BIG INTERVIEW: Former world super-middleweight boxing champion Robin Reid
Robin Reid could have – perhaps should have – been the one to throw the spanner in the works of Joe Calzaghe’s flawless boxing career.
The legendary former world super-middleweight champion retired undefeated from 46 bouts and is arguably, pound-for-pound, the most talented pugilist Great Britain has ever produced.
With his fast hands, punching power coupled with an evasive style, the Welshman scored famous wins over high-class opposition such as Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler and Bernard Hopkins.
And he will always be mentioned in the conversation when talk turns to the greatest fighters of all time. But Calzaghe’s career almost came unstuck during the third defence of his WBO world crown.
Pitched to face Reid – who at the time was a former WBC world champion – at the Newcastle Arena in the early part of 1999, Calzaghe was given the fight of his life.
The contest is still remembered more than 20 years on – the fact that Calzaghe left the ring a winner courtesy of a controversial split decision adds to the fight’s mystique. Even to this day, many boxing experts believe Reid was the winner and it is a measure of just how close the contest was that Calzaghe only ever won by one other split decision – when he defeated American Hopkins in the penultimate fight of his career.
Unfortunately for Reid, despite England judge Paul Thomas scoring the contest 116-111 in his favour, Americans Robert Byrd and John Duggan gave it the other way.
Reid revealed he is not bitter about losing the fight, but what does rankle is that the rematch never went ahead.
“People say I should have been the one who beat Calzaghe and I just say, ‘Exactly’,” said Reid, who was nicknamed the Reaper Man.
“People still talk about that decision.
“I wasn’t bitter at the time.
“Obviously I was a bit peeved that I never got the decision.
“I knew that it was a close fight and was disappointed that I didn’t get the decision.
“Some people think that I won it by two or three rounds. At the end of the day, it was a close fight, it was a split decision and he got it.
“But the disappointing thing for me is that I never got the rematch – he obviously did not fancy it.
“But the fact that people still talk about it all these years on is testament to what a great fight it was.
“My view on it has changed over the years.
“I look at it now and think that I got the privilege to share the ring with one of the best super-middleweight boxers of all time.”
Reid had earlier won the prestigious WBC belt when he famously defeated Italian Vincenzo Nardiello in Milan in 1996.
He defended the belt on three occasions before losing it to South African Thulani ‘Sugar Boy’ Malinga in London.
He would later claim the WBF and IBO versions of the super-middleweight world title and finished his 51-bout career with 42 wins and eight defeats.
One of those defeats came towards the end of his career against another British middleweight great Carl Froch in 2007.
Curiously despite being a three-time world champion, Reid had never held the British title at any time during his life.
The opportunity arose to face ‘The Cobra’, who was the holder of the coveted Lonsdale belt, in Nottingham in 2007.
Froch was at the beginning of his career and despatched the veteran Reid, who was forced to retire at the end of the fifth round.
“I get asked a lot about who is the best – Calzaghe or Froch,” said Reid, who trained at Moston and Collyhurst Boxing Gym.
“I have to sit on the fence on that one. I fought Calzaghe when we were both in our prime, whereas Carl was on the way up and I was 36-years-old.
“I took the fight because I had never fought for the Lonsdale belt even though I had been world champion.
“Carl beat me but I do know he gets asked who is the hardest puncher he ever faced and he always says me.
“He’s said that to my face. I remember at the end of our fight, he came up to me and said, ‘You can punch you, can’t you?’.
Reid, who hails from Merseyside and lives in Runcorn, heads to Preston next week where he will give a talk to youngsters about bullying and knife crime at Larches and Savick Amateur Boxing Club, alongside his friend Stuart Maddox.
He is one of the directors of the Safety Guide Foundation, which attempts to raise awareness about the dangers of carrying knives.
Reid was once the victim of bullying when he was a child and attempts to help those who may be in a similar position or indeed educate those who maybe a bully.
He talks about his early life and how boxing gave him a real purpose.
Fostered as a child, Reid was able to represent his country at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona – winning a bronze medal to boot – before becoming world champion as a professional.
“My story is that I was bullied as a kid,” said Reid. “I used to suffer from mainly racism.
“I was in foster care all my life – my foster mum is my mum in my eyes.
“I was born in Liverpool and we moved to Runcorn. It was a new town when I moved there and I think I was the only mixed-race kid there in both my junior and senior schools.
“I got it all through school, mainly from the older lads .
“In my day we used to get bullied at school and then would go home and get a bit of respite.
“But nowadays kids can be victims of cyber bullying – there’s no way of getting away from it. I go into schools and clubs and just try to help those kids who are maybe being bullied or change the views of kids who might be the bullies.”
Reid admits he took up boxing at the age of eight partly to help him deal with bullying.
“I used to watch boxing on the TV with my foster dad so I liked the sport anyway,” Reid said.
“I didn’t take up the sport to become a champion – I took it up because I found comfort in the gym.
“We try to explain to the kids that bullying does not have to stop you from being a success in life.
“I found success in boxing – I got picked for England and represented my country at the Olympics and then went on to win three world titles as a professional.
“But what I found through boxing is that aside from the success side of it and winning championships, it also helped me as a person.
“It was character building, it taught me discipline and respect – it gave me a lot more confidence.”
Of all the achievements in his career, Reid insists the time he competed at the 1992 Olympic Games is his proudest moment.
“When I talk to the kids, I ask them what means the most to me and a few of them will say the Olympics because they know what such a special event that is,” he said.
“I always tell them a story of when I was in the Olympic village, Linford Christie came up to me. I tell the kids that he was the Usain Bolt of the early 1990s.
“Linford actually came up to me and asked me when my next fight was because he had watched my first fight when I had knocked my opponent out in 48 seconds.
“It was one of the fastest knockouts of the whole Games.
“I was like, ‘Wow’. It was a surreal moment. Then to actually go and win a medal .
“Okay, it would have been better if it had have been gold or silver but to win a medal for Great Britain at the Olympic Games, that has got to be my greatest achievement.”