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It raised eyebrows when Peter Quillin turned down a title fight that would have paid him a career-high amount of money for an eminently winnable fight against Matt Korobov.
For that decision and for being managed by Al Haymon, Quillin is despised by a small but vocal group of fans. He’ll headline a card on NBC on Sept. 12, when he faces Michael Zerafa in a tuneup fight.
Like any professional athlete, Quillin has no shortage of “advisers” who are more than willing to tell him what he should do even if their own lives may be in tatters.
But judging by his actions, Quillin seems to have a pretty good handle on how to prepare for the future.
In a sport in which, sadly, a large majority of its biggest stars go broke not long after their careers end, the unbeaten former middleweight champion is planning for life after boxing.
He recently purchased a home for his mother in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich.
That is something many athletes do, but Quillin is proving not to be just any athlete. This is a guy wise beyond his 32 years.
While many of those who would tell him how to live his life struggle to survive day-to-day, Quillin is taking concrete steps to protect his boxing earnings and make certain his family’s needs are taken care of.
This isn’t a guy with a fleet of luxury cars. This isn’t a guy with multiple homes. This isn’t a guy who is routinely decked out in thousands of dollars worth of bling.
“I saw that ‘30 for 30’ special on ESPN about athletes and how a large amount of them would go broke,” Quillin said. “That’s in my head all the time, ever since I saw that, especially as a boxer. Do you know how much training I do all the time? The majority of my life, I’m sore because of how hard I’m working.
“There are a lot of guys out there who want to tell me what I deserve. For me to listen to them, that’s trouble. They ain’t going to be there when I really need them [when the money is gone]. That’s one of the tricky things in this business, figuring out who is your friend and who just wants to be around when the cameras are there and the money is rolling and things are good.”
Quillin said he had a lifelong dream to own a Corvette, and so he bought one. But he said he soon realized after watching the TV special how easily it could all be gone.
Legendary boxers like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, who earned hundreds of millions of dollars in their careers, went broke, declared bankruptcy and had to start over.
There are countless athletes in other sports who have done the same.
Quillin became determined not to be one of them.
“You know, I became a slave to being a consumer, trying to buy things that didn’t really bring anything back to me,” he said. “I got to a point in my life where it dawned on me that I didn’t want to be in that situation that a lot of athletes got to, especially those who came up like I did with nothing. It’s like, you want to have Jordans because you couldn’t afford them [as a kid]. Buy Mom a house because that’s the dream of so many.
“Basically, when you’re an athlete and you’re on top and the money is good, you don’t think about down the line. We have very short careers and a short period of time to earn, but then we’re going to live, hopefully, a long, long time after our careers are over.”
And that’s what escapes so many. They spend their money as fast as it comes in, but when there’s nothing coming in, it’s hard to maintain that mansion or those cars, and it’s impossible to eat the diamond-encrusted jewelry.
Quillin caught himself before he went down that same path.
“Sometimes, it seems like the hardest thing to do in life is to do the right thing, you know?” Quillin said. “I’d be doing my family no justice if I let my son group up the way I came up. What I’m doing right now is figuring out while I’m making good money is how to protect myself so my family is good.
“People work 45 years so they can get a retirement, you know? They work all that time and get a couple of million, four or five million dollars. I’m in a career where that kind of money comes fast. But you know what? It can leave fast.”
Quillin spends his days training for fights, and then preparing for his future.
He is learning about retirement planning, even though it’s nearly 20 years before he can earn an AARP card and he still has 30-plus years before he hits the traditional retirement age.
“I try to live on a budget,” he said. “I like to have spending money for different things, but I don’t need to be crazy. I got that Corvette Stingray, that car I always wanted. But I can go and drive a Honda Accord. That’s a good car. It gets gas mileage, it’s reliable. I can live that smart, simple life. The hardest thing is, for people who make money, is to take a step back down. But what I try to do is live within my means at all times.
“It doesn’t make sense to say, ‘I want this. I want that.’ Because there is always a next something you just have to have. The number one thing I’m trying to do is set my life up. I’m looking at retirement plans, an educational plan for my son. I’m investing in properties so I know I’ll have a steady income. You have to do these kinds of things or you’ll end up like those athletes on [30 for 30] telling how bad things went and no one will really care.”
Quillin grew up in Grand Rapids, where pound-for-pound kingpin Floyd Mayweather is from. Quillin counts Mayweather as both an idol and an inspiration, though he’s living a vastly different lifestyle.
He shares the same manager as Mayweather and probably could have landed a spot on Mayweather’s Sept. 12 undercard. But he was content to fight on NBC and patiently try to build himself.
He admires Mayweather, but he’s not trying to be Mayweather, and he says that with no disrespect.
“I try not to be like others because you’ll never create your own story,” Quillin said. “I’m inspired by his story, but I don’t want to repeat it necessarily. Within my means, my goal was to become a world champion and I became that. So I reset my goals. And you know what my goal is: To not retire broke and with no money.
“I want to live a simple life. I want to own my own house. I want to go into other things after my fighting career and be successful. I got my GED as a world champion, even though a lot of people told me I didn’t need to go back to school because I was a champion. But I got my GED. And one of the most important things to me is after my career is to be able to have a decent conversation with my son.”
The same will and determination that helped him succeed in boxing is driving his quest for a better tomorrow.
“I want to be able to say, ‘Son, what do you want to do? Do you want to box? Do you want to be an R&B singer? Do you want to sing in a choir?’ ” Quillin said. “I want to be there to support him. That’s my goal and that might not be what everyone wants me to set my goal at, but this is my life and I have to live it, not anyone else.”
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