s fun to me.”
A healthy helping of aggression can be quite the substitute for a lack of an amateur pedigree, and Quillin brings it in bushels. Following a 12-3 ledger that includes a Ringside Novice national title, he has exploded on the scene as a pro, with only one of his 19 knockouts occurring after the fifth round.
“I’m not out here trying to be a famous boxer,” Quillin said. “I’m trying to be the best at what I do, and I think being hungry and looking to improve has manifested itself in my fights.”
McEwan, a Scottish southpaw, presents his most dangerous yet. In addition to being a former Wild Card alumnus, the skilled boxer has sparred Quillin in the past.
“It’s been a while since I’ve faced a southpaw when I got Victor Paz out of there in two rounds four years ago,” Quillin said. “But I’ve been fortunate to have southpaws long before this camp like Lennox Allen, Ronson Frank, and Sechew Powell, so I’ve been fortunate to have these guys helping me get ready.”
Without question, “Kid Chocolate” has taken exception to McEwan’s recent comments that he would knock him out, and he has responded by referring to the Edinburgh native’s HBO debut in March when he was well ahead of Andy Lee on the cards before fading late and getting stopped himself.
“Freddie has had years working with Craig, and we know that people have questioned Craig’s ability to work hard, when he had the biggest opportunity of his career last time on HBO and fell apart,” Quillin stated. “Craig, you’re putting more pressure on yourself to have to knock me out in addition to beating a guy who’s undefeated.
“I never have that on my mind. I just train hard and execute to do what it takes to win. Boxing people will hold you to your word. Muhammad Ali would call out the exact round when he would knock people out. So I’m not going to say I’m going to knock him out, but I’ve worked so hard that I’m ready for 15 or 20 rounds if I had to do that.”
Quillin also addressed a report last week on BoxingScene where McEwan’s trainer Gary Young declared that their foe this weekend is “manufactured hype,” and after a camp that included at the famed Romanza Gym in Mexico City sparring fighters like Alfredo “Perro” Angulo, that stamina won’t be problematic this time around.
“Gary Young doesn’t have the experience of Freddie Roach,” Quillin declared. “He’s 19-2 as a pro and is the same age as me, so I don’t see anything he can do to improve Craig’s work ethic. Me, on the other hand, I don’t know how to give up.
“I read Gary’s article on BoxingScene, and it was touching and all, but please worry about Craig’s career, not yours. It’s one of the biggest fights in his career, and the last thing he needs to hear is that you want to get back in the ring. Craig’s got the biggest opportunity in his career, and he needs all the focus he can get.”
This training camp was especially distinct from the others in the sense that Quillin spent a sizable portion of it at Colorado Springs with the U.S. National Team, who was preparing for the World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.
“I only took a week off after my last fight in July, so everything felt automatic,” he said. “I was gone for a while to train with the Olympic Team, and then when I got back I got great sparring from Ronson Frank, Vanes [Martirosyan] and a bunch of young guys. Freddie was in town and was in my corner for that to give me a lot of feedback.”
According to Quillin, Roach and Brown have put together the right gameplan for Saturday.
“The main thing that Freddie and Eric have given me is that I know how to adjust to any fighter,” he shared. “I get in there, and I know how to put my tools together. I don’t just bring a hammer and nails to work. I bring my screwdrivers, nuts and bolts, wrenches, everything to build the house.
“First half of the fight, it’s about getting my rhythm down. What matters to me is the second half of the fight when I get stronger. [Felix] Trinidad, when he came off the canvas, he would come back stronger. That’s the way I’m going to fight Craig.”
Saturday’s fight will take place in Mexico, and while this won’t be Quillin’s first time in Cancun, he is wary of the conditions and fully aware that his trip is one where business will beget pleasure—or pain.
“I’m walking around right now at 165, 166 pounds. I’m not taking a chance with anything over there, not even with the water,” he promised. “I went to Cuba and they kind of said the same thing about the water there. After the fight, I’ll drink some of the water and see if it bothers my stomach.”
His nickname derived from the legendary Cuban Hall of Famer Eligio Sardiñas Montalvo combined with his propensity for throwing chocolates to spectators earlier in his pro career, Quillin hopes that his performance on Saturday will make the necessity of resorting to any such gimmicks obsolete.
“I’m going to be prepared to fight as long as it takes,” he vowed. “It’s going to be Halloween. It’s going to be Trick or Treat, because I’m going to be throwing chocolate bombs all in this guy’s mouth. It’s horror night for him and I’m Michael Myers.
“I’m not a stepping stone for anybody. This is my rollercoaster ride. He’s just along for the ride. After his stop is done, it’s on to the next one.”
Ryan Maquiñana is the boxing correspondent at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Advisory Panel. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at www.maqdown.com or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.