The Welsh Cinderella Man – Steve Robinson
By Daniel Hughes: Hollywood has certainly thrown up some tales from the ring over the years. The film, Cinderella Man, the story of James J.Braddock, a massive underdog beating Max Baer on points to become world heavyweight champion of course being recreated on film. The film made for the mainstream being a decent story of the underdog prevailing.
Max Baer though being depicted in a poor light never went down well with writers like myself. Hollywood and boxing, never let the truth get in the way of a good story they say.
Boxing has always had tales of those against the odds victories and how careers have been turned around by an unexpected chance, opportunity knocking at the door and taken. The Welsh version of the Cinderella Man involves a fighter by the name of Steve Robinson and how staying in shape and by the phone can serve many fighters unexpected chances, decent paydays and ultimately glory.
The chance he got came about back 17th of April, in 1993 vacant WBO featherweight title against John Davison in Newcastle, UK. Davison had been due to fight Reuben Palacios the champion from Colombia, check weights done and only some routine checks to be finalized before the final weigh-in. Those medical checks including blood tests, Palacios tests positive for HIV, fight off and sent back to Colombia never to fight again. Palacios within a year incarcerated for drug trafficking and dead by 40.
The title fight was due to be shown on TV here in the UK. The fight had been well supported at the box office as John Davison was a local fighter from Newcastle, England and promoters and TV were desperate for the show to go ahead. The problem being getting an opponent at 48 hours’ notice.
The call went out to many of the higher ranked WBO fighters on the list. The opportunity turned down by many, overweight, under prepared and unrealistic purse demands to step in late. The show was about to be postponed and one last call was made to Dai Gardner, Steve Robinson’s manager. The question asked, answered by where do we sign? WBO title shot and Robinson aware that with a record that read at the time, 13 wins, 9 defeats and a draw this chance would never come again jumped at the chance. Robinson a fighter that had taken many last minute fights, better than his record suggested was always in shape and making £50 (approx. $75) a week as a part time worker in a department store, the money on offer as welcome as the unexpected title shot.
The fight itself, Robinson a massive underdog winning on a split decision by using his excellent fitness and conditioning, outworking his opponent behind the jab opens up a whole new chapter in his boxing life. Steve Robinson went on to defend his title seven times beating the likes of Colin McMillan, Paul Hodkinson and three weight world champion, Duke McKenzie. The taking of and winning a world title at short notice had given him the money and the chance to train full time giving up his part time job. He credited his title run to that fact.
He eventually lost his title to Prince Naseem Hamed. He had had a good run, made decent money and he actually lost the title to Hamed on taking the fight on three weeks’ notice. He was on honeymoon at the time of the offer to fight Prince Naseem. He said afterwards being the Welsh Cinderella Man, the money was too good to turn down, no excuses. The fact he trained like a champion when he wasn’t, staying in shape when many can’t and won’t, should be a tale to many a fighter young and old, you never know when that call will come that can change your life.
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