REMEMBER THIS? SPORT'S MAGIC MOMENTS OF 1994 : Robinson and the return to tradition From the try that gave Great Britain hope to the goal that even Pele would have been proud of

Click to follow
The Independent Online
BOXING : Steve Robinson's successful defence of the World Boxing Organisation featherweight championship against Duke McKenzie in October had a lot going for it.

To begin with, the Welshman went conventionally to his corner at the National Ice Rink in Cardiff. A smile played around his features and he raised a hand to acknowledge the applause.

Pleasingly, for veteran observers, this was a step back in time. The fashion in professional boxing today is to stage entrances along lines pioneered by Phineas T Barnum.Tailored to television, the package is as important as the performance.

When Chris Eubank recently defended the WBO super-middleweight title against Henry Wharton, he was transported to the ring on a crane. Naseem Hamed, the promising bantamweight who conveys the impression that he is torn between being an acrobat and a fighter, favours a somersault.

The conformist in Robinson does not allow for such nonsense. He takes great pleasure in the success that has come his way but the idea of boxing as light entertainment has never occurred to him.

Nothing but admiration can be held out for the Cardiff man who has made considerable progress since taking the vacant title from John Davison 20 months ago, when called upon as a substitute for the then champion, Reuben Palacio.

If his boxing is not not of the highest class, his attitude is an object lesson to aspirants.When making a fifth successful defence of his title by knocking out McKenzie near the end of the ninth round, Robinson further benefited from dedicated attentionto the syllabus drawn up by his tutors.

Trainers who seek to impress upon their charges the value of staying in shape use the Welshman as a shining example. In addition to laying down expositions of theory, they stress that if the flesh is weak, the spirit does not mean a thing.

Going back over Robinson's career, Dai Gardiner, his manager, can recall disappointments. "Some of the decisions given against Steve were awful," he said. "But he never gave up and when the chance came along he was ready for it."

Nothing pleases Robinson more than a compliment on his tenacity, and that he represents boxing in a way that gains the approval of past champions.

The punch that ended the 31-year-old McKenzie's attempt at a fourth world title (the Londoner also is a credit to the sport) was a perfectly-executed short left below the short ribs, correctly giving rise to the conclusion that a resumption of activity was improbable.

If not an epic contest, it nevertheless drew enthusiastic applause. Of course this had a lot to do with local support for Robinson but there was a sense of satisfaction with the manner in which both men went about their work. Above all, their respect fortradition was a timely denunciation of all the shoddy stuff that now passes for boxing.