PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                            May 07, 2009


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By Ken Hissner


Philly’s “Mighty” Ivan Robinson is well known for his fights in the amateurs with the “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya and in the professional ranks with his two battles against Arturo “Thunder” Gatti.  Though both De La Hoya and Gatti went on to achieve much notoriety as pros, they could not have done it without Robinson.

At the start, Robinson’s father Jimmy served as his trainer along with Johnny Settles.  In 1989, Robinson lost to De La Hoya in the Golden Gloves finals.  “That decision I was okay with,” said Robinson. 

In 1990, Robinson was in the Goodwill Games, in Seattle, and defeated Kirkor Kirkorov of Bulgaria on points.  He also stopped in Faat Gatin of the Soviet Union in three rounds.  In the finals of that tournament, Robinson met De La Hoya for the second time.  Once again, Ivan lost on points.  “I thought I won that fight,” said Robinson.

In 1991, Robinson won the U.S. amateur featherweight championship, while De La Hoya took the title as a lightweight.  That year, Robinson also competed in the amateur World Championships in Sydney.  He defeated Jose Fernandes of Portugal, but lost to South Korean Dyuk-Kyu Park on points. 

In the 1992 Olympic trials in Worcester, MA, Robinson defeated Kenneth Friday and Michael Clark before losing in the final to Julian Wheeler.  He also lost a box-off to Wheeler.  This pair of losses closed his amateur career. 

In October of 1992, Robinson turned pro by knocking out Pedro Cotto in the 1st round in Atlantic City.  Between his debut and April of 1994 Robinson had eleven fights.  He won them all, including a decision over 20-4 pro Luis Maysonet.  “He was a big puncher,” said Robinson.

After four more wins, Robinson got his first big test in Secaucus, NJ, in a cable-TV fight against Juan Negron, a 22-1 fighter from Newark.  “I’ll never forget that fight. He was a tough guy,” said Robinson.  Robinson stayed undefeated with the 10-round decision. “We had an opportunity to meet De La Hoya.  We asked for $250,000, and they took Jesse James Leija instead." 

In 1995, Ivan met his 21st opponent, the Panamanian champion Demetrio Ceballos, who earlier in the year had won the IBF Latin American title in Philly. Robinson and Ceballos met at the Blue Horizon for the USBA lightweight title.  Robinson won the 12-round verdict.  “It was a close decision,” said Robinson. 

Next up was Sammy Mejias, 15-2-1, of Puerto Rico, who was riding an eight-bout winning streak.  Included in the run was a victory for the WBC FECARBOX title in his prior fight.  “This was a grudge match from the weigh-in, when he said he was going to beat me,” said Robinson.  “He would hit me with rabbit punches, in the cup and after three warnings got disqualified in the 9th,” added Robinson. 

Just two months later, Robinson would travel to Baltimore to meet Emanuel Augustus (Burton) and win his 23rd fight without a defeat.  The win earned him an IBF lightweight title bout with Phillip Holiday, of South Africa.  “Augustus had a crazy style,” said Robinson.  “From the right side he hit you with his left and from the left hit you with his right,” added Robinson.  Anyone who has seen Augustus fight can verify Ivan's comments.  

With the title fight, Robinson began fighting for Lou Duva.  “I fired my dad as my trainer, kept my assistant, O’Dell Cathay, and added Tommy Brooks,” said Robinson.  Brooks was Duva's son-in-law and main trainer. 

In the championship match with Holiday, Robinson suffered his first defeat by dropping the decision.  “He was like the energized bunny,” said Robinson.  It was December of 1996, and although he lost, Robinson still looked like a sure-bet for future title honors. 

But in his next bout seven months later, Robinson lost his USBA title in an upset to Israel Cardona, 25-2, by technical stoppage in three rounds.  “I didn’t train like I should have for that fight,” said Robinson.  After a couple of easy wins Robinson had his first of two battles with Gatti. 

It was August of 1998 at Convention Hall, in Atlantic City.  Though Robinson was down in the 4th round, he battled back to take a split decision over ten rounds. Ring Magazine called it the "Upset of the Year and named it their "Fight of the Year".  “I had Bouie Fisher and O’Dell in my corner for that one,” said Robinson. “We (Arturo) were buddies and I knew a lot about him while in camp with Pernell (Whitaker).  It was a money situation so I took it,” he added.   At the weigh-in Gatti tried to intimidate Robinson.  “He told me he was going to knock me out,” said Robinson.  “It would be redemption for me and a statement fight,” said Robinson. 

