'I am not that interested in titles': Robbie Chapman interview
You’re unlikely to meet another boxer quite like Camden’s Robbie 'The Camden Caretaker' Chapman. Harry Drinkwater delves into his world...
A reggae-loving, surfer-looking, hard-hitting middleweight signed to Goodwin Promotions, Robbie Chapman - just 24 years of age - possesses a unique persona.
A quick glance over his social media before I spoke to him revealed a pugilist who is willing to do things differently to get himself noticed.
One post on his Instagram page (@Chapman_Robbie) sees him shadow-boxing while offering commentary on why his hoardes of followers (nearly 20k at the time of writing) should come and watch him - all whilst 'Chase and Status' plays in the background.
In another, as he describes it ‘Gypsy King style’ video, Chapman sits listening to Gregory Isaacs whilst discussing some of the many small hall shows coming up.
It’s unusual and different, but then Chapman and his team know that in this digital age, the mundane is dated.
And don’t assume Chapman is just a character or a gimmick. With nearly 40 amateur fights under his belt before turning pro, he is also well-schooled in the square circle.
He explained to BM how his sporting career began.
“Whilst at secondary school I used to play football at Princes Park every Saturday morning, there would always be a big group of us.
“But like clockwork, as soon as we finished playing football, we’d have a scrap – with gloves, of course! I’d just fight anyone, literally anyone and the more people that watched the better.
“It wasn’t about being hard or anything like that, there was just something about boxing that fascinated me. You stand there going hell for leather and then bang! When it was over you’d touch gloves and that would be the end of it.
“Someone would record it and you’d all be sitting there watching, it’s quite mad thinking back but it was just one of them things that boys would do I suppose.
“I had wanted to go to a gym since I was nine or ten, but my mum really isn’t into the sport and would never agree to it.
“Anyway, I was building up quite a nice park record, 9-0 or something I was on, so I made the decision to go down my local gym by myself.
“I just found boxing easier to stick to than any other sport, it was like an addiction. All I wanted to do was spar, that was it, I just wanted to spar.
“Of course to start with there was no way they were going to let me, but I kept going and then I was sparring but then I wanted to fight properly. There was always something holding me back.”
With an amateur career which included in his words “the usual robberies” and “some which I thought were robberies but maybe could have gone either way looking back”, he moved to Xavier Miller’s gym in Neasden to finish off his time in the unpaid ranks.
It was a decision which changed the direction of his boxing career as he finally found the mentor he had been looking for.
“It’s strange, I had been down to Xav’s gym to spar and stuff but from the first time I met him I knew he was a good coach. He’s very special at what he does. We seemed to click from day one.
“I always felt he had my best interests at heart, even when he wasn’t training me, I was boxing at another gym and I felt like he cared.
“Then my partner before she’d even met him wanted me to train with him, it was all really weird but it just fell into place.
“It sounds very clichéd but he became like a father-figure, or maybe more a very close uncle! I just always feel safe with Xav in my corner and I think together we will continue to improve."
Whilst training out of Xavier’s stable, Robbie has to juggle his training with his day job of being a school caretaker, as tough as it is he concedes he may now have the best moniker in the sport – ‘The Camden Caretaker’.
Chapman is wise enough to know that it would be foolish to approach the turbulent world of small-hall boxing with all his eggs in one basket and attempt to live as a ‘full-time athlete’. The emphasis on ticket sales rather than talent leaves many young prospects financially crippled before they have even started.
So Robbie has been hustling - he has an agent (Sophia Bhaumick) who works alongside manager Steve Goodwin looking for commercial opportunities. The approach is to seek out companies who will take a large portion of tickets rather than the usual small-cash amounts. Similarly, Chapman aims to get to work as an influencer on social media, thus harnessing his large following.
Professional international footballer Hal Robson-Kanu has also offered his backing, sponsoring Robbie through his company The Tumeric Co.
Robbie is quick to pay tribute to his team.
“I am very lucky to be working with Sophia as my agent, she’s great and we’ve been working really well together now for a little while,” he states.
“Sponsor wise now I am very lucky, I work with The Tumeric Co and the owners support me with all spects of my training camp.
“I also have Canavape, I use their CBD oil and would like to thank Andrew, Billy and Ben for taking me in. It’s the best stuff to use after training for recovery and sleep but also inflammation.
“Thanks to the team we also have someone else coming on board. It’s just nice to be able to keep growing, I learned very quickly that you have to get yourself out there in this sport. There isn’t going to be anything given to you.
“I am very happy and very grateful for the people I have working with me and supporting me, Steve Goodwin is one of the best managers you could ask for. We’ve got some really exciting things planned for my upcoming fights.”
Talk of his upcoming fights naturally leads to a discussion about how far Chapman can progress in the sport, something he has clearly thought about.
“Well firstly, I am not that interested in titles – well they interest me but I am not in boxing for the titles,” he states with a bluntness and honesty that is refreshing.
“I am more interested in creating memories, I have goals for the sport, who doesn’t? But it’s about more than that, I want to be able to give something back to my mates that are coming to buy tickets. Something we can talk about in years to come.
“A successful career for me would be to be fighting in the big arenas in front of the big crowds that my friends and supporters will remember for the rest of their life.
“Being able to afford stuff for my agent, coach and anyone else who has been there for me would be a success, being able to take my children on holiday would be a success.”
As we finish up, I ask Robbie why the public should come and watch his next fight at Tottenham Green Pools and Fitness centre on 13 October.
His response, like much of his interview, catches me off-guard and dispels any impressions that his creative demeanour is an act.
“Hmm, why should you come and watch me fight? Good question... It’ll be a scrap, definitely will be. But I suppose I might do something creative with my barnet and you wouldn’t want to miss that?”