NEW YORK – Not every fighter follows the same path to a world title. Some are seemingly ordained from the moment they sign their first professional contract, earning the red carpet treatment off the bat due to their amateur success.
Others have to navigate the jungle that is pro boxing, taking fights wherever they can get them, hoping that fate shines down on them eventually.
Peter Quillin’s journey to the WBO middleweight title most closely resembles the latter. After years of grinding away on the New York club scene, Quillin’s career took off in 2012 when he signed with boxing power broker Al Haymon and Golden Boy Promotions, which led to fights with Winky Wright and a victory over Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam to win the title.
In boxing, just as in most institutions in life, it’s about who you know.
The Cuban-American boxer from Grand Rapids, Mich., will make his second title defense against tough contender Gabriel Rosado this Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. in the chief supporting bout to Bernard Hopkins’ light heavyweight title defense against Karo Murat, both of which will be televised by Showtime.
The road to this point has hardened and matured the 30-year-old.
“I was just saying that I’m like a kid that puts himself through college,” said Quillin (29-0, 21 knockouts). “He has to struggle a lot, he has to get his own books, he had to work three or four jobs and go to class. That’s what I did. That’s the kind of road that I took with being a boxer.”
Now, the wide-eyed young man who first moved to New York City to pursue his dreams has grown into a dedicated, focused athlete, he says, having married recently and cutting out his partying ways.
In Rosado, Quillin faces an opponent who, like himself, turned pro after a nondescript amateur career and learned his craft in the gym and on the job. Rosado (21-6, 13 KOs) has fought more recognizable names than Quillin has to this point, including Alfredo Angulo, Kassim Ouma and Gennady Golovkin.
“I’ve always had respect for Peter Quillin,” said Rosado at Wednesday’s press conference in New York. “The first me and him ever talked was trash talking on the radio one time a couple of years back. Then we met at the Wild Card gym [in Hollywood, Calif.], he was training for the Winky Wright fight and I was training for Sechew Powell, and we got cool.
“We respect each other because this is what we do, but once it’s time to fight each other, that has to get put to the side and you gotta have a different mentality. You can’t just look at a guy like ‘That’s my boy.’ He’s trying to smash you, he’s trying to take your head off. Right now it’s no love right now. It’s competitive, not like in a violent way like I hate him.”
When asked what he felt was Quillin’s best attribute as a fighter, Rosado pointed to his self belief.
“I’ve always said that his best quality is his attitude,” Rosado told RingTV. “I don’t think he’s the fastest guy, I don’t think he’s the strongest guy, I don’t think he’s the most skillful guy. But he has the attitude that he believes in himself so he has confidence. You can have a guy with all of the skills in the world, but if he doesn’t believe in himself, he won’t do much.”
Rosado isn’t lacking in self-confidence himself, though.
“With the Golovkin fight, I was moving up in weight, it was my first fight at middleweight. I wasn’t as strong as I am now. It’s my third time at middleweight and I truly feel comfortable. I feel strong and solid. I don’t feel I have to take a step back on this guy.”
That Rosado has a recent loss to Golovkin, the WBA middleweight titleholder, in January, which makes the outcome of Saturday’s fight of particular interest in the middleweight division. Rosado, though capable, is a “comparison opponent,” and the pressure is on Quillin to outperform Golovkin, who stopped Rosado in seven rounds.
A bout with the fellow unbeaten Golovkin or THE RING middleweight champion Sergio Martinez would go a long way towards clarifying the picture at 160 pounds.
“I’ve been had my eye on Sergio Martinez for so many years,” said Quillin. “He’s the one with the credentials that everybody’s chasing so that’s why I’ve been chasing him and trying to solidify a fight with him. I believe Gennady Golovkin is also a good fighter out there who, me and him could be a big pay-per-view fight one day. If it’s built up the right way, the people will be able to see that fight.”
Bouts with Martinez and Golovkin will have to wait for now, it seems. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer suggested to media at Wednesday’s press conference that Quillin would instead be facing Danny Jacobs (26-1, 23 KOs) in his next defense, should he get past Rosado.
“If everything goes well with Peter, it could be his next fight,” said Schaefer, who said the bout would take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in February.
“What else is happening in New York in February?” asked Schaefer. “The Super Bowl!” responded another reporter, to which Schaefer followed up, “I’m working on something exciting for that weekend.”
For Quillin’s part, the subject of his next opponent isn’t as important to him.
“I’ve never been a matchmaker in my whole career in boxing, so why would I start acting like one now?” asked Quillin.
“They can (talk about) all of the guys I didn’t fight; I just fought the guys they put me in front of. I took some hard punches in fights, and I got through them and let every challenge that I was into get me better and get me where I’m at right now. With this fight, it’s going to be no different.”
Video / Ryan Songalia