The boxing ring has long doubled as a classroom of sorts for Peter Quillin, a place where plenty of lessons have been both learned and taught by the undefeated fighter.
In some ways, it’s served as a substitute for a more formal education, the endless time that Quillin spent in the gym supplanting traditional schooling as he rose from amateur to champion beginning in his teens.
Still, even as Quillin’s career blossomed, not having a high school diploma ate away at a piece of him, gnawed at that part of his being that took satisfaction in finishing the job just like he had finished so many of his opponents.
As Quillin became more and more successful as a fighter, he’d sometimes pay visits to local schools to encourage kids to stick with their education, to make something of themselves later in life, just like he had done.
But at the same time, he felt that his words, while well-meaning, also had a certain hollowness to them.
“Honestly, I was going against what I believed in,” Quillin admits. “I felt like part of my legacy wasn’t finished and complete. I just didn’t want to be one of those guys telling kids, ‘Stay in school, don’t be a fool’ when I was the one being a fool.”
And so Quillin did something about it.
He studied—hitting the books right along with the heavy bag—and at the age of 30, he took the GED exam.
When Quillin recounts getting the results of the test, his voice brightens, like a thunderstorm has just been chased from an otherwise sunny day.
“When I got my GED and it came in the mail, I was so happy,” he says, still sounding the part to this day.
In the ring, Quillin’s always proving something to others, be it boxing fans, judges or the other fighter in front of him.
But by doing what it took to earn his GED, Quillin proved something to himself.
“I’m thankful that I didn’t listen to a lot of people who told me, ‘You don’t even need it, man,’” he says firmly. “I did need it.”