Peter Quillin Discovers the Rewards of Hard Work
By Gabriel Montoya, from (April 26, 2011) Special to Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Miguel Salazar)
Orlando Salido & Juan Manuel Lopez
Middleweight Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin has been fighting out of the Wild Card for nearly a year now after moving here from New York City last April. In the time Quillin has been in this talent-rich gym, he has gone from a fighter long on raw, athletic talent but short on experience to getting the know-how to make it to the next level. He will attempt to put that experience gleaned in the gym and two stay-busy fights under trainer Freddie Roach this Friday in Reno, NV when he faces journeyman Jesse Brinkley in a ten-round bout fought at 165 pounds.

Quillin is of Cuban descent, born in Chicago June of 1983 but raised in Grand Rapids, MI, Quillin is the kind of thoughtful, easygoing fighter that makes you forget that five minutes before you spoke, he was picking off punches deftly with each hand and making each of his sparring partners pay dearly for it.

“My first boxing memory was knowing this older guy back in Grand Rapids where I am from,” said Quillin. “He was an amateur boxer. Pretty slick guy, pretty good. I was into it. I bought this magazine and I was going through [it] and I saw a local gym, Michigan Golden Gloves Association. Now I started going to a gym before that but I don’t think they took me seriously. I went into the Michigan Golden Gloves Association and told them I had boxed before. When I went in there and they saw what I had learned, they took me back to basics. I guess I didn’t know how to box. When they did that, it has been in my life ever since.”  

Quillin was 16 years old at the time, a late start for a fighter who is now promoted by Golden Boy Promotions just 11 years later and was recently on the short list to face middleweight champ Sergio Martinez. Still, it has not been an easy road for the undefeated fighter. Lessons had to be learned. The most important of all was how to have a solid work ethic. That part came in time, following an unsuccessful eight-fight amateur career and a start in the pros in New York back in 2005. While Quillin won as a pro, he never quite reached full bloom. It took coming here to the Wild Card, where talents of all levels come up the steps and into the door every day.  

“Now was I conditioned to box all my life? No. I think that is why I didn’t do good in the amateurs. I fought Joe Greene; I lost to [him]. I had a poor work ethic. I see a big difference in just working all the time. You see Alex Perez?” Quillin asked me, referring to Alejandro Perez, who had just knocked out Antonio Escalante on TV a week or so back at the time of our visit. “He fought and he is back in the gym already. I think that is what takes you to the next level: putting in the hard work. In the ring, it shows.”  

Watching Quillin over two days at the Wild Card as he sparred, I saw a much different fighter than the one I watched on tape over the years. While his recent opponents, Dennis Sharpe this year and last year’s Martin Desjardins gave him no test at all. The work in the gym against junior middleweight journeyman Roberto Garcia on the first day I came to visit showed Quillin’s poise, intelligence and ability to adjust. Garcia gave Quillin different looks throughout, sometimes round to round. What I remember of Quillin before was a fighter who seemed a bit unsure of whom he was in the ring. He had started his career with a lot of early knockouts but by the time he got to fighters like Dionisio Miranda, Sam Hill, and Fernando Zuniga, though he won, he was like a person who had not discovered his true identity. While Quillin is still discovering that, I saw a fighter much more sure of himself in the ring, intelligent out of it, and thoughtful of where he hopes to go in both places.  

“I think for a fighter, you have to be able to be confident in your corner because they see things that you don’t see in a fight,” he said. “I don’t know what David Lemieux was thinking but as far as me, if I was in there with a guy like [Marco Antonio Rubio], you have to be able to pace yourself and make that kind of fight. You can’t fight at a high pace. That is more amateurs. Amateurs fight at a high pace and then it is over. As a pro, you have to sit down on your punches; you have to be relaxed. If he was training for that pace, then he should have kept up with it. He should have been able to hold or do something. There are a lot of things I am very fortunate to have already been through and I can see other fighters go through and learn from their mistakes.”  

Quillin started slowly in that first day, watching Garcia, memorizing spots to work in and then slowly unveiling weapons as the rounds wore on. They would go four total and when it was over, Quillin had appeared more relaxed and in control than I expected. His long, athletic frame gliding about the ring, his lead left hand down at times to his waist and others up in next to his right rear hand in the traditional guard. Quillin’s eyes, large and friendly outside the ring, were wide open and unblinking throughout as he waited, poised for the slightest hint of attack.  

