Boxing

A brief review a Robin Reid’s Career

reid vs froch?27.01.07 - By Andy Olsen: There’s times where I forget how quick you have to be on this site. I too had heard the rumour that Arturo Gatti was going to have one last contest, and had penned down some notes for an article. When I sat down to write them up, my colleague James Slater had written pretty much everything I was going to. Another area I was going to cover was the potential for a Carl Froch- Robin Reid contest, which ESB have since highlighted. Nonetheless, I’ll attempt to cover the career of a fighter who helped close out one era in British boxing, heralding another.

Robin Reid was a relatively unknown prospect, going through the norm of beating journeymen in small halls. After 23 such contests, and without a British, European or Commonwealth title to his name, he received what many regarded at the time to be a totally undeserved crack at WBC titlist Vincenzo Nardiello in October 1996. Not that this was going to be set up for him, he had to do it by travelling to Milan. Now history is not exactly littered with British fighters who have been able to win a title of any note in Italy, and even those who knew anything about the then 25 year old would have been hard pushed to give him as much as an outside chance..

Reid performed superbly that night. He was able to silence the initially hostile crowd, and basically gave his all in an entertaining battle, pummelling the Italian into submission after 7 hard fought rounds. Outside of the ring it emerged Reid was a PR dream. He was a part time model, and his down to earth personality proved a hit with boxing writers and fans alike. He based himself at the somewhat moderate settings of the Collyhurst and Moston boys club, and throughout his reign saw himself as no better then any other less accomplished fighter there.

Following such a tough assignment in capturing the title, few if any begrudged the Runcorn native an opportunity to showcase his talent in a voluntary defence, versus blown up middleweight Giovanni Pretorious. The South African was dispatched in seven rounds, and this set things up nicely for a domestic showdown with tough Yorkshire man Henry Wharton. Wharton also claimed a win over Nardiello, and had given Nigel Benn a decent enough argument in their 1994 clash, actually flooring Benn with his vaunted left hook. He also had the experience of a meeting with Chris Eubank, where Eubank put on arguably his last great performance in the 168lbs division. Reid started as the favourite, but there were more than a few in the trade who claimed Wharton had too much ring savvy for the fledgling champ.

Once again, Reid showed his maturity, putting on a superb display of boxing in retaining his title. He showed tactical nous in trading with Henry in the later stages of the rounds, with Wharton showing signs of tiredness. Following this win, there were many options available for Reid on the domestic scene. Despite Benn’s retirement, Eubank was still on the scene, as was the “Celtic Warrior” Steve Collins. Another option for Reid was a guy who had the same route as Reid to the top (looking good in mismatches), a brash young fighter by the name of Joe Calzaghe. At the beginning of the Welshman’s’ career, he was widely regarded as a loudmouth who bragged about his talent without actually proving anything.

Such evidence of this can be found in his overview of the Pretorious contest. Acting as a studio guest, Calzaghe was asked what he thought of Reid’s performance. He replied along the lines of “put him in there with me, and I’ll knock him out”. Reid responded in the May 1997 Boxing Monthly, who were previewing the Wharton fight. He said “He’s put me in the position where all I can do is call him an idiot. He’s not there to blow his own trumpet. He’s there to give his views on the fight.” It looked like these two would meet down the line. Eventually they did, but not before Reid dropped the title to Thulani “Sugarboy” Malinga in a unanimous decision major shock in December 1997. This loss and Calzaghe’s almost textbook performance, in winning the WBO title versus Chris Eubank, (after Steve Collins vacated when pulling out of a defence v Calzaghe) meant that Calzaghe was tipped to win what would have been considered to be a “pick ‘em” fight at one stage.

The February 1999 contest was a superb affair. When the final bell rang, both had a valid claim to be the victor. Indeed, opinion was divided on who deserved to have their hand raised. It was basically a subjective decision for the judges; whether they preferred Calzaghe’s undoubted class and hand speed, or Reid’s power punching and constant pressure. The Welshman subsequently prevailed by split decision. Almost 8 years on, it is almost inexplicable why there wasn’t an immediate rematch. In addition to the close nature of the initial contest warranting one in itself, it certainly would have appealed to the British public. Instead, Reid’s career hit the skids as it were, with a Unanimous decision loss in his next fight, versus Silvio Branco for the more obscure WBU title.

A group of victories followed, with Reid winning and defending the almost worthless WBF championship. During that time, he began to call out Calzaghe, who wasn’t listening. Then in December 2003 he received a somewhat unexpected crack at Sven Ottke’s IBF and WBA super middleweight titles. Once again, Reid had to travel away and into hostile territory. What would follow still sticks in the minds of many British boxing fans, who continue to express their disgust at one of the worst robberies ever witnessed in modern-day boxing. The claim that Britain has become an unfair place to fight sometimes has substance to it, unfortunately. However Ottke- Reid should be made compulsive viewing to anyone who believes our shores are the most unfair.

The contest began auspiciously enough, but events began to unfold in the third round. Reid began to be warned for non-existent offences. Despite many infringements on Ottkes’ part, the referee decided to get on Reid’s case. In the seventh round, Reid decked Ottke with a blow to the head. The referee not only ruled it a no-knockdown, he admonished Reid, presumably for hitting the hometown guy too hard. Despite the third round point deduction for an infringement you won’t find in the rulebook, and the legitimate 10-8 round the knockdown would have given, it looked like Reid had done enough. He deserved credit for not displaying his disgust in a more vocal manor, as arguably the worst super middle champion in history was awarded yet another hometown decision.

Reid’s last performance of note came with a win over Brian Magee, again travelling to the opponents’ hometown, this time the Kings hall in Belfast. He put the previously undefeated Magee down four times in a fairly one sided affair. He agreed to travel yet again, to face the much heralded Jeff Lacy for his newly won IBF portion of the title. His trainer Brian Hughes had no problem admitting that the build up for what surely was his last crack at a title was nothing short of shocking. He travelled out too late to the fight, had very little if any sparring, and it showed in the performance. Lacy annihilated Reid, putting him down in the fifth for the first time in his entire career. A couple more knockdowns was enough to convince his trainer, the amiable Brian Hughes who has been with Reid since he began his career, to pull him at the end of the seventh round.

Many agreed that it was the end of the road for Robin Reid. It seemed that it was just as well, with Reid turning 35, and looking in the Lacy fight that it was time to call it a day. However, as ESB mentioned, he has since told channel M’s entertaining seconds out programme that he believed he could take on the British champion Carl Froch and emerge victorious. At this stage of their careers I have to say it seems unlikely, with Froch seemingly destined to make a mark at a much higher level then the British one he currently operates.

Reid and Gatti may be totally different with regards styles, and levels of excitement that they generate, but both are united in that they have little to gain, and a lot to lose by fighting on at this stage of their career. The aforementioned Benn and Collins both talked of making a comeback, and changed their minds having considered it further. I have always believed that it isn’t anyone but the fighter to say when a career is over (the obvious exception of course being when medical grounds become involved). All I can do is hope that any decision to fight on by a genuinely likeable individual will not be one that he will regret at a later time in his life. The very best of luck to him in whatever he chooses to do next.

Article posted on 28.01.2007



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