On Feb. 11, the well-traveled fighter will be able to cross off the Bay Area from his list when he headlines Telefutura’s “Sólo Boxeo Tecate” against Dennis Sharpe, 17-5-3 (4), at the Fairfield Sports Center.
“I’ve never been to the Bay Area before,” the 168-pounder added. “I’m coming to do what I was trained to do, which is be aggressive in this fight. I’m going to throw at [Sharpe] something he’s never seen before. I’m coming in like a young lion and win big.”
The road has been more like an epic voyage for the 27-year-old. Born on the south side of Chicago, Quillin’s family moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., where, at the age of six, his father Pedro was sent to state prison, forcing a young Peter to grow up faster than most of his contemporaries.
“My dad was a political prisoner in Cuba and came to this country,” Quillin recalled. “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 and my whole life changed.
“We ended up with nothing. 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.”
Quillin found refuge from the unforgiving hand of the streets at the city’s Michigan Golden Gloves Gym.
“I started working at the Baxter after school program there,” said Quillin. “Boxing was the only thing I was ever attracted to. Next thing you know, my mom knew how much I wanted these gloves, so she gave me this catalog and had me pick the ones I wanted but the book had all the addresses of the local gyms in the area. It all started from there and I showed up.”
He even took on the nickname “Kid Chocolate” not only as a tribute to the great Eligio Sardiñas Montalvo but also as a tip of the cap to his Cuban heritage.
“I did that to claim my culture and heritage as an Afro-Cuban American. My dad is Cuban. I’m half-African American but I’ve been to Cuba. You don’t really hear about the great fighters like Kid Chocolate. What about Kid Gavilan? What about [Benny] Kid Paret? I thought I had similarities to Kid Chocolate as far as my style and even the way I look.”
And what a style it is. Varying his attacks like a power pitcher mixing speeds, Quillin is an all-action fighter who comes forward and can beat you with both hands and a variety of angles. In the video below, he decks his opponents with straight right leads, left hooks, and even multi-punch flurries with bad intentions.
Perhaps it is this pure aggression that helps to offset his lack of an extensive amateur pedigree. After an approximate 12-3 record by his account that included a Ringside Novice national title, the decision to lace up the gloves was a sweet one for Quillin. Despite living amid the strife that afflicted the community around him, he was able to grow like a rose out of concrete.
“The street has nothing to offer other than getting caught by the police and going to jail,” opined the fighter, offering his own version of a cautionary tale. “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.
“My dad did enough time for me. He did six-and-a-half years in the federal penitentiary. My brother had an attempted murder on his case and I learned my lessons through them. If I want to know their experience, they’ll tell me. Being in Grand Rapids was tough but I stood for something and I made it work for me.”
Of course, inspirational stories always make for compelling print and the fulcrum on which they turn on usually involves a fateful event. In this case, it was the time Quillin turned pro, packed his bags, and moved to Brooklyn to further his career.
EMPIRE STATE OF MIND
“Before I turned 18, Don King signed me to a contract,” he said. “I had to go to New York with my trainer at the time, Rafael Ramos. It was exciting because I always wanted to live there at some point in my life. I fought for a while with them but I felt like I wasn’t a priority at the time for them. At 21, me and Rafael split ways, and that’s where I met Colin Morgan at the Crunch Gym.”
Despite an offer from Floyd Mayweather Sr. to train with him in Las Vegas, the fighter decided on Morgan, who had experience training several former or current champs like Andrew “Six Heads” Lewis, Guillermo Jones, Elio Rojas, and Wayne Braithwaite.
“For a week, Colin didn’t tell me to do anything except hit the bag,” said Quillin. “Then he started working with me and taught me the business. He taught me how to push myself and pace myself as far as sparring with pros.”
The partnership enjoyed some early success. After Quillin ran his record to 8-0, promoter Cedric Kushner inked him to a deal.
“I started catching some buzz and Cedric had me sign with him,” remembered Quillin. “They offered me more money than I had ever seen before. I also started training people on my own at Trinity Boxing Club in New York. I had a little money and things were good because I never had it like that before.”
Garnering attention for controlling former middleweight world title challenger Antwun Echols over ten rounds in a unanimous decision win in April of 2008, it seemed that a rise in the rankings and a regional belt was on the horizon for Quillin.
However, “Kid Chocolate” would soon realize that not every bout would be a walk in the park. Two months after the Echols fight, after dominating most of the first seven rounds against Dionisio Miranda, Quillin soon found himself temporarily treading water.
“[Miranda] headbutted me and that was followed by a punch that had me out on my feet,” admitted Quillin. “I survived the round and got back to my stool. I got up and told myself I had to get back in this fight where he knew he had me hurt. But one thing I learned is that being tough doesn’t make you a winner. Being a winner makes you a winner.”
Quillin put those words into action, turning the tide in the following rounds en route to a ten-round unanimous decision triumph. But it wouldn’t be the last of trying times for “Kid Chocolate.”
His patience was sorely tested once more in 2009, when a series of tough breaks occurred. First, Quillin had his right hand surgically repaired. After it healed, Quillin broke the orbital bone in his eye socket during sparring. They say that idle hands are the devil’s tools and the fighter’s involuntary inactivity got the best of him at times.
“I started getting caught up in a few distractions and things were being handed to me in New York,” said Quillin. “I knew I had to move.”
Facing another stretch on boxing’s version of injured reserve and concerned that his career was stuck in neutral, he decided it was time to refocus his priorities.
