Ivan Robinson 1" src="http://realcombatmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Ivan-Robinson-1.jpg" alt="" width="208" height="242" />Chris Cercola of Real Combat Media had the opportunity to speak with Philadelphia legend, “Mighty” Ivan Robinson. Ivan opened up and spoke at tremendous length about his upbringing, amateur career, his legendary fights with Arturo Gatti, and so much more. This interview is so long it will be broken up into several parts.
“Mighty” Ivan Robinson – Part I
Ivan Robinson, nicknamed ‘Mighty’, was born and raised in the boxing rich city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 27, 1971. In 1988 he won Pennsylvania Golden Gloves Champion 1988 Open Division, 125 pounds. He was the Featherweight Silver Medalist at 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle, United States, missing out on gold to Oscar De La Hoya. He was the 1991 United States Amateur Featherweight Champion. He competed in the 1991 World Championships in Sydney, Australia, and finally, he attempted to qualify for the Olympics as a Featherweight at the 1992 Olympic Trials in competition at Worcester, Massachusetts, winning his first two bouts, before dropping a decision in the final to Julian Wheeler. He dropped another decision to Wheeler at the Box-Offs in Phoenix, AZ. Quickly signing an almost seven figure signing bonus, Ivan was ready to turn professional, and he did so on October 20, 1992, winning with a TKO in the first round in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
It wasn`t long before the ultra-talented fighter, with the friendly demeanor and welcoming conversationalist, combined with the tough Philadelphia mindset that we came to expect from fighters from that region, became a fixture on the popular “Tuesday Night Fights” series.
Often fighting in the legendary Blue Horizon, Ivan would bring his hometown crowd out of their seats in appreciation of his world class ability. With the hometown crowd behind him, he captured the USBA Lightweight Championship against fellow undefeated contender Demetrio Ceballos, and winning a UD over future world title challenger Emanuel Burton before challenging for the world championship.
And on December 21, 1996, Robinson challenged the undefeated I.B.F Lightweight World Champion Philip Holiday. In one of the fights of the year, Robinson dropped a 12 round decision, ending his undefeated streak in a fight where there was a combined 2,500 punches thrown between the two fighters. He lost his second fight in a row, losing by third round knockout to the hands on Israel Cardona.
In an unfamiliar place, having lost two fights in a row and an unsure future ahead, Robinson decided that he was going to make another run, and so after a couple of confidence building type of fights, he found himself in the fight that would define his career. He won a 10 round war with the former 130 pound champion, Arturo “Thunder” Gatti in what would be hands down, the fight of the year for 1998. Four months later, he repeated the win in another classic war.
1999 saw Robinson drop decision to fellow Gatti, conqueror Angel Manfredy, win a UD against James Crayton, and score what would be his final win by stoppage when he knocked out Tyrone Flucker in 2.
Robinson had 3 fights in 2000, getting stopped in 11 rounds by up and coming Antonio Diaz, fighting to a draw with Vivian Harris, and losing a 10 round UD to fellow legendary warrior Jesse James Leija. He stayed active, after that, winning some, and losing some to Lower level guys with no media attention at all.
It seemed as though the world heard the last of Ivan Robinson, but he resurfaced again in 2005 to face the all-time great, but aging Julio Cesar Chavez losing a 10 round decision to arguably the greatest Mexican fighter of all time. After that Ivan Robinson dropped two more decisions before quietly retiring from the sport. Robinson finished his career with a record of 32 wins, 12 defeats, 12 wins by KO, and 2 draws.
Here is what the Mighty one had to say:
I started boxing when my dad took me to the gym in 1976; I believe…He took me to 26th Allhegeny Avenue, a gym called Bearson. I used to go there and hit the bags and run around as a kid. My dad never pressured me; he just took me to the gym and let me do what I wanted to do.
One day a young man named Johnny Settles got a hold of me, and he started working with me, for some reason I got attached to him, I used to listen to him a lot, and do the things he asked me to do, and him and my dad combined for a great, great relationship. From there on my dad would take me to the gym and let him train me, of course my dad would have some say so about things.
I lived with my dad and he`d teach me things at the house. I guess when I was 7 or 8 years old, I grew the name ‘Mighty Mouse’ because I was the smallest kid in the gym, and everybody throughout the city knew me as ‘Mighty Mouse’. I guess I became good, I didn’t really know how good I would become over the years because I never did too much being proud of myself, I just rolled with the flow when it was time to fight, I just loved to go out there and compete.
