By: Rich Quiñones
Over the last several years the welterweight division in boxing has always been a sexy stacked division from top to bottom and down the line. As of recently, the reigning pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. has made it clear he still owns the division albeit in a very tough bout and win against Marcos Maidana in May.
Then there is Manny Pacquiao, who looked reborn during a dominating performance against Timothy Bradley Jr. in April.
You can mention Shawn Porter, Devon Alexander, Keith Thurman and Amir Khan as those who might have a shot to unseat Mayweather before he rides off into the sunset whenever that may be.
But who is really the most feared welterweight in the division.
What about Ray Robinson, no not the original “Sugar” Ray Robinson, but the “New” Ray Robinson.
Heard of him?
He is a 28-year-old tall lanky 5’11 southpaw out of Philadelphia, that no one seems to want to fight and for good reason. A decorated amateur background, Robinson won the Junior Olympics and Silver Gloves. He was a member of the U.S. Boxing Team.
An educated fighter, Robinson went to Marquette University in Michigan, where he attended school. He boxed in Italy, Russia, Turkey and Canada on Team USA.
But what makes him so dangerous?
Is it his height, reach, speed, footwork, heart or desire. Take your pick. Look at the fight that gave people along the east coast a sneak peek in the greatness that is Robinson. In a night where he had his coming out party, he simply overwhelmed a then unbeaten Aslanbek Kozaev to capture the vacant NABO title in February and in the process made a prolific statement that he is ready to take on the top fighters in the welterweight division.
Kozaev came in with a ton of fanfare owning several European and Baltic titles, including the then vacant EBU-EE welterweight title and the then vacant WBC Baltic welterweight title. He entered his bout against Robinson undefeated at 26-0-1 and the fight against Robinson was his ninth title shot.
With the exception of a 12-round, split decision draw last March for the WBC Baltic and WBC CIS and Slovenian Boxing Bureau titles against David Avanesyan, Kozaev had won them all and remained undefeated. That all changed when he stepped into the ring against Robinson at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, as Robinson dominated him over 12-rounds, never allowing Kozaev to get inside and promptly giving the native of Vladikavkaz, Russia his first pro loss.
“Honestly, I studied him and all the tapes I saw on him. I knew he was a good boxer going in,” said Robinson.
“He (Kozaev) outworks guys, he put the most pressure on me that I have ever seen. I studied him. It was all about doing your homework on this guy. He has fought tall guys before. He changed his style against me, and when he brought the pressure, I adapted. He just was a freight train, he just kept coming and when I got inside, I started to beat him. My hands were too fast, so I started to go to down stairs and work his body and out boxed him. And then I went to the outside and started beating him.”
The win over Kozaev jettisoned Robinson in the top 10 in the world. He is currently ranked eighth in the WBO and 10th in the WBC, respectively, and he is ready to fight anyone at any time.
If you go back to his second-round TKO win over Terrance Cauthen that gave him the vacant USA Pennsylvania State welterweight title in 2012, Robinson has won four straight belts. The interim NABA welterweight title was earned when he beat a feisty Alberto Morales and then followed that up with scary display of raw boxing skill and power against a heralded Ray Narh.
“Look at Ray Narh. He was a big name before he fought me, he was an Olympic alternate, and he was coming off a big win over Ronald Cruz. He held a couple of titles. He had some big fights on Showtime or HBO, so he was a big name and just go watch and see the way I beat him. I didn’t just win and get lucky, I was winning on the scorecards and then I knocked him out,” said Robinson.
After that impressive win, Robinson turned back around and simply ambushed a tough and gritty George Sosa in May. That fight lasted just four rounds as Robinson pummeled Sosa, promoting referee Vic de Wysocki to halt the action.
There are fights in boxing that early on you can see how lop-sided they are, and after just one round is was clear that Robinson just would impose his will against the 20-fight veteran.
“I just feel like some fighters are just not ready for me. I this point in my career, I am ready to step up and take on the top fighters, and Sosa was not on my level. I wanted to dominate and this was the fight to show people I am stronger, faster and I just did not want to slip up. I knew this guy could take a good shot from the beginning and I wanted to go to the body and not concentrate on the head,” added Robinson.
Sosa’s corner argued that the stoppage was premature, but Sosa had nothing in the tank and Robinson knew it.
