Boxing: Robinson makes powerful point

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The Independent Online
THE tide of Welsh fervour which carried Cardiff featherweight Steve Robinson from obscurity to the WBO version of the world title swept him to his fifth championship victory in front of his home town fans in the National Ice Rink last night as he outpointed Dominican challenger Freddy Cruz by landslide margins of 117-110, 116-112 and 118-109.

It was a comprehensive and impressive success for Robinson whose early career record includes nine defeats. In the week before he stepped in as a last-minute substitute to win the title 14 months ago, his wages as a part-time storeman totalled pounds 52. Last night he grossed pounds 100,000 and could double that if, as expected, his next outing is a unification match with either WBC champion Kevin Kelley or the IBF's representative Tom Johnson. Both hold more credible versions of the title than Robinson's, but featherweights are not big earners on the American market and both Kelley and Johnson would be happy to make the trans-Atlantic trip for a summer date in Cardiff.

Last night's victory was achieved with the patient, methodical approach which characterises everything the well-schooled Welshman does in the ring. He is a stylist in the classically British mode, who builds everything around his left jab but who can inject the sort of bite and venom which could yet extend his appeal far beyond the modest confines of his Cardiff base.

The Italian-based Cruz, an unmarked 32, had survived against better-known fighters than Robinson, including a world title challenge against Wilfredo Vasquez in 1992. But, significantly, he was still ranked as a super-bantam (8st 10lbs) and was always likely to struggle against a man who, having weighed in 24 hours before the fight, may have been as much as six pounds over the featherweight limit by the time he entered the ring.

Robinson started positively, commanding the centre of the ring and keeping Cruz on the defensive with a steady stream of left jabs. Cruz opened up with a two-handed burst late in the round but Robinson punched it out with him and Cruz was first to break off hostilities. The Dominican showed fine defensive skills in the second to make Robinson miss repeatedly but he was caught late in the round by a solid left hook and right to the head.

The challenger boxed cleverly in the third but Robinson was fired up and frequently caught him against the ropes, digging in solid hooks to the body which must have been draining Cruz's strength and stamina. Robinson was cautioned for a right to the body which strayed out of bounds and Cruz was warned for careless use of the head. The Welshman had a magnificent fourth round setting up a relentless body attack which reduced the challenger almost to walking pace.

Cruz at last came into the fight in the sixth, countering accurately and making Robinson miss frequently but there was always a feeling that Robinson's power could end the fight at any time. Robinson reasserted his authority in the seventh with a sustained body attack which kept Cruz on the defensive but he was stopped in his tracks by a solid left hook from the challenger in the last 20 seconds of the round.

The Dominican moved well in the eighth using the full perimeter of the ring to stay out of trouble but was caught by a jarring right to the jaw late in the round which had him, for the first time, in serious difficulties. But the punch dislodged Cruz's gumshield, earning him a welcome respite while it was rinsed and replaced.