I used to do a lot of reporting on boxing and had the privilege to sit ringside at many World title fights. The sport has always fascinated me….in particular the pros who fight for pride. Sure, the money is everything in a sport where you could be finished tomorrow, but pride matters……you’re only one shot from redemption…
I left Carter lying flat on his face. Sparked out cold. You dream about a shot like that. I didn’t even think about it, I just threw it. The ref didn’t even start to count, it was beautiful. And all the guys started shouting my name, chanting it. I’ve had bigger fights and bigger paydays, but that moment was the sweetest. You know I wasn’t even expected to win, but boxing’s like that, it’s full of surprises. I couldn’t lay a glove on him for five rounds, but one shot like that’s all it takes. I went to shake his hand after, but he wouldn’t. He was sat slumped on his stool, with his chin on his chest. He just nodded at me, knew he was well beaten. All that name calling and stuff in the papers meant nothing.
The back page said: Robbo KO’s Carter. I’ve got it framed on the wall already, next to one of the kids at Butlin’s. Me coach, Jez, he’s got that poster of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston. Everyone loves Ali, but that night he was real mean, you can see it in his eyes. He’s got his gloves dangling by his sides and he’s crowing, he’s saying ‘That all you’ve got, champ’ but Liston can’t hear a thing cos he’s fast asleep. I felt like that when I dropped Carter. Yeah, I know the Town Hall ain’t Madison Square Gardens and I’m not the fastest and I don’t hit the hardest, but you know what the reporter guy from the Echo said? He said: ‘With Robbo you’re always going to get a fight.’
People thought I was finished. They knew I’d lost my last four. I knew better. Those fights were meaningless, just a chance to earn a bit of cash. They gave me no time to prepare and I got outpointed by kids. Young uns dancing round me like Ginger Rogers, slapping and flicking shots that wouldn’t break rice paper. I never felt a thing. They were just pitter-patter shots, nothing really. Thing is, they don’t teach defence anymore, just how to bang and most of these kids couldn’t knock snow off a rope. They get puffed up records, but I worry for em when they’re in a real scrap because they’ve never learnt. And no one else can help you in there.
Carter’s people made a big mistake giving me six weeks to get fit. I got myself into the best shape of my life, though, didn’t I? I had a few doubts, like. You do, when you’ve lost a couple. You start thinking you’re on the slide and wondering if you can get it back. It’s the toughest sport, boxing and I’ve seen fighters, mates of mine, age overnight. They’ve been going for a European, even a world title shot in Jimmy’s case, and a few fights later they’re struggling on the undercard at the Town Hall. I’ll never be like that. I promised Cheryl. I told her I’d quit if Carter beat me. Then Carter starts shooting his mouth off in the papers, saying he’s going to retire me, predicting what round he’s going to stop me in. Then he’s telling people, people I know, that he hopes our kids don’t watch cos they’re going to see daddy get hurt. That just fired me up. I could see Carter’s smug bloody face while I skipped and ran and shadow-boxed. I saw him as I smacked the bag and rattled the speedball. He’s a kid and not even the best in his hometown and he’s running me down, me who’s fought for a European title in Milan. I lost, but anyone will tell you I did enough. You don’t get decisions in Italy. I never liked coming out to music. Tyson used to walk out in silence like the old fighters and that was good enough for me. None of this pantomime. Carter came out to some pumping dance track, while they kept me waiting 10 minutes, like it was a world title fight, not a scrap for the Midlands belt. Jez was rubbing my shoulders telling me not to worry, but I’d seen it all before. Carter was eyeballing me, making out he was chewing gum. The ref did his stuff, but Carter wouldn’t touch gloves.
I winked at him and the bell went. Carter was fast, real quick. But he telegraphed his shots. He tried to get too much power and kept showing his moves. I was eating his jab and it took me three rounds to spot it. I knew then I’d got him. Each time he threw the double jab, he’d wind up his right cross. He did it maybe, three or four times a round, but I was waiting by the fourth. I missed the first chance, clipping his forehead with a hook. The crowd jeered at that and Carter grinned, he didn’t even see the signs. In the fifth he thumped his chest and pointed to the smear of blood above my right eye. Ten, maybe twenty seconds in, he flicked the jab. I took it flush, rushed in and found his chin with the best short right I’ve ever thrown. His head whipped back and, I’ll always remember this, I watched him stagger back like he was blind drunk. It was like time went slow, like a film or something. I heard the thump as his body shook the canvas and I remember looking at my right glove as the crowd started chanting my name. I was stood there like Ali over Liston, baring my teeth, my gloves dangling at my side. That shot was pure venom. Beautiful. Carter’s been in the papers calling it a lucky shot, but we all know the truth. Me headline’s got pride of place. The writing’s on the wall.