There’s “Kid Chocolate,” reclining on a work-bench, regaling the media with stories of his upbringing in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
There’s “Kid Chocolate,” dressed in white vintage dead stock sunglasses, posing in front of a mirror.
There’s “Kid Chocolate,” knocking out grown men with blasts that would fell an elephant.
So far, the career of Peter Quillin AKA “Kid Chocolate” has been one glossy snapshot after another. At 3-0 with 3 KO’s, Quillin is perfect. His knockouts are cartoon-like fun-fests. His post-fight celebrations are sugary and sweet. Someone hands him a satchel filled with pieces of chocolates, and he tosses them into the crowd. It’s a nifty bit of promotional handiwork that has made him a popular attraction in New York. Quillin is filling the stomachs of hungry fight fans who are searching for a boxer to wrap their hands around.
Quillin is fighting Tomas Padron in a four-round middleweight bout on April 20 at the Manhattan Center, and chocolates will be everywhere. Padron’s stats are not very impressive. At the age of 31, he is just 2-3-2, and all but one of his fights were in his hometown of Arizona. The Quillin motorcade is expected to continue after Thursday night’s show promoted by Lou DiBella.
Quillin lives with a brother and girlfriend in Brooklyn. He doesn’t hold a job outside of knocking people’s heads off. He spends his time modeling, acting, and keeping his head on straight. If he can accomplish the latter, he could have a solid career. If not, maybe he can parlay the nickname into a job selling bonbons.
“I know boxing is an up and down sport,” Quillin said on Monday after working out at the Crunch gym in Times Square. “I’m 3-0. I have a great team behind me, but I can’t get bigheaded. I’m glad that I have Colin [Morgan, his trainer] [making] sure I do the right thing. He tells me what I need to know, and keeps me humble. That’s the key for me: to keep working hard. I want to be a world champion in this game some day.”
As he spoke, a familiar figure hovered over him in the ring. Kid Chocolate meet the Kosovo Kid. In addition to Quillin, Morgan also trains Elvir Muriqi, a veteran of 33 fights, who is best known for his fall-fest against Sammy Ahmad in 2002. Muriqi was sprawled out on all fours for most of that fight. He was knocked down four times in the first two rounds before heroically coming back to stop Ahmad in the third.
At the still developing age of 26, Muriqi is in the second phase of his career. After 28 fights in his corner, trainer Teddy Atlas is gone – a split that Muriqi says was amicable – and in is Morgan, best known for his work with the former cruiserweight champion, Wayne Braithwaite.
Morgan has built a kind of utopian paradise for his boxers at Crunch. The serene, mostly white-collared air contrasts neatly with the rambunctious company of boxing. His stable of fighters includes a 270-pound amateur from the Congo named Patrick Ngunza, Ian James, a 132-pound amateur, the heavyweight survivor Larry Donald, as well as Curtis Jones, Chris Smith, Sam Elashry and Kabary Salem.
Mired in a slump, having lost two of his last three fights, Muriqi was once a blue-chip prospect like Quillin. One of the best aspects of a Quillin fight is watching the reaction of the New York State Athletic Commission as Quillin, 22, decapitates an opponent. They’re frozen with awe, shock, maybe pleasure, just like everyone else in the room. Muriqi, a talented, nimble boxer with defensive lapses, once inspired the same panic-stricken looks.
“The best advice I could give Pete is don’t get ahead of yourself,” said Muriqi, who is 30-3 (19 KO’s) as a cruiserweight. “You have to remain calm in this game. People, when their first getting started in their career, get so hyped up that they forget how hard it is to make it. They think they’re a movie star after only a few fights. They have to realize that they have to make it before they become a movie star. They have to work up to that level.”
Realizing that Muriqi was talking about him, Quillin walked over and stood next to his stablemate. Muriqi continued: “It’s good to have the media around you when you’re starting out, but publicity can hurt, too. In the beginning, all of a sudden everyone wants to be your friend. I was lucky to have Teddy [Atlas] in my career. He told me what to look out for and how to guard against it. The best advice I could give Pete is to stay in the gym and to not think that everyone is your friend. Because once you lose, people will count you out.”
For someone who shows such little emotion during his fights, Quillin is extraordinarily outgoing. He speaks with hand gestures and a broad smile and he spoke unswervingly about his upbringing in Grand Rapids Michigan, where his dad was a drug-dealer and his mom was a housewife, and Peter, sensing he was being duped by the streets, moved to New York to pursue a boxing career. His dad spent 6½ years in prison. He is now a clean-living handyman.
“I sat down and thought about it and I realized that I never met a gangster who ever lived,” Quillin said. “I was doing that life for a little while but I realized that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to be hanging around street corners the rest of my life. I wanted to be a champion in boxing. I love doing this. I get a burn, a rush when I’m at the gym. I know everyone says they’re in this sport for the money, but I can honestly say that I’m in it to be a champion.”
Quillin is tall and lean and throws long, sweeping punches that streak across the air. He is still raw, with only 15 fights in the amateurs. The most he has gone is two rounds in the pros since making his debut last year, but his desire and power are obvious, and more than once when Quillin was hitting the mitts did Morgan pause to let the pain quiet down in his hands. The number one concern for Morgan isn’t boxing related. It’s how Quillin spends his time outside the ring. Quillin has already walked the runway at a fashion show in Washington Heights and modeled for an online Speed Stick commercial. He has done the requisite appearance in a rap video and Morgan worries that Quillin may be spreading himself too thin.
“I think he’s reached the level where he’s better than a four-round fighter,” Morgan said. “Now I’m fighting with him to make sure he stays focused and his head doesn’t swell up too much. He’s at a point where everyone wants to be his friend. People want him to model; everyone’s approaching him for stuff. He has to learn to stay out of trouble. The publicity is a good thing, but if he gets carried away it could be too much for him to deal with. I want him to stay focused.”
The defining moment in his career was after his first-round stoppage of Antwuan Hedgemond last August when he tossed the crowd chocolates – and they tossed them back. Members of Hedgemond’s family, seated close to the ring at the Manhattan Center, suddenly lost their appetite, and they let Quillin know it with a fistful of candies. The incident, brief and humorous as it was, was a clarion moment for Quillin.
“Not everything is going to be easy,” he said. “Not everyone is going to love you. There will be some struggles, but I’m ready for what’s out there.”