“He was just not throwing back at all, go back and watch it, the referee tells him over and over to show him something. I did what I had to do, and that was just beat him, and take him out. In the third I wobbled him and could have gotten him out of there. I thought I did well at sitting down on my shots, and I was not trying to loop them. I really sat down on my shots and did well there.”
The win quietly improved Robinson’s record to 18-2 but the statement he made was ever louder.
“Ray is a guy that is willing to fight anyone, go and look at the Porter fight, after that fight everyone said he beat Shawn Porter,” proclaimed Robinson’s manager and Champs Management’s Dave Tiberi.
Tiberi is a former IBC Super Middleweight champ and has always followed the amateur boxing circuit, patiently waiting for the next boxing great to come up through the ranks. He sees that next great champ in Robinson.
“People just avoid him,” said Tiberi. “Even though he lost to Porter, people said he was the winner. He is 10 times the better the fighter that he was when he fought Porter. Ray has never hesitated to go into some one’s back yard and fight them. He never wants an easy fight. Go and look at the Sosa fight, he totally dominated the guy, he just picked the guy apart, people were joking the scores of the rounds should have been 10 to 6. Ray just finds a way to win. He sticks with his plan and he does not deter from it and that is hard to find in boxing today without fighters just wanting to hand pick their fights.”
Credit Robinson for taking the Porter fight. He was just coming off a layoff and loss to an undefeated Brad Solomon and traveled to Mississippi for the bout. Despite the Porter setback, Robinson never made excuses.
“I was coming off my first loss (Solomon) and moving up in weight, and I had a layoff. I felt like I was game, I had a game plan. Look I am not in this for a check. I know it is a business, but I want to have a legacy and win, I want them to mention me with the greats and when they talk boxing they bring me up. I am not making any excuses at all when I fought Porter. In my head, I felt I can beat him, I kept him off balance with my style, being tall, southpaw, and slick. He was the bigger fighter, he was crashing down in weight and I was coming up. I do not make excuses but I learned a lot, you have to stay ready. I had to go that path then and now this path now. I am blessed and like I said I will fight anyone.”
Tiberi loves Robinson’s passion for the sport, but it is his discipline according to Tiberi that makes him special and unique. “His discipline, his dedication to study the sport, Ray lives for fights, he stays five to six pounds above his weight, which is very rare in the sport of boxing,” added Tiberi.
“He is so well rounded, he is 5’11, can punch, move, keep people off balance and he can make you look bad.”
The mental game in boxing is just as important to the physical game. Young boxers can suffer loses and early on in their career, and you might never hear from then again. Robinson is quick to point out he is not of those fighters.
“I came off two losses back-to-back, normally if you are a young guy that would break somebody,” he said. “I was going through promotional and manager issues and that would break another person. Maybe you start to think the pro game is not for you, but I never threw the towel in and I went back to the drawing board and worked on things. I had some flaws in my game and knew that I had to work on things. I work hard and I have that Philly heart in and out of the ring.”
So how come he can not get a big fight. Why are boxers avoiding him? Is it politics, is it because no one really knows his name, or has he really instilled fear in the heart of others.
“I would say they are at least three guys that said Ray is not a good fight for them,” Tiberi said. “I talked to some major players in boxing right now and Ray is just too dangerous for their fighter. I mean come on my feelings are if you are the best then you don’t decline anybody. This is what i am excited about. It is so quick for them to decline Ray because they know he is so dangerous. Why do we get some many declines against top fighters in the world, the reason Ray is in the top 10 in two of the major sanctioning bodies is because he has earned his way there and at the same time we are in position right now to keep reaching out to the top fighters in the world. My brother Nick, who does the match-making, and I have, called and spoke to the managers or trainers and the answer is a quick no, we are not interested.”
Robinson has stated he would fight Pacquiao. That could be an interesting potential match-up down the line because of Robinson’s style in the ring, which has a tendency to disrupt his opponents.
But what about the man Pacquiao just beat, Bradley Jr.
“To me I would love to fight Bradley, we went to school together,” Robinson said.
He also was quick to point out his frustration when it comes to boxers padding their records.