“I train for opportunity and for things to come so I can capitalize on them,” said Quillin. “That is in everyday life what I do. I take the opportunity when it comes. If a guy misses a punch, then you have to make him pay for that. I train just to be conditioned. I am in here every day. I don’t have another job. This is four to five hours a day for me and then I can go home and relax. For me, I won’t say it is easy because I do a lot of conditioning and that is hard but I believe that when you put yourself through something and you make yourself pay for it, you see huge results when you go in the ring. I try to take all the mistakes in the gym, so when it comes time to fight, I try to fight as close to perfect as possible.”  

Quillin’s nickname is “Kid Chocolate”, a name he got in a Michigan gym when someone pointed out his uncanny resemblance to the great Cuban featherweight champion of the 1930s Eligio Sardiñas Montalvo. Quillin “thought it was a cool name” but decided to go with “Kid Cocoa” instead. But once he began to learn more and more of the history of the first “Kid Chocolate,” he decided to take on the moniker as a sign of respect.  

“I’m not trying to be him,” said Quillin. “I am trying to honor him. You hear about Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Shane Mosley, Sugar Ray Leonard but I had never heard about someone with a similar heritage. So I took on Kid Chocolate. If they had never heard of him before, they will hear about him now because of me.”  

When it was time to talk Brinkley, Quillin said he had not watched tape of him. As is customary with Roach-trained fighters, Quillin lets the coach do the tape work and game plan. Quillin simply executes it.  

“Once you prepare for a guy a certain way, that gets stuck in your head,” said Quillin, of the dangers of getting married to the idea of the fighter on the tape. “When you get in the ring with them, they could fight a whole different way. So what I usually like to do is just establish my rhythm and fight to what the guy is showing me.”  

The main thing for Quillin, as I witnessed both days, is to let the other fighter show his cards a bit and then go from there.  

“Usually it is just getting adjusted. That is what being a fighter is. He has to be able to adjust to certain things and do it well,” explained Quillin. “Once I get in there, after the first couple of punches, I know exactly what kind of guy I am in there with.”  

A defensive-minded fighter despite his 17 KOs in 23 wins against zero losses, Quillin said that he isn’t worried that his wait-and-see approach will get him into a troubling pattern of waiting all night for something to happen that never does.  

“Not at all. I feel I am always on guard. My defense is really pretty good,” said Quillin. “Working behind it and things that I have to do. There is only a certain amount of things that a guy can do that you can’t do to him.”  

While I would disagree and say his intelligence might be his greatest strength, Quillin says it is another attribute of his.  

“My greatest strength is my athleticism. A lot of guys don’t have that,” said Quillin. “Roy [Jones Jr.] in his day could do a lot of things that good fighters were not able to do. Getting the way out of punches, sticking his hands behind his back. That is something I think I have, getting out of the way of punches, working around. I know the ring pretty well.”  

There is a certain grace to him as he moved about the edges of the ring and slowly, almost imperceptibly began to exert control. First a jab, then a quick parry and counter followed by a quick-footed retreat and then push-shuffle forward with the jab. There were times that Quillin’s anticipation of Garcia’s next move and his ability to act quickly made me shake my head in wonder. Garcia would begin a punch and before he could get it halfway unfurled, Quillin would snap his own jab out and stop Garcia’s advance in its tracks. He just seemed to see everything. Granted this is sparring but still…  

“I think that is just me over the years just building up confidence,” said Quillin. “I always have been focused but now I know I have to be even more focused. So now, I really tunnel my focus into what I really want to do. I’m looking for the slightest mistake. I am looking to see what I can do in there. I’m working on things all the time. Boxing is a kind of game, as you can see with the two last upsets. You have to know exactly what you are doing. If you go in there and you get hit with a punch, you have to get out of the way of the next one. You have to be able to learn how to do that. I think for the most part that is why I allow myself to be so focused. I am always on point in what I want to do.”  

