The New York native by way of Grand Rapids, Michigan, faced Brownsville’s Daniel Jacobs, then the WBA World Champion, in the famed December 2015 Battle for Brooklyn at Barclays Center.
That night, despite never recording a knockdown, Jacobs stopped Quillin 85 seconds into the first round. The staggered and dazed Quillin had only landed two to Jacobs’ 27 punches by the time referee Harvey Dock had a single arm wrapped around Quillin, saving him from the worst-case scenario.
Normally, fighters attempt to proclaim becoming champion ahead of time, with the hope of prophesizing their aspirations into existence.
“Speak it, believe it, receive it,” often says World Heavyweight Champion and constant Barclays Center attraction Deontay Wilder.
Quillin too became a visionary, but to his detriment.
“That’s how I saw it in that nightmare,” Quillin, 35, admitted to BQE Media last week at Sweatbox Brooklyn in Sunset Park, preparing for only his second bout since the Jacobs loss. “I started calling it a nightmare, but it’s a dream that God gave me that was going to happen to me. My entire camp for that fight was to fight that dream so that it wouldn’t come true, but it did.”
The traumatic terror kept Quillin away for nearly two years before returning as a super middleweight last September, where he outpointed journeyman Dashon Johnson.
Quillin – currently with a record of 33-1-1 (23 KOs) – held a World Middleweight Title from 2012-2014, a reign beginning with a six-knockdown victory over then fellow undefeated fighter Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam, crowned champion in a tearful ceremony at Barclays.
After all, he grew up wanting a challenge and he found it with boxing, but out of necessity.
The Brooklyn import was kicked out and expelled for fighting in high school before earning his G.E.D. from a youth career development center in Grand Rapids. He once joked that he had more knockouts in the streets than in the ring in a Showtime documentary.
“I wanted to be successful at something,” he said. “I didn’t think school was going to give me greatness in my life like boxing. I never had the confidence to feel like I can do anything else.
“When you see me cry in the ring, that was a real moment with me that I accomplished my dreams,” he added. “And then when I stepped out that locker room, it was robbed from me.”
The gift and the curse of Quillin’s title run, combined with an inherent denial to say “no” to people, marked the beginning of a tumultuous title run. But in retrospect, he feels that the loss to Jacobs was a product of a growing spiritual connection.
Quillin had a past of preaching faith, but confessed to being a lukewarm Christian. While the title brought him lows, the defeat brought him to the Most High.
“I try to produce Godly thoughts every day,” Quillin says of his current state, which he describes as his first true happiness in life. “If I don’t, I’ve got to watch who I’m around.
“I had questions,” he continued. “When I started to get the answers, that’s when my life changed. When God says, ‘No weapon formed against me shall prosper,’ he didn’t say that weapons weren’t going to be formed against you, he just made a promise that they won’t prosper against you.”
He recollects being raised in a household where his father cheated on his mother, who was once choked in Quillin’s presence by another boyfriend named Cornell, and who Quillin also never felt love from.
It all served as an early template for the young future champion, but not for the better, he admits.
“That put a toll on me when it came to me being married and not knowing how to hug my wife because it felt weird to say, ‘I love you,’” he said. “I’ve never seen my parents hug in my whole life. I’ve seen them fight, but I’ve never seen them hug. So I sort of had a bad perspective of women at first.”
In the aftermath of his first round TKO shortcoming, Quillin says nearly losing his wife was yet another motivation for a lifestyle change, which initially saw him in the dark. The dark was actually familiar territory to where Quillin saw himself in his younger days.
“I started having deep demonic visions, dark stuff like suicide, bringing harm to myself, bringing harm to others,” he recalled. “I had to try to unlearn 30 years of bad stuff that I was taught. I had these traumatic moments that gave me anger. Hate always comes from anger.”
But now, Quillin insists that the smiley face tattooed on his left shoulder is a reflection of his day-to-day life, which he feels comes from the literal grace of God.
Now training in Brooklyn with Aureliano Sosa, who also trains local heavyweight contender Jarrell Miller, the rejuvenated Quillin is ready for J’Leon Love (24-1-1, 13 KOs), the co-feature on an August 4th card at Nassau Coliseum.
It will be Quillin’s biggest fight in three years, and Love’s biggest ever.
The two trained together at one point, but the fight came per Love’s request, seeing Kid Chocolate as a target with a status he yearns for, much like Jacobs did in 2015.
The super middleweight certainly expects a different result, but is leaving it to the Lord as part of his spiritual journey.
“Whatever the case, I think Love made a very big mistake,” Quillin said. “Somebody normally does that because they see a weakness in somebody. He’s calling me out, so through the grace of God he will be delivered into my hands.”