Marking the 20th anniversary of the fight that truly signalled the arrival of ‘Cinderella Man’ Steve Robinson on the world stage, his 23 October, 1993, points win over Colin McMillan.
Steve Robinson‘s ‘Cinderella Man’ reputation was made by his incredible April 1993 win over John Davison, the Welshman having stepped in as a last-minute replacement to seize the vacant WBO featherweight title.
But the Cardiffian’s legacy as a true world champion was secured in the following seven successful defences as he made everyone realise he was far more than a journeyman who had got lucky.
After a routine homecoming title defence against new British champion Sean Murphy in July, it was the 24-year-old’s October clash with Colin ‘Sweet C’ McMillan at Cardiff’s National Ice Rink that really opened the eyes of the world.
Londoner McMillan, 27, was a true golden boy of the British boxing establishment, his silky skills winning rave reviews from media and fans.
“He was beautiful to watch as a fighter,” said former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan. “Such silky skills… he was a mixture of Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Ray Robinson.”
Turning professional in 1988, he overcame the setback of a shock defeat in his third fight to win British and Commonwealth titles as part of a three-year winning run that took him to a 1992 shot at the WBO world crown.
A classy victory over highly rated champion Maurizio Stecca left ‘Sweet C’ with the world at his feet as he went into his first defence, against Ruben Dario Palacios.
The champion was ahead on all three cards going into the eighth round, but as he threw a punch he suffered a horrific shoulder dislocation that left him unable to continue.
The fight for his old title against Robinson would be McMillan’s first since that night, but such was his reputation – and the light regard that the new champion was held in – that the challenger was a big favourite going into the bout.
“I used to admire Colin and rate him as a top fighter,” admitted Robinson. “I thought, ‘Oh man, this is going to be the toughest fight of my career’. I had seen him win the world title when he just jabbed [Stecca’s] head off.
“But winning the belt had made me a better boxer and deep down I feel I should have got a lot more credit.”
McMillan himself says his confidence was not at 100% – he knew that his shoulder was still not right, but he had not wanted to risk it popping out again in a lesser fight for a smaller purse.
“I felt I could beat Steve the way I was,” admitted the Londoner.
It was Robinson’s under-rated, quietly effective qualities that would prove McMillan wrong, the Welshman – roared on by a fervent home crowd – maintaining a high intensity and a tight guard, and relentlessly walking down his foe.
It was a thrilling, intense fight, but the champion was on top throughout. McMillan says that “at the end I think we both knew it had been a close fight”, but the judges were unanimous in handing the verdict to Robinson, 117-113, 116-113 and 117-111.
“Colin was a top world champion,” said Robinson. “He didn’t perform as well as he could have because his arm was not 100%, but I roughed him up.
“They thought he was another Sugar Ray Leonard who would walk all over me, but I proved them all wrong. I was so excited to win because he was a very good boxer, a classy boxer, but I outclassed him.”
After the defeat McMillan took 16 months out, and he remained troubled by his arm injury for the rest of his career. But, proving that his class remained, he won his next eight fights, picking up the British title along the way.
McMillan’s only other defeat was in his final outing, a January 1997 clash with Paul Ingle – just his fourth loss in 35 professional bouts.