Peter Quillin: How "Kid Chocolate" Evolved Into a Man

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The former world middleweight champ is rejuvenated at 35 and in search of another world title shot. First, he must get by Caleb Truax in a 168-pound crossroads bout Saturday night on FS1.

A fighter whose first defeat is a brutal first-round knockout may never be quite the same.

Peter Quillin was an important (and unbeaten) middleweight on December 5, 2015, when he stepped into the ring to face WBA titleholder Daniel Jacobs at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The fight was over 85 seconds after the opening bell, with a discombobulated Quillin in not-so-proud possession of his first loss and an uncertain future.

The rest has been well documented. “Kid Chocolate” took almost two years off, outpointed journeyman Dashon Johnson in a 2017 eight-rounder and then didn’t fight again for another year. During that period, he had a lot of time to think about what happened against Jacobs, the possibility of retirement (a fleeting thought) and life in general as he battled depression.

Quillin emerged from the hiatus a different person. He no longer cares much what people think of him, particularly sycophants who constantly told him how great he was even though he had doubts. Quillin called them “yes men.” He’s content to be judged by family members and God. And he doesn’t see the point of looking backward. He seems to be at peace with the past.

The only question in terms of his boxing career that matters now: What kind of fighter can the 35-year-old be going forward?

Quillin (34-1-1, 23 knockouts) faces former 168-pound titleholder Caleb Truax (30-4-2, 19 KOs) in an IBF title eliminator on a Premier Boxing Champions card Saturday in Truax’s hometown of Minneapolis, live on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes (10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT).

“You look back on life and say to yourself, ‘I could’ve done this, could’ve don’t that,’” Quillin said. “There are too many what-ifs. I don’t dwell on past mistakes.  The important thing is to make better decisions in the future.

“I’m a better husband than I was before, a better father, a better man. And I’m an even better fighter to boxing fans.”

Aureliano Sosa, Quillin’s trainer, certainly likes what he sees in his now-super middleweight protégé.

The trainer is a product of the same Brooklyn boxing circles as Quillin, who moved to New York City from Grand Rapids, Michigan, as an 18-year-old to pursue his dreams. The two began working together last summer.

Sosa doesn’t have the name recognition of some trainers but he had at least three things going for him in Quillin’s mind: The former fighter has had a great deal of success on the amateur level, he shared Quillin’s hunger to succeed and he had the time to make Quillin a priority, something big-name trainers can’t always do.

Fighter and trainer got off to a good start: Quillin defeated a reluctant Love by a wide decision.

“I think it was like six years ago that I said to him, ‘Kid, if you come to me, I’ll make you so much better,’” Sosa said. “He smiled and said, ‘Not yet, Sosa. Soon. One day we’ll work together.’ Things change. Six years later he’s with me.”

I don’t dwell on past mistakes. The important thing is to make better decisions in the future. Former World Middleweight Champion - Peter Quillin

Sosa watched from a distance as his acquaintance fell to Jacobs. Quillin’s natural gifts were never in question, even after the setback, but Sosa wondered before they started working together how the knockout against Jacobs had impacted his psyche.

The trainer was pleasantly surprised.

“Some fighters have a very hard to come back from something like that, some don’t,” Sosa said. “I would say that Kid was somewhere in between. I think he had a hard time in the beginning but, as time went on, he learned how to brush it off.

“Since he’s been with me, it’s like (the KO) never happened. That made it possible to work on a new Kid Chocolate, a better, faster Kid Chocolate with power.”

Sosa said Quillin is 35-going-on-18 in terms of the learning process: He wants to improve and absorbs everything quickly.

Quillin was always a good athlete but was more of a brawler than a boxer. That worked for him until he ran into Jacobs, who also has considerable punching power. Now, after two camps with Sosa, Quillin is evolving into a patient, more measured boxer-puncher.

“He’s a very smart boxer,” Sosa said. “For some reason, nobody made him box. He just went in there and tried to take your head off. He wants his career to last another three years. He’ll have to fighter smarter to last longer. And he’s doing that. He’s smarter with his legs, with shoulder angles. Wait. You’ll see against Truax.”

Truax was a fringe contender until he stunned the boxing world by outpointing James DeGale to win the IBF title in December 2017 only to lose it in the rematch four months later.

The Minnesotan is a rugged, pressure fighter who tests his opponents’ abilities and will, which Sosa believes will play right into the faster and more-powerful hands of Quillin. He expects Truax to walk face first into his fighter’s power shots and predicts a knockout “in the ninth or 10th round.”

If that happens, Quillin, a former WBO middleweight titleholder, will be a step closer to realizing his goal of wearing another major belt and reclaiming his place among the better fighters in the world.

But it’s not about glory and money, as it might’ve been in the past, he insists. The new Quillin neither needs nor wants the pressure that goes with the fame and fortune game, which was part of his downfall.

Now he just wants to make a difference. He believes that is God’s expectation. Titles and big paychecks would be a bonus.

“If I’m able to achieve that, so be it,” Quillin said. “All that is up in the air. I really just want people to look up to me for a reason, to be motivated by what this guy [Quillin] has been through and how he’s handling himself now.”

For a closer look at Peter Quillin, check out his fighter page.

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