“Also, my career wasn’t moving after awhile,” lamented Quillin. “Cedric was doing a good job and keeping me busy. It’s just that I felt like I wasn’t getting the bigger fights. It wasn’t anything against Colin, either. I wanted to move away from New York and I saw an opportunity with Freddie but he was over here [in California]. So I felt like I had to pack my bags and move to keep chasing my dream.”
WEST SIDE STORY
Quillin made the next bold choice in his nomadic career. With the money he saved, he took the same travel risk that scores of struggling actors make with minimal success; “Kid Chocolate” was going Hollywood. And Golden Boy Promotions was listening, inking Quillin to a deal last October.
“I told my managers John Seip and Jimmy McDevitt that I didn’t want to be with Cedric anymore,” stated Quillin. “I wanted to move forward and work with different promoters and that’s how I got with Golden Boy. They were willing to negotiate with Cedric to get me out of my contract to get bigger fights. I’m happy with them and I think they have big plans for me.”
Since his arrival out West, Quillin has taken time to adjust to his new surroundings as well as the bustling scene at Wild Card. Needless to say, he is cognizant of California’s uncanny advantages.
“It’s different here and it’s a good thing,” he said. “You have nice weather and less distractions with training because I don’t really know everybody, whereas again, in New York, I was kind of having things handed to me.”
It’s fair to say he has fully acclimated to the area and it’s evident from the result of his first fight as a Wild Card fighter two months ago. Quillin collected another stamp on his passport after a first-round knockout of Eric Desjardins in Quebec on the undercard of WBC light heavyweight king Jean Pascal’s controversial draw with Bernard Hopkins. Although Quillin misses his family and friends at his previous locales, he doesn’t regret his choice.
“I really feel that if you believe you can do something, you’ve got to go all out on it,” he opined. “I’m training with Freddie Roach and Eric Brown. I get the best sparring here, like with Vanes [Martirosyan] and DonYil Livingston. This is my new home here at Wild Card.”
In addition, the welcome addition of his father to his living situation has made for some appetizing nights during training camp.
“My dad’s cooking Cuban food for my meals,” said Quillin. “He can make Yuca Congri (cassava with red beans and rice) and he uses that malanga [taro-eddoe]. He’s been making a lot of steaks and a lot of natural protein like fish and chicken. I cut out the carbs and it’s been a diet of salad and meat now.”
Moreover, the super middleweight recently discovered the existence of a Cuban community in his own backyard.
“Actually, I didn’t know there were so many Cubans as there are here,” he said with a hint of shock. “I like Mambo’s in Burbank and bunch of Cuban restaurants here but nothing compares to my dad’s Cuban food. And my older brother Pedro—yes, he has the same name, too. Crazy, huh? He’s a head chef back in Cuba.”
With that said, Team Quillin’s progress will be closely monitored by everyone in his new fan base as his performance against Sharpe will be nationally televised on Telefutura. Sharpe, a Jersey City resident, has faced a steady diet of super middleweight prospects and contenders like Giovanni Lorenzo, Pawel Wolak, and Andy Lee.
However, Sharpe doesn’t have a win in over six years. Still, Quillin has stated he will not overlook his opponent and has found fuel to keep himself motivated.
“One thing I saw was something he said in the press conference in that there is nothing he’s seen before that he can’t handle,” said Quillin. “He fought Andy Lee and all these great fighters but he’ll be in there with someone who’s 22-0. If he thinks he’s going to hand me my first loss, he’s got another thing coming.”
Of course, with any fighter at Wild Card not named Manny Pacquiao, the topic of whether Quillin is receiving adequate attention from Roach will come to the forefront. Prized prospects like Guillermo Rigondeaux, Jose Benavidez Jr., and Robert Marroquin have departed the gym, citing such reasons. However, Quillin will hear none of it.
“I understand Freddie is busy but I’m going to take what I can get with Freddie,” he answered matter-of-factly. “He supervises me. I’m training to go to battle and I’m going to put my own guns to use on February 11.”
With the opportunity to cast his net over a wider group of prospective new fans on national television and a much-needed injection of continuity into his life, “Kid Chocolate” beamed a grin as wide as the smiley face tattoo on his left arm.
“I actually got that tattoo coming home from church one day,” recalled Quillin. “I was going through a slump at that time, feeling down. That smiley face is just a reminder about being happy about everything I have, whether it’s my family, my trainer, whatever. Even if you only have a roll of toilet paper and some bread, you got to be happy with that.”
Before we concluded our talk, the fighter made it a point to recommend I mention the significance behind the location of his body artwork.
“Also, with the position where my tattoo is, after I’m done jabbing someone or knocking someone out, you know what’s the last thing the guy’s going to see? That smiley face!” he exclaimed.
If all goes to plan, Peter Quillin and his team will have plenty reason to flash their pearly whites on Friday night.
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You can follow Quillin on Twitter. His username is @KIDCHOCOLATE.
Quillin vs. Sharpe from the Fairfield (CA) Sports Center is presented by Golden Boy Promotions and Don Chargin Productions in association with Paco Presents. It is sponsored by Cerveza Tecate and AT&T. In the co-feature, Fairfield’s Alan Sanchez faces Denver’s John Ryan Grimaldo in an eight-round welterweight bout. Also featured are Albuquerque welterweight prospect Fidel Maldonado Jr. and Fairfield’s own junior featherweight prospect Manuel Avila. The doors open at 6:00 PM and the first bell rings at 7:00 PM The Telefutura “Sólo Boxeo Tecate” broadcast begins at 11:30 PM ET/PT (10:30 PM CT). Tickets, priced at $30, $40, and $60, are available now for purchase at Paco’s Restaurant by calling (530) 669-7946.