The former world champion wants another shot at glory. But first, he must get past the battle-tested Alfredo Angulo in a super middleweight showdown Saturday night on FS1.
It’s not uncommon to hear an athlete thank God moments after their greatest successes. It’s more uncommon when you hear them praise God following turbulence in their personal or professional lives.
For former middleweight champion Peter Quillin, the last few years have featured bit of both, yet he’s in good of spirits as he returns to the ring Saturday night against battle-tested Alfredo Angulo at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield, California, live on PBC on FS1 (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT).
Quillin (34-1-1, 23 KOs) grew up poor in Grand Rapids, Mich., with a father who was in and out of prison in his native Cuba. Quillin sold drugs as a teenager.
“Most of the people I grew up around, they never had a sheet on their mattress,” Quillin said during a lengthy interview last week.
“You would sometimes eat pasta for a week straight, or ramen noodles. You would figure out a way to eat the noodles differently in order to make it seem different every time. I liked to boil the water with the seasoning in it and then put the brick of noodles in for a little bit and eat it while it was still hard. I liked the shrimp and beef flavors but not the chicken.”
Quillin left Grand Rapids for New York City after putting together a couple hundred bucks so he and his trainer could relocate to a place known for its tough gyms and quality fighters. He turned pro a couple weeks shy of his 22nd birthday – late, by boxing standards – sometimes sleeping on a mattress pulled out of a NYC sidewalk and onto a friend’s floor.
It took seven years for Quillin to land a world title shot. He topped unbeaten Hassan N’Dam in front of his adopted Brooklyn hometown at the first-ever boxing show at the newly constructed Barclays Center.
As much as Quillin struggled early in life, his downward spiral came amidst some of his biggest success. The trappings of fame and fortune got ahold of him. After suffering his first pro loss in a shocking one-round knockout against Daniel Jacobs, he disappeared from public view. It was during the next couple of years that he fought maybe the toughest battle of his career, this time on the home front.
Quillin has always been a religious man, praying each time he entered asking for he and his opponent to make it safely out of the ring and back to their families. But when he faced major challenges in his personal life, he found comfort and support from then-trainer Virgil Hunter and stablemate Andre Ward.
“I learned a lot of stuff from Virgil,” Quillin said. “We had a lot of time to sit down and he has a big faith in God as well. Andre Ward, he was restoring stuff. I was about to get a divorce. That's what I was on my way to. I felt like I didn't want to be married. A lot of things I felt like I didn't have the right kind of perspective on. Getting away and being alone and figuring out where my life was headed, just in terms of being a man and a fighter. I think I took some valuable time for myself and I really had to do some soul searching and basically found out what kind of fighter I am, find out what kind of man I am, and most importantly what kind of man of God I am. That was well needed.”
“ I’m under a covenant with God. Things are a little different and my motivation has changed. ” Former World Middleweight Champion - Peter Quillin
“Andre Ward spoke some life into me,” he continued. “He said, 'Why you want to get a divorce?' And I was making up all these things in my mind and he said he remembered seeing a picture of me and my wife and how he was so happy for me. He said, 'You need to go back and tell your wife you want to work it out and you want to have Jesus Christ as the foundation.' And I was thinking to myself that's not going to work because my wife is Jewish.
“But come to find out when I went back and told her out of desperation, my wife said, 'Let me think about it.' The very next day my lawyer gave me a call and said my wife's lawyer took the divorce off the table. So that holds some weight.”
Quillin has since moved on from training with Virgil Hunter, but not because he was unhappy with the work he was getting, but because he wanted to be closer to his family. Quillin just had his third child a few months back and the thought of leaving for training camp nearly three thousand miles away was too much to bear.
“I never had a family. I always went away to train and I told myself that’s the way you have to do it, not to be comfortable… I’m under a covenant with God. Things are a little different and my motivation has changed.”
Though Quillin has fought only three times in the past nearly four years, he’s perhaps in the best place mentally he’s ever been. It’s why when his super middleweight title eliminator against Caleb Truax ended in a no decision in April, he didn’t let it bother him. Ditto for when the rematch was cancelled a few weeks out when Truax tore his Achilles.
Over an hour-long conversation, Quillin often recited Bible verses to accompany thoughtful answers to the questions posed to him.
In Quillin’s last full bout, a ten-round decision against J’Leon Love, Quillin fought a subdued kind of fight, averaging about 30 punches a round on the way to a near shutout victory. His opponent didn’t press the action, but Quillin chose to box rather than try and make it a fight. It was a tedious fight to watch but Quillin got the job done.
Against Angulo (25-7, 21 KOs), he’ll be facing a completely different kind of fighter. The veteran Mexican only knows one way to fight, and that’s coming forward. He’s looked mediocre in recent scraps, but in fights that go five rounds or less, Angulo is 21-0 with 19 knockouts. He’s especially dangerous early on, especially if Quillin reverts to the relaxed style he adopted against Love.
At 36 years of age, time is running out for Quillin to make another run. The 168-pound weight class is in the midst of a renaissance. Quillin against Truax was set to be an eliminator for Caleb Plant’s IBF title. It’s unclear whether this fight will still qualify the former champ for a title shot -- but he’s still the kind of name that could test Plant and the rest of the division’s top fighters.
Will Quillin make a statement Saturday night against Angulo to land himself a big fight? It’s now or never.
For a closer look at Peter Quillin, check out his fighter page.