One fight took Steve Robinson – Wales’ very own ‘Cinderella Man’ – from being a journeyman to a world champion, but he then showed the determination to ensure that was just the beginning of his journey.
Robinson was born in Ely in 1968 to a Jamaican father and Cardiff mother, and in 1993 was a four-year professional.
He had followed his brother into Ronnie Rush’s Cardiff gym, and turned professional under Dai Gardiner. But Robinson had lost six of his first 11 bouts, and his nondescript record now showed nine losses from 23 fights.
Promoter Barry Hearn was in desperate need of an opponent for local boy John Davison for his show at the Northumbria Centre, Washington, County Durham.
Davison had been due to fight champion Ruben Palacio for the WBO featherweight title, but the Colombian failed a HIV test in the build-up to the bout.
Robinson had to lose 6lbs to compete for the vacant title, but he always kept himself in superb shape – despite the pie and chips – and was ready for the challenge.
Against Davison he was the hungrier fighter throughout, and his superior skills took him to a deserved points victory that even the partisan home crowd found it hard to dispute. He returned to Cardiff as Wales’ first world champion since Howard Winstone in 1968.
No-one expected the most unlikely of world champions to hold on to his belt, but he beat Sean Murphy, then used his toughness, conditioning and skills to break the highly fancied Colin McMillan and Paul Hodkinson.
Duke McKenzie was next up to try to burst the Welshman’s bubble, but Robinson again proved too strong, denying the challenger the chance to be Britain’s first four-weight world champion.
Despite seven glorious defences, a looming shadow was coming the champion’s way in the form of the fast-rising ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed. He was seeking his first world title and the road to glory that would follow, and Robinson was his chosen victim.
The WBO bumped Hamed up the rankings to be their mandatory challenger, meaning that the champion was denied the big money he should have expected for such a dangerous fight.
He also had little say over the timing of the fight, set for Cardiff Arms Park on 30 September, 1995. Robinson was barely back from his honeymoon, meaning that his usually meticulous training regime was not right.
The vociferous 16,000 home crowd tried to lift Robinson, but on the night Hamed was just too good and too classy. The ‘Prince’ dropped the brave champion in the fifth and taunted him before the bout was ended in the eighth.
If that was the end for Robinson at world level, he was far from finished as a fighter.
He continued to mix in high-class company, and in April 1999 travelled to Madrid to challenge for the vacant European title.
In front of the partisan Spanish crowd he claimed a points win over Manuel Calvo to claim the belt he would hold through two defences, until June 2000.
The Welshman then travelled to Budapest where the formidable Istvan Kovacs proved too strong, the Hugarian winning a points verdict.
Robinson would fight on at the highest level, but would not win another bout.
He lost a majority decision to Cassius Baloyi in a challenge for the WBU title, then another majority verdict against old foe Calvo in Madrid when the European belt was on the line.
Robinson was then matched against the imposing, fast-rising Scott Harrison in a challenge for the latter’s British and Commonwealth crowns.
The young and hungry Scot proved too much for the old warrior, stopping Robinson in the third.
The Welshman tried to fight on at a lower level, but an April 2002 eight-round points defeat against Steve Conway at Huddersfield Leisure Centre persuaded him it was time to quit.
Robinson went on to forge a successful career as a boxing and personal fitness trainer in his home city.