This fight will be held at 165 pounds despite the fact that Quillin is really a middleweight fighter waiting to happen. He has fought in and around the division by a couple pounds over the limit his whole career. Now with this fight, which, stylistically and from an experience standpoint, is a very good fight for him, Quillin is poised to take that next step to true contender status. Brinkley is the kind of fighter, who, on any given night, if you are not ready for this level or are not properly prepared, can give you the worst night of your life. He is not the fastest guy nor the hardest puncher in the division but he is experienced and fighting on his own turf. If Quillin is not on his game, he could be in a lot of trouble fast.  

“I would like to see myself higher ranked across the board,” said Quillin of his plans for the future, should he win this fight, “but for me, I take things as they come. If I am going to be there, I am going to be there. I’ve got a great team. I’ve got Golden Boy in my corner. What more can you say? I think I am getting there right now. Fighting Jesse Brinkley is a good fight for me. He is coming off a loss to Lucian Bute and I want to see how good I can do against him. The thing about fighting him at this weight, he started his professional career at 147 pounds. I started my career at 162 pounds so I been maintaining this weight all my whole career. I am only now going into my sixth year as a pro. I gained a lot of experience with some of the guys I have been in with. If weight is the thing that is going to help Jesse in this fight, so be it.”  

With the recent rash of upsets from Erik Morales actually competing with Marcos Maidana, James Kirkland getting iced in one round by an unknown Nobu Ishida, and David Lemieux losing to Marco Antonio Rubio for the first time, is Quillin nervous at all heading into a test like this?  

“The difference with me is that I know how to fight,” said Quillin. “I am an all-around fighter. If something goes wrong with bad matchmaking, I can make it up with my skills. What it is for me, I am in here with all kinds of guys. I am in here with Gennady Golovkin, Nobu Ishida, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and I have been competing at that level if not higher. But for the most part, you don’t win in sparring. I get good work with those guys and those guys are helping me to gain that confidence to know that I can be middleweight champion of the world.”  

So how soon does he think he can be ready to take on Sergio Martinez?  

“One or two more fights. I think so. I truly believe,” said Quillin. “If not this next fight, then one more fight. I’ll be ready. I am in here every day. Even when I don’t have a fight, I am coming in here. I have the mentality to know…like they say, ‘What would you be doing if you weren’t boxing?’ I don’t know so I might as well be the f**k-up in here and doing what I am supposed to be doing, you know?”  

Whether that is an overestimation on Quillin’s part remains to be seen. We have yet to see him face a top contender much less the Argentine boxer version of “The Natural” but there is no mistaking Quillin’s quality as a fighter. All that is left are those questions that can only answered as he steps up in class. All Quillin can do is prepare himself as best he can for those moments.  

“Sometimes when I see these guys go in there and I think, ‘Damn. How can that guy even lose?’ I try to say, ‘That can be me,’ and I knock on wood and I have to change it to ‘That’s not going to be me’ and transition my mind to ‘Nobody can f**k with me.’ The only reason I feel that, like I said, I worked too hard to lose a fight like that,” explained Quillin. “For me, I’ve been always an underdog. Nobody gave me credit as a fighter. I’ve been learning as I go on the job as a pro. I am now ten times better than I have ever been. So for me, I’m not really questioning too much about myself besides if I did enough work. I need to know walking into the ring that I did everything I was supposed to do to win this fight. I’m never going to be unprepared. If someone beat me, either he had an ‘on’ night or I am just not good enough.”  

Before we parted ways, I asked Quillin one last question. He seems so affable, downright peaceful. We spent a long time talking about him volunteering to walk dogs from the pound and how he loves to spread love and cheer everywhere he goes. If he said he was anything but a fighter, I’d believe him.  

So why does he fight?  

Quillin answered without missing a beat. “Let me tell you the reason why I fight. Because I believe everything in life is a fight. I fought to be the best in school, which, if I knew what I know now, I would have been better academically. Like you, you’re a fighter but you just don’t know it. You fight to be the best writer out there. Get the top stories out to the best people. Boxing is the only thing in my life that saved me from the street. It got me out of the street. It got me confident to know that what does it prove? That I can beat up everyone on the street? It don’t prove anything but for me, it means more to beat guys who know how to fight, too. Becoming a world champion is the reason why I fight. Letting everybody know, inspiring people to be a fighter as well, not just a boxer but in anything you do, that is the real ’m good at it.”

You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim or tune into hear him live on Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST when he co-hosts the BlogTalk radio show Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

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