New Faces for '94 / Boxing: Switch hitter poised for his world series: Welsh flyweight maintains footing on ring-road to success. Nick Halling on Robbie Regan (left), a convincing candidate for a boxing crown

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The Independent Online
THERE has never been much justice in the fight game. In a perfect world, 1993 should have been the year the flyweight Robbie Regan became the first Welsh world champion since Howard Winstone. Instead, it proved to be a year in which illness, politics and plain bad luck contrived to keep the 25-year-old from Bargoed stuck on the sidelines.

It must have been particularly galling for Regan when his sparring partner, Steve Robinson, emerged to win the World Boxing Organisation featherweight title in April. As the year begins, Robinson is one of the Principality's true sporting heroes, while Regan continues to prepare, waiting to confirm the rich potential which has yielded Welsh, British and European titles during a five-year professional career.

'Steve and I are good friends, and I was delighted when he won his title,' Regan said, 'but it's been a frustrating few months. Steve has been very supportive, assuring me that my time will come, but it's been a worry.'

Regan, who like many lighter- weight boxers thrives on activity, has been unable to box since June. A planned outing against Francisco Monteil in October was postponed when the Welshman succumbed to flu. The contest was rescheduled for December, only for the Mexican to fail a routine brain scan on the eve of the fight.

'That stopped us in our tracks,' his manager, Dai Gardiner, said. 'Robbie had been training hard for seven weeks with the real possibility of a world title fight in his sights, and suddenly it's gone, and all that hard work has been for nothing.'

The long-anticipated world challenge could have taken place later this month when the Venezuelan David Griman offered to defend his World Boxing Association version of the title in Cardiff. But Gardiner elected to decline the opportunity, arguing that his charge was in need of a warm-up contest first. Regan will now box a selected opponent on 29 January, hoping that Griman's connections are still open to offers for a meeting in the spring.

'He'll get there in the end, I'm certain of that,' Gardiner said. 'I've been around a long time and seen a lot of fighters, but in terms of pure boxing ability, Robbie may be the best I've ever come across. He can fight you four or five different ways, and he's so clever on the ropes. Before you realise it, he's turned defence into attack.'

The two have been together since Regan first chose to pursue a boxing career in the early 1980s. There have never been any real doubts concerning the level of his natural talent, but in his formative years application and commitment were occasionally called into question.

'He thought he could slip a few training sessions, go out with the lads once in a while,' Gardiner said, 'but you can't do that if you're serious about this game. He was awarded draws in a couple of fights he clearly won, both terrible decisions, and that's changed him, made him realise what the game is all about. Certainly, over the last three years he's done nothing wrong, and from being a good boxer, he's become a brilliant one.'

There is one blemish on Regan's record, a cut eye from a clash of heads forcing a stoppage when defending his British championship against the Londoner Francis Ampofo in September 1991. The loss was avenged three months later with a stylish points verdict.

Regan's most valuable quality is his ability to switch styles. A smooth, quality boxer with neat moves and accurate counter- punches, the Welshman can also stand toe to toe when scientific technique is insufficient.

Despite the frustrations borne of his term of inactivity, and the resulting financial pressures, Regan has retained his appetite for the game, rarely missing a training session, preparing patiently for the opportunity he is certain will come soon.

(Photograph omitted)