Christmas will come early for Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, a New York kind of guy and No. 1-ranked contender who challenges fellow unbeaten WBO Middleweight World Champion Hassan N’Dam in one of four world championship fights on Saturday, October 20, in the first-ever boxing event at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. For Quillin, it’s been a long and intense journey towards this title shot. Here, see what Quillin had to say as he recently answered six questions with SHOWTIME boxing analyst and historian Steve Farhood, and also read more on Quillin and his background.
You’re originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, not New York City, but you’ve lived in New York for the last 12 years. What about you suggests you’re a true New Yorker?
“I have no problem drinking coffee in the morning with a bagel. I’m a corner-bodega kind of guy; I don’t like to be the type of person who goes to Starbucks just because everybody else goes there.
“Also, I’m not really a morning person. On the subway in the morning, there’s dead quiet. Nobody says anything — me included.
“And if somebody asks me for directions, I tell them I don’t know — even if I do.
“I fit right in.”
The original Kid Chocolate was the first world champ from Cuba. Your dad is Cuban. There have been many great Cuban champions, but you’re the first one I remember who’s publicly paid homage to Kid Chocolate. Why?
“Fighters here take the name Muhammad for Ali, or Sugar. I took the name Kid Chocolate not so much for Cuba, but for my father, who came here with nothing.
“It’s a tribute to his culture. I went to Cuba 2 1/2 years ago and met three half-brothers and sisters for the first time. My father is 75 and he still lives in Grand Rapids. I speak to him in Spanish more than I ever have. It’s very important for me to learn the language.”
“The original Kid Chocolate was not only a great fighter, but when he came here, he was very big in New York.”
The original Kid Chocolate fought many times in New York City, including several times in Brooklyn. What does it mean to have your biggest fight to date at the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn?
“I’ve lived in Brooklyn, and when I first heard about this show, I kept it to myself. You know when you’re growing up and your mom says she’ll get you something for Christmas? Well, you don’t say anything because you’re scared that if you do, it won’t happen.
“This is my Christmas.
“This is big for me. New York created me as a person and a fighter. The aggressiveness… the hard work for something you want. Believe it or not, growing up in Michigan, I used to talk with a fake Brooklyn accent.
(Upon learning that the last world title fight in Brooklyn came 81 years ago) “Man, how do you think that makes me feel?”
There’s been a lot of complaining about the lack of top-level American heavyweights, but you’re the only American in the middleweight top 20. Does that create pressure?
“In 1982, there were eight American middleweights rated by ‘The Ring.’ Fast-forward, and now there’s only me, but I’m not letting the pressure get to me. I have to use that fact as motivation. It’s not about the money, it’s about my legacy.
“I never allow anybody to call me champ. I say, ‘We’re getting there.’ After October 20, they’ll call me champ and I’ll accept it gracefully. In fact, I’ll probably cry.”
If you’re successful against N’Dam, what fight might the win propel you toward?
“I have Al Haymon and Golden Boy; all the sweat and pain, and now I’m seeing the rewards. They look after me. Whatever fights come my way.
“Personally, whenever I called for (WBC champion) Sergio Martinez, people said I was being disrespectful, but I just wanted to fight the best.
“And I’m tired of hearing about (WBA champion) Gennady Golovkin. He had 400 amateur fights; he’s supposed to be doing what he’s doing.
“(IBF champion) Daniel Geale…there are too many names out there to call out just one. I’m gonna let my team handle it.”
You’ve had 27 pro bouts. The original Kid Chocolate had 151. You think you’ll catch up?
“That greatness is what I’m working towards, but 151–that’s a scary number.”
Quillin’s Incredible Journey
Nearly 12 years ago, undefeated middleweight contender Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (27-0, 20 KOs) first landed in New York City, and now his incredible journey culminates back in the Big Apple on October 20.
Quillin slept on the floor of his friend’s apartment in Manhattan and worked three jobs in order to keep his dream of becoming world champion alive. The gifted Cuban-American will have that coveted opportunity on Oct. 20, ironically, where it all started in New York City, at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Showcased on Showtime Championship Boxing, in one of four world championship matches presented by Quillin’s promoter, Golden Boy Promotions, No. 1 contender Quillin challenges a fellow unbeaten middleweight, defending World Boxing Organization (WBO) champion Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (27-0, 17 KOs).
Technically speaking, Quillin’s life story started in Chicago, where his father, Pedro, relocated after defecting from his native Cuba to Miami. His family moved six months after Peter’s birth in 1983 to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Pedro, who was on the second to last Cuban refugee boat, was rarely at home and he was later extradited from Orlando (FL) to Illinois and eventually imprisoned for money laundering.
Quillin’s mother immediately was forced to go on welfare in order to care for her three children. “I always had clean clothes but they weren’t the kind I really wanted, mostly shared with my brothers,” Quillin explained. “I had no confidence as a kid. I went to school and didn’t know why I didn’t have what other kids had. I didn’t understand that they didn’t have much, either. It was just a way of life in the inner city. We struggled growing up in Grand Rapids and by the time I was a teenager, I was uncontrollable and running on the streets. A lot of kids didn’t have their dad living with them. Friends were murdered or jailed.”
Boxing, like for so many other troubled teens, was a way out for Quillin, who started in the sport at the age of 15. He was in and out of the gym, though, undisciplined and didn’t have his first amateur fight until he was 17. At 18, he decided to get serious about boxing. With his $300 life savings stuffed in his pockets, he and his trainer headed to New York City, where he competed in the famed NYC Golden Gloves. He first lived on 88th and Amsterdam in Manhattan, in an apartment of his trainer’s friend. Things didn’t work out between “Kid Chocolate” and his trainer and Quillin soon had no place to live, no family in New York, and he was left crying by himself on a train heading from the Bronx to Manhattan.
Quillin had briefly lived on the Lower Eastside, then in the Bronx, over to the Financial District (his co-manager John Seip hooked him up there with an apartment), and then to Brooklyn for four years. Today, he’s bi-coastal, living in Manhattan between fights, and in Los Angeles while training.
“I don’t really know why I didn’t give-up but I think it was because of God,” Quillin remembered. “I try not to question why but I wouldn’t give up and worked through all the BS to get where I am today. I moved to Brooklyn because it reminded me more of home than Manhattan. I slept on the floor of my friend Steven Rivera’s home. He believed in me. I thank God for the special people in my life that I’m indebted to like my manager, John Seip (who co-manages Quillin with Jim McDevitt). They’ve encouraged me. God got me into boxing for a reason. I’m just getting to the point now where I always wanted to be. It’s all been worth it.”
It certainly hasn’t been an easy road for Quillin to follow and get where is today. Although it never got to the point where he considered quitting boxing, he was forced to work three jobs to survive, earning $350-$500 a week at IHOP (“My personality helped me earn extra money there.”), $100 a week doing administrative work for a friend, and additional coin teaching conditioning classes.
“I’d work three jobs and then go workout at the gym,” Quillin noted. “I didn’t sleep. Faith is everything. God has been good; He challenged me. Some may question why I have the work ethic I do and I owe that to God. I’ve learned that, if you really want something, you need to work at it. I’m still learning about boxing and I put everything into it. My work ethic is even better today, even if it just looks easier. Boxing is my job, boxing is my life.”
From the mean streets of Grand Rapids to Brooklyn and a world title shot Oct. 20 there reads like a Hollywood script. There just may be a “Kid Chocolate” movie someday, especially if he leaves the ring wearing the WBO championship belt around his waist.