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Charlotte boxer Robinson an underdog in name only

Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.

Not saying Jared Robinson is an underdog. But on Friday he will fight one of Don King’s boxers on a card Don King is promoting in Cleveland, which is Don King’s hometown.

Robinson, who grew up in Camden and lives in Charlotte, has never fought outside Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, Columbia or Atlanta.

Maybe you’ve seen him box in Charlotte at CenterStage or the Music Factory or the Bette Rae Thomas Recreation Center. Robinson is 14-0. But unless you’re one of the 300 fans who attend Charlotte boxing cards, you probably don’t know who he is.

Robinson is … 31; he fights at 140 pounds (super lightweight); he’s 5-foot-9; he works full time as a massage therapist at Massage Envy on Woodlawn Road.

He’s the guy who will fight undefeated Amir Imam in the co-main event of the King card at Cleveland State. The fight will be televised by Showtime. The New Generation card begins at 10:45 p.m. and Imam and Robinson will open it.

“It’s a big deal for me,” Robinson says before a workout at Dyme Boxing on South Boulevard, his words punctuated by the electronic buzz that simulates three-minute rounds with a 30-second break between them.

“This is where every fighter wants to be, on the big stage. A loss can change your career totally. There’s no room for error.”

Robinson didn’t know if he’d attain the big stage. Fights fall through; one did in Charlotte four months ago. Then the phone call he awaited came.

What happens if you win?

When I win it will be on to the next big thing,” says Robinson. “Probably no more local fights. I’ll do more living room fights, I like to call them. I’m coming to the television sets of the people who say they’re going to come to my next fight but never do. So I’m bringing the fight to them.”

Robinson is upbeat and pleasant and in terrific condition. He’s quick and smooth and a boxer more than a puncher. He’s knocked out six of his 14 opponents.

He never looks awkward. When he throws a jab or a hook, or blocks one, he looks as if he’s doing what he’s supposed to do.

Robinson didn’t start boxing until he was 19. He ran into a friend, a boxer, at a Camden mall. The friend sold him. By the end of the first week, Robinson was a boxer. In 2008 he ranked third nationally among amateurs.

Robinson turned pro in 2009.

He moved to Charlotte to train with James Pressley, who runs Dyme Boxing. The same three men who work Robinson’s corner when he fights in Charlotte recreation centers will work his corner in Cleveland.

He didn’t recruit an entourage?

“That’s not our personality,” says Pressley.

This is.

Robinson is married to Alexis, and they have a 3-year-old son, Kingston, the name a testament to Alexis’ Jamaican roots.

Kingston was watching his father fight at the Music Factory late in 2012, and as Robinson was about to land a punch, Kingston yelled, “Go Daddy!”

This surprised Robinson so much that he stopped in mid-punch. He brought his son to Dyme, listened to Kingston yell “Go Daddy!” and finally was able to hit people anyway.

Robinson could stop the punch at Music Factory. He won’t have that luxury at Wolstein Arena. Imam is the up-and-comer, the big puncher with the national reputation.

Nicknamed Young Master (Robinson’s is Quiet Storm), Imam is 8 years younger than Robinson and 2 inches taller. He’s from Albany, N.Y., and fights out of Florida. He was silver medalist at the 2011 U.S. Olympic trials. The Young Master is 12-0 and has knocked out his past 11 opponents in two rounds or fewer.

“We basically have two different game plans,” says Pressley. “We want to pressure him, outbox him, keep him off balance, not let him get comfortable in the ring at any time. Whatever he wants us to do, we’ll do the opposite.”

Impressed with Imam?

“I was at one point,” says Robinson. “The more I watch the more I understand what his intentions are and the less impressed I am.”

Steve Farhood, a boxing historian who will provide commentary for Showtime, says Imam obviously is the favorite.

What’s Robinson? “He’s at the crossroads,” says Farhood.

Even Don King doesn’t have a deed to them.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen
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