“To be honest all these guys are being protected. Look I love old-school boxing and the best took on the best. That is how I was raised and that is what I like. I think these guys are protected, maybe they are on the way out and they want to make a couple more dollars. Maybe they think if they fight me, they are not going to make that jackpot or I might expose holes in their game and then no one will take a shot with them. I feel no one wants to take a chance and if you take a loss you take ten steps backwards, which makes it tougher for me. I deserve a shot. Look they just don’t want to fight me, I am tall, have some nice power with my punches, I am quick, I can adapt, I can make it a war. I can go there. If I have to get inside I can go there and I have a good chin and people saw that. The one time was against Porter and that woke me up and I thought he woke up a lion. I out boxed him and he needed that knockdown to beat me. They might have the speed or power, but they don’t have my will power, like a cut or something bad, they do not know how to adapt, but with me it is like throwing gasoline on a fire. It gets me going. I was born for this.”
Tiberi is not the only one that believes Robinson adapts well in in the ring.
Amir “Hardcore” Mansour has seen enough of Robinson to see he has what it takes to win a world title one day and all you need to do is look at his career growth and level of opponents.
“Ray has championship skills and is the “only” fighter that should have gotten either the win or a draw over the dominant “Shawn Porter”, Mansour bristled. “When you look at Ray’s resume, it is filled with talent. He was not brought along like your average prospects and he has fought tough guys from day one.”
It should be very interesting to see the next several opponents lined up for Robinson. He can make some noise in another two or so fights if he can get the opponents he wants. The challenge is not getting Robinson fights, it is the lack of top level opponents, that is perplexing to his entire camp.
“I think Pacquiao and Bradley Jr., and all those guys, they are smart. Why would you take a chance on a guy like Ray Robinson. A 5’11 boxer with tremendous skills and with devastating punching power,” said Tiberi.
For the time being Robinson will have to just wait his turn. As frustrating as it sounds to him, he understand the politics behind the sport, but that does not mean he has to like it or stand for it.
“They just do not like to take any chances with me. I wish it was old-school boxing, because I would have a shot by now. The best are supposed to fight the best. I am still waiting in line. I am knocking on doors, and Dave Tiberi is giving me opportunities and I am kicking the doors open and just waiting for that shot. I have been boxing since I was eight and have overcome a lot and could have went another direction. But I stuck with it. I am at the point of my career that I want a shot at a world title. I did not get any passes, no one held my hand or help pad my record. I fought to get where I am at and I would not want it any other way. I am ok with that. I am not complaining, but when one person works so hard and they come knocking then the other person on the other end should open the door and give them a shot. Because they were there once before. I guess if they won’t open the door I will continue to kick them down.”
Robinson does not even hesitate about the prospect of fighting outside the states.
“If they call me, I am ready, I have done it before. I have a passport. If a guy wants to give me a shot and open doors, and I have to go overseas to do it I am willing to do it,” concluded Robinson.
If you study Robinson you will see how he has matured over his last several fights, which could be very scary for the rest of the welterweight division, something that Tiberi has viewed and recognized that alone make for a scary fighter.
“Ray has become a dangerous man. He is so well rounded now, and I could not have said that three or four fights ago. Ray is the most rounded, dangerous welterweight in the world right now. I have never said that about a fighter I have worked with. Look the fans want to see the best fights. When I was a kid, you had Ali, Frazier, Norton and Foreman and it would be so many months before they fought each other, but they wanted to have the bragging rights and be the best heavyweight in the world. I think Ray Robinson will be that shining light in the sport that transforms the welterweight division today in saying let’s fight the best welterweights in the world. Fight fans, want that throwback, they want the guy that will fight anyone, Marvin Hagler type, The guys that says I will fight anyone that is Ray. That devastating power against Narh sent shivers down the spine of everyone.”
It apparently sent shivers down the spine against the rest of the welterweight division.
If you have not heard of Ray Robinson, you have now.
Rich Quiñones is an award winning broadcaster and journalist. He is the lead blow-by-blow Boxing voice for GFL.tv and Go Fight Live’s Boxing on Comcast. He has sat ringside calling the action with Monte Barrett, Brian Adams, Amir Mansour, Danny Garcia, James Kirkland, Mark Breland, Ronnie Shields, Teddy Atlas and Lou DiBella, while broadcasting over 125 bouts for GFL in 2013-2014.
Rich is also a contributor to Ringnews24.com and he has also handled calling the action for Muay Thai and is exclusive lead blow-by-blow voice for CFFC MMA.