|Learning the Ropes; An Interview with Bernadette Robinson
By Jason Petock (March 14, 2007) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Bernadette Robinson)
Bernadette Robinson is an individual who knows the true significance of hard work and being committed to a personal set of principles. A committed case manager by day and the official “Boxing Queen of MySpace” at night, Bernadette’s plate is full when it comes to responsibility. She strives in her spare time to help change the negative blows that boxing has had to endure over the years through online networking and information dissemination courtesy of her webpage on MySpace. She has as big a heart as anyone and it is the essence of her being, her caring nature, which makes her such an interesting and compelling figure. Bernadette displays a genuine affinity and love for boxing and its fighters. The remarkable thing about her story is that she only became a casual boxing fan a few years ago, watching fights here and there. But an amazing thing happened to Bernadette, she began a love affair with boxing that we all can relate to. This affair grew into something far greater with her meeting well known professional fighters, making contacts throughout the boxing world, attending high profile bouts, and even taking that last courageous step towards fulfilling the ultimate baptismal in boxing, becoming a fighter. Luckily for me, Bernadette gave me the green light
on doing an interview and I got to converse with a fellow aficionado of the pugilistic arts who is currently preparing for the Gloves as you read this. Follow along because it’s a good one.
JP: Your interest in boxing began initially from a fan’s perspective. Describe what events transpired in your life that became the catalyst for you to go from onlooker, to advocate, and eventually fighter?
BR: The first gym that I ever joined was Equinox back in 1999. The reason that I joined there was because I liked to jump rope. I remember that I used to take jump rope classes with Michael Olajide there. I didn’t find out he was a boxer until I started going to Golden Gloves and I was actually seeing him in the corner. So I was like, “Oh alright, he was at jump rope classes at Equinox.”
I knew Stephan Johnson at the time as well and he taught me a jump rope trick. I didn’t realize he was a boxer. They had boxing classes at the gym and I wasn’t interested at the time. I said, “When I can do ten pushups then I’ll come back and take the class.”
In 2004 I started taking casual lessons at the gym I was going to, but unfortunately I had to stop taking the boxing class because I had to get foot surgery. Then in 2005 one of the guys in my class at the gym took me to my first Golden Gloves competion. It was just so interesting being at an amateur boxing match. I met Iran Barkley on that night. And then from that point on I went to another competition and to the finals. I made it a point to go to the finals, and I had ringside seats. The first night I met Zab Judah, which was really interesting. I was like, “Wow, someone I see on TV, you know?”
In 2005 I went to my first professional fight ever. It was Miguel Cotto. Kid Diamond and Casamayor also fought that night. I was sitting way up top. From the stands his family saw that I was cheering for him during the fight. After he changed and came back to his family they called me over and then I met him. I was really excited and I went over to Casamayor and met him and took my picture with him. The one fighter that I need to meet is Chico Corrales.
So by March 2005 I began my page on MySpace. I started it more as a social thing in the beginning. And then I don’t know when it was that I met the first boxer, but probably