I`m from North Philly. It`s very big, and I come from a section called “Nice Town”, I think five blocks up the street Meldrick Taylor was, and I was young, I didn’t know too much about Meldrick, but Meldrick was the 1984 Olympic Champion Gold Medalist. We went to the same high school, Simon Gratz, and it was one of the biggest schools in the city, and I was proud to come out the school because the school was very uplifting when it came to helping their athletes. Of course things that are going on now are totally different than when I was coming up.
Drugs was out there, but they weren’t out there as hard as they are now, all the killing, there’s a lot of killing here in Philly, and that wasn’t happening here when I was coming up. I could go to a neighbor’s house and spend a night and never worry about anything. My dad was very particular who I’d spend the night with and who we`d stay with, but my upbringing was real great, even though North Philly was a hard place to come from. You had a lot of crazy people out at times, some people were drug dealers, some people was killers, but it was great, I loved it, I got along with everybody in the neighborhood, I got along with everybody in the city.
Philadelphia, when you come from there, you’re gonna get a lot of love and prayers from the city. They`re on their sports here and if you`re no good, they`re gonna let you know, if they don’t like you, they`re gonna let you know, and I was just one of those great athletes that everybody got a chance to enjoy.
At school I was a good kid, my dad worked, my mom was what they called back then, a home maker, she stayed home, made sure we did our homework, made sure we ate, she dressed us made sure we was good, my dad dressed us, but my dad was pretty much a discipline person. I remember one time in school, I was trying to be a class clown, and back then they used to call your house and tell your parents, and my dad, from kindergarten up to twelfth grade, I swear, and anybody in the city will tell you that knew my dad, he used to come to school with me, he`d walk to school with me. He used to sit in the class with me and do my homework, he used to go to lunch with me, and so everybody knew my dad.
I remember one time I messed up in school, and my mom said, if you keep messing up in school, I’m gonna talk to your dad, and we`re gonna take boxing away from you, and boxing was like my main thing, it was my scapegoat, I loved it, but I kept messing up in school, the teachers called home, and I didn’t think they were gonna call home, but they called home, and my mom and dad never told me they called home, they just told my mom what I was doing. I happened to go to school the next day, I`m sitting in class, trying to be the good student, because I knew I was messing up, but I didn’t really think about it, so I’m sitting there doing my classwork and I just hear everybody laughing, I`m wondering why everybody laughing, so I`m not paying no mind, I`m still doing my work, and everybody’s still cracking up. I turn around, my dad`s standing in back of the class! I`m like, “Oh my God, what are you doing?” So he pulled up, the kid who`s sitting next to me, got up, my teacher brought another chair and desk in, and he sat there the whole day with me and I had to do everything. Then to punish me for the week that I messed up for class, he sent me to school with high water jeans, or pants, and some crazy clothes on, man, I swear to god, I never ran so fast in my life when school let out, I think I was the first one at the crib, I think I was home before school even let out. They ain`t never had to worry about me messing up no more in school, I was good, then they took boxing away from me for the whole week, I mean that was crazy, I had to come home do homework, no phone, no TV, no radio, no nothing, you know back then, that’s how your parents was. It worked out for me. I wasn’t your typical A student, but I was a B student, I did my homework, it was either do that or not go to the gym. I made sure I did that.
My dad used to pick me up from school, and we used to walk to the gym. We used to go to the gym Monday through Friday. We used to walk past this pretzel store all the time, my dad wouldn’t do it every day, maybe on a Wednesday or a Friday we would stop and get a water ice and a pretzel. but that was on the way back from the gym after I worked out, but after that, we would walk to my grandma’s house, do my homework, then we used to walk all the way home, by the time we got home, it was time for me to take a shower and go to sleep, and get up and do it again, but the only thing I didn’t like about it, my dad used to wake me up at 6 o`clock in the morning and run me before I went to school, and I was like “Wow dad, why you running me at 6 o clock in the morning?” But it was a good thing. It helped me get to all those international fights. It helped me to get seen on TV, and back then, when I was coming up; amateur boxing was the most pivotal thing in the world. When I started taking trips, and going places and fighting overseas, it played a real good part in my life.
In Philly, we had a sports writer named Bernard Fernandez, and I was like one of the only kids in the city… I mean every time I went away, I`d have an article in the paper, every time I fought, I had an article in the paper, when I was home, I had daily news people coming to the school, so I got a chance to absorb a lot of things, I was able to learn how to talk to the media, and I was just able to learn. I wish they were doing it now, but the times are definitely different. I’m stuck in my old school situation. When I came up, in the Olympics and when I went to the trials and from there when I turned pro, those were the good times.
Stay tuned for part II when Ivan talks about which fighters inspired him and who he looked up to. He also goes into great detail concerning his amateur career and his 3 fights with Oscar De La Hoya.
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