Jamie Robinson: The rise of the 'Ginger Rocket'
John A. MacDonald
Just 18 months ago, it appeared that Jamie Robinson’s boxing career was over before it had truly begun. Having amassed two losses and a draw in his first six fights, Robinson walked away from the sport; disillusioned and disenchanted. His promises broken, his dreams shattered.
That decision ultimately proved to be a sabbatical rather than a retirement as, after a year, he returned to the ring with a new trainer and a fresh outlook. These alterations have paid dividends as Robinson is now on a three-fight winning streak and will have the biggest fight of his career to date when he faces Atif Shafiq on the Chris Eubank Jr-Tony Jeter undercard at Sheffield Arena on Saturday.
Despite these reasons to be cheerful, 140-pounder Robinson (6-2-1, 2 KOs) still clearly recalls the events which led to him taking a break from boxing. Controversial back-to-back defeats to Michael Stupart and Fergus Taylor combined with limited earnings and problematic relationship, left him mentally drained.
“To be honest, I weren’t working, I weren’t earning no money. At the time, I was going out with a girl and she was just making me a bit crazy,” Robinson confessed to Boxing Monthly. “When I lost to Stupart, I lost 13 lbs in two days. I made the weight completely wrong. I was lying to everyone: ‘I’m doing me diet right.’ And stuff like that. I learnt me mistake there.
“I was sparring Curtis Woodhouse for eight rounds the week before. Then I fought Stupart and I blew out after two rounds. I still beat him. I still thought I breezed the fight. They gave him the decision and I just got really disheartened.
“Then Mike Shinfield offered me a title fight,” Robinson told BM. “I should have said no and had the year out from then but I thought: ‘You know what, I’ll get that win.’ I dug deep for the training camp, everything went perfect. Normally, when I jump in the ring I’m a horrible person and that night I just weren’t. I didn’t feel it. I got beat but I thought it was another bad decision but that’s boxing.”
For Robinson, that was the end. Ryan Rhodes had other ideas. The former world title challenger was familiar with the ‘Ginger Rocket’ having seen him live on shows promoted by Dave Coldwell and in sparring sessions with Curtis Woodhouse. Rhodes was impressed by what he saw and, when he opened his own gym in Sheffield – 26RR Fitness, he was determined to persuade Robinson to reconsider his decision.
After some initial reticence, Robinson found the lure of boxing to be too enticing to resist despite the fact that he was earning more than he ever had through boxing.
“I took the year break and that. I was just doing normal lad things; going out clubbing and enjoying my life a bit,” he recalled. “Then one day Ryan rang me and said: ‘I’m starting a gym up and I want to train you.’ I say: ‘Na, Ry, I’m finished with boxing. I’ve had enough, I don’t want to box no more.’ He said: ‘You’re joking.’ I was like: ‘No, I’ve had enough of it. I’d rather just go out with the lads.’
“I told my gaffer I was thinking about it then I just went: ‘Sod it, you’ve only got one life.’ I never want to be one of those people thinking: ‘What if I gave it my all? Where would I have got?’ It’s paying off now.”
The opportunity to work with a respected former fighter wasn’t Robinson’s only motivation for returning to boxing – he had a vow to keep. Having grown up in Harlow, Essex, he had fallen in with the wrong crowd in his teenage years. His closest friend died when he was 13, as a result of being stabbed.
A year later, Robinson and his family relocated to Bolsover, Derbyshire, but he has never forgotten a promise he made to his late-friend and is determined to fulfil it to honour his memory.
“I ain’t ever had nothing in my life,” Robinson told BM. “I’ve always been on one of them kids with the holes in his trainers. I was brought up on the rough side. At the age of 13, I was involved in gangs, robbing cars, burgling houses and stuff like that.
“The week before my best friend died, he made me promise him I’d be a British champion before I’m 26. He said: ‘You’re 13 now, 13 years’ time I want you be British champion.’ So I said, ‘Yeah, I will do.’ I sort of said it under me breath and he was like: ‘No, I want you to promise me.’ Then when that happened I thought: ‘I’ve got to do it now.’ Every September comes by and it’s his anniversary and it’s a really hard month for me as I always think about him and stuff like that. It’s a motivation. When times are getting tough in training, all I think to myself is: ‘That could have been me.’ I’m living the dream he had for me.”
Robinson has surrounded himself with good people; coaches Ryan Rhodes and Lee Jenkins (father of lightweight prospect Scott Jenkins), manager Dave Coldwell, a strength and conditioning coach and counsellor. Historically, discussing about your feelings – particularly in the macho world of boxing - has been stigmatised. However, Robinson has reaped the benefits of having people to talk to when he’s at his lowest and believes it has played a major part in revitalising his career.
“I think counselling is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he admitted. “She [the counsellor] helps me a lot. Sometimes, you don’t want to be telling someone you know, like your friends or that because you want to keep that bit a secret but with a counsellor it don’t go no further. It’s like talking to a wall but you are getting a response. It is good because it clears your mind. I’ve never been so positive about anything in my life. I’m just in a really good place, surrounded by good people.”
Robinson is looking to demonstrate the effect of all these changes on Saturday night when he takes on Atif Shafiq. As is becoming increasingly common, the fight was initiated through social media Shafiq asked Robinson if he’d like the fight on Twitter. There was no animosity between the pair and they knew each other reasonably well, but were willing to put their friendship aside for the fight. Shafiq is another product of the famed Ingle gym and possesses a lot of the skills associated the Ingle style. However, Robinson believes his opponent won’t be able to resist standing toe-to-toe with him, which he believes will be Shafiq’s undoing.
“I can’t do nothing but thank Atif for this opportunity,” he told BM. “The way for Atif to beat me is to box smart but he won’t be able to do it. He loves a fight too much.
“My style is 100 to 150 punches a round and I go at the same pace from the first round to the last round. I reckon I’ll get him out of there between the sixth and eighth round. I think I’ll be too much for him. He sort of hits that wall around the third round. He starts off sharp and stuff like that but as soon as I get to him, he’ll start fighting.
“He lets his heart rule his head. He’s sort of like Amir Khan. As soon as that happens, it’s my fight then and I’ll have him out of there. I’m going to be too big, too strong for Atif and I’m going to make a massive statement on the 24th. I really can’t wait. It’s my time to shine. I’m going to knock him spark out.”