Boxing: Champion show by Robinson

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The Independent Online
STEVE ROBINSON'S reward for successfully defending his World Boxing Organisation featherweight title against Sean Murphy on Saturday night is a lucrative engagement with the former champion, Colin McMillan, in September.

Before Saturday, such a contest would have seemed a mismatch, but McMillan was one of many who were forced to revise their assessment of the little-known 24-year-old following his ninth-round stoppage of Murphy. 'On this performance you have to rate him,' he said. 'Becoming a champion often brings out the best in a fighter and he certainly showed qualities which we hadn't seen before.'

Robinson had been widely disregarded as one of the poorest of the current 'world' champions, destined to be relieved of his title at the earliest opportunity. That he owes his status to good fortune is not in dispute. He had taken on John Davison at 48 hours notice to win the belt in April, and he now displays a marked reluctance to part with it.

'I haven't changed as a person, but becoming champion has made me a more confident fighter,' he said. 'Deep down, I was determined to show people who had said my title was a fluke, that I am a true world champion.'

The Welshman certainly convinced a crowd of 3,500 fellow countrymen and as he was born aloft on a tide of patriotic emotion, he may have reflected that less than a year ago he was an undercard boxer struggling to draw 300 spectators. Today, the journeyman champion is linked with the likes of Jimmy Wilde, Howard Winstone and Colin Jones as genuine national sporting heroes.

The post-fight talk was of a prolific and successful future. The promoter, Barry Hearn, confidently predicted that the Cardiff man would not only account for McMillan, he could also dispatch Paul Hodkinson, the Liverpudlian who recently lost the World Boxing Council version of the title.

'He's a young man who is going to be around for a long time,' he said. 'Potentially, he's a different grade of fighter from McMillan and Hodkinson. He's as fit as they come, has a great mental attitude, and is improving in leaps and bounds. We haven't seen anything like the best of Steve Robinson yet.'

A more considered assessment came from Barry McGuigan, who held the crown with distinction in the mid-1980s. 'Don't get carried away with this,' he said. 'Sean Murphy is a good lad domestically, but that's all. McMillan is a very different kettle of fish: he'll have too much all-round ability. Having said that, it won't be an easy fight for Colin.'

Somewhere between Hearn's hyperbole and McGuigan's caution lies the truth. Robinson is a far more accomplished performer than his patchy early record suggests.