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Jacob Robinson: ‘I have big shoes to fill. But I’ve inherited dad’s strength. I was born strong’

Jacob Robinson
Photo: @sashshots
Steve Robinson is my father, my trainer and I am determined to emulate his achievements… but I don’t feel any pressure. Jacob Robinson speaks in his own words

ADDING to the Robinson family legacy motivates me most; more than money and titles. I wasn’t even born when Dad won the [WBO] title and was only seven when he retired, so never went to any of his fights. I didn’t really appreciate what Dad achieved until I first started high school. But my older brother and me always watched his tapes as kids. It was the crowds Dad used to bring. The [Cardiff] Ice Rink became his fortress.

He was very strong and everyone talks about his dedication and heart, his fitness and determination but a lot don’t give him the credit for how good he was, technically; so tight and side on. He outboxed Colin McMillan, the master boxer.

It’s so hard to live up to what my dad did, not just seven successful defences but the calibre of the fighters that he beat; Colin McMillan, Paul Hodkinson, Freddy Cruz, Duke McKenzie. Those fights were on primetime live ITV. The numbers must have been phenomenal. Big shoes to fill.
But were I to match Dad I’m sure he’d be proud, super happy, not envious. It’d give him his props as a trainer and it’d help revitalise his own achievements. He’s become a bit of a forgotten champion.

I don’t feel any pressure. That was his career. This is my career. If you don’t want to do it, find something else. If you think too much it eats you up inside. That might have been what happened with my brother [Luke]. He had seven pro fights, won six, but fell out of love with the game.
I’ve my own son now, Noah, just turned three. Little troublemaker, keeps me on my toes. He’s already getting into it, hitting the pads with my dad. The gloves are bigger than him. He could be the third generation.

★ ★ ★

I was always the smallest at school but, do you know, I’ve never had a fight outside. From the age of about eight, I followed Dad and Luke to Tony Borg’s [St Joseph’s ABC] gym in Newport, just to get fit for rugby. I played for Newport Schools from under 12s to under 14s. On the wing, fast, man.

I was 14 when I finally had my first amateur fight at The Stables ABC. Though Dad took me on the pads at home, he left the club trainers to coach me. As he had a professional licence, he couldn’t go in my corner.

I won a Welsh schoolboys title, stopped the kid in the first round, and won a couple more Welsh titles on walk throughs. I got to a CYP Class C final but got robbed down in Kent, can’t even remember the kid’s name. I went in the (Welsh) Senior ABAs once but lost to Carl Morrison in the semis… good fight, thought I outboxed him but unfortunately I didn’t get the decision.

The amateurs was difficult for me. I only had 18 bouts, 14 wins – my brother only had eight. It was hard to get fights ‘cos I was just 48 kilos for a while. I was always fighting boys with a lot more fights than me. Also, I lot pulled out on the day when they found out I was Steve Robinson’s son. I didn’t really fit into the amateur system with my dad being a pro coach.

I boxed a couple of times for Wales against England, won ‘em both, but it was very difficult to break on to the Welsh squad for the big tournaments because I’d grown out of 48 and you had Andrew Selby at 52kg, Sean McGoldrick at 56. I sparred both regularly at St Jo’s plus Lee Selby and Joey Cordina; much higher level than the kids I was boxing. Lee was a big featherweight but Andrew was probably the most talented, a bit temperamental but so hard to read, great punch variety. Sparring was always full on. No one held back. That brought me on.

★ ★ ★

Stylewise, Dad and me box totally different. I love studying and emulating the slick southpaws, Rigo, Pernell Whittaker, Shakur Stevenson, Gervonta Davis. But I’ve inherited Dad’s strength. I was born strong.

I’m whatever I turn up as. I can do a little bit of everything. Some days I’ll turn up counter-punching, others I’m more hands up, pressure. My ring IQ is underrated and I can always tap into Dad’s experience.

Dad’s an underrated coach. People forget he previously took Dazzo Williams to the British title (featherweight, 2003-5). He’s quite technical. He’s taken quite a lot of stuff off Ronnie (Rush, Steve’s long-time trainer) and Dai Gardiner. Initially, Dad’s cousin Leon also helped. He was a wicked pad man, very knowledgeable. It was he who nicknamed me “Baby Jake” after the little South African (two weight belt-holder Jacob Matlala) but Leon passed away of a heart attack, at just 48. Honouring his memory also drives me.

Though I’ve a place in Barry with my partner, with fights coming up, Dad and me live together four days a week. Dad’s laid back with me. He just says if you want to do it, you gotta dedicate yourself. He’s never been a shouter and doesn’t call out when I’m sparring or fighting, just waits till I get back to the corner and gives quiet advice. We both work as personal trainers and he slips a few clients my way.

I’ve taken to the pro game much better. Longer fights, more rounds. I didn’t stop many in the amateurs but I’ve shown I can really punch hard with both hands.

On my debut, I knocked a Latvian [Dmitrijs Gutmans] clean out with a straight left, and third fight, Jules Phillips went down face first from a reverse screw from the right hand. He was out for about seven minutes. Others get too excited and jump up on the ropes but Dad said don’t celebrate. With the oxygen mask, it was a bit worrying. A lot of it is timing. Double impact as they come onto my shots.

After that, I’ve had bad injuries. I’ve been going into fights with just one hand. For a lot of fights, I’ve not got any sparring in ‘cos I was resting my hands. Instead, I did a lot of running and low-impact paddle pads. I’d spar for two weeks maximum before, just to get a bit of distance.
Also, I’ve had to fight opponents who were six-seven pounds heavier or guys who didn’t want to fight me, didn’t come to win. But it was good to get the rounds and I’ve moved nicely through the levels.

I had a testing six-rounder with Johnny Phillips who should have been 6-0. He was quite lanky, dangly. I expected he’d put it on me but it was more a fencing match. Then I stepped up to an eight-rounder with [ex-British super-bantam challenger] Sean Davis at York Hall, my only fight outside of Wales but the best venue I’ve fought at; shit changing rooms but rough and ready. I got a good reception.

I won my Welsh title in a hard 10-rounder against Angelo Dragone. Though Dad won the very same title, way back in 1991, he never actually got given the belt. He’s having his picture with it now for the first time!

People will look on BoxRec and underestimate me, gain confidence and take a risk against me.

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