“I wanted Shane Mosley after that fight, but was offered a rematch with Gatti by Carl Moretti, the matchmaker for Duva,” said Robinson.  “He was one of the best,” he added.  “I had Mike Stewart and Anthony Thompson as my sparring partners,” said Robinson.  Gatti had a point deducted for low blows in the 8th round that would have given him a draw on two of the judge’s cards.  But instead, Robinson repeated his ten round victory over the popular Gatti. 

Next up would be Angel Manfredy, a fighter with knockout wins over Gatti and Jorge Paez, but had lost to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. just two fights before.  “I was about 50% of myself in this fight,” claimed Robinson.  Robinson lost a lopsided decision. 

In his next fight, Robinson won the NABF lightweight title by decisioning James Crayton, 30-10-2.  But then in April of 2000 Robinson faced Antonio Diaz, 32-2, in Las Vegas for the IBA jr. welterweight title.  “I took him for granted and got stopped in the 11th round,” said Robinson.  

Four months later, Robinson came back with what would be one of his last big fights of his career.  In the fight, he boxed to a draw with future champ Vivian Harris, 16-1, in Atlantic City.  “I thought I won,” said Robinson. 

Near the end of 2000, Robinson lost to Jesse James Leija, 40-5-2, by ten round decision.  Robinson was dropped in the 8th round, for only the second time in his career.  “It was a great fight,” he added. 

Then came back-to-back losses to Efren Hinojosa, 22-0, and Chucky T (Tschorniawsky), 20-5-1.  “I knew in the Hinojosa fight that when he was too fast for me, that my speed was diminishing". Robinson then added, "Chucky T got a gift.”  The loss to Tschorniawsky was in front of the home town fans at the First Union Spectrum. 

In a fight for something called the International Boxing Council Americas light welterweight title, Robinson fought to a 12-round draw with Luis Santiago, 13-3, at the Blue Horizon.  “I was having trouble making weight going in, and he hurt me early,” said Robinson.  His manager, Eddie Woods, was in his corner that night. “We weren’t friends then, but would later become partners and still are,” said Woods.  “Ivan was a tremendous boxer and was able to fight for the IBF title during his career,” added Woods. 

At the end of 2003, Robinson lost to Mike Stewart, 34-1-2, for the USBA jr. welterweight title at the Wachovia Spectrum. Stewart stopped Robinson in the 11th round.  “It was a tough fight and Stewart was totally different than when we sparred in the gym,” said Robinson. 

Robinson fought once in 2004, losing an 8-round split decision to Reggie Nash, 8-9, in a bout billed as an IBU jr. welterweight title eliminator. 

Robinson’s last career win came over Tyrone Winckler, 12-9-2, at the Blue Horizon in February of 2005.  It was a 6-round unanimous decision. 

Three months later, Robinson was offered a bout with former champion Julio Cesar Chavez, 106-5-2, at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles.  “It was a money fight.  I brought my father back in to train me, and had gone to North Carolina at Don Turner’s camp for five weeks,” said Robinson.  “I did fine for five rounds, but dropped my hands after landing a combo while pulling back, and got dropped in the 6th round,” said Robinson.  He would go the distance with Chavez and stay out of the ring for two years. 

In 2007, Robinson lost a split decision to Darien Ford, 10-15, at the National Guard Armory in Philly.  In that fight, he weighed the heaviest of his career at 150. A year later in July of 2008, Robinson traveled to Worley, Idaho, to take on Favio Medina, 18-1-2.  The 10-round decision loss for the 37-year old Robinson brought his career record to 32-12-2, with 12 KOs.

Now at 38, Robinson is working the corner for many fighters.  Most recently, I saw him at the South Philly Arena where his protégé Gabriel Diaz turned professional.  It was a tough debut for Diaz who lost by majority decision to a more experienced Wahid Raheem, the brother of Zahir.  “I didn’t want this fight because these two should meet each other down the line,” said Robinson.    

“I also work with Jackie Davis, a USA boxing champion who won her debut.  Also Derek Webster who is turning pro, and Tyrone Miles, 1-0, all in Camden, New Jersey,” said Robinson. 

When asked if his career was over, Robinson said, “My wife Tanya doesn’t want to see me box again nor does our daughter Tatyana, who said I was getting old after my last fight.  My son Ivan, Jr. (13) asks when I am fighting again since I spar with the fighters I train,” he added.   

Robinson had a fine career.  How many people can say they fought De La Hoya, Chavez and Gatti?  “Mighty” Ivan Robinson can. 





Ken Hissner interviewed Ivan Robinson
and wrote this article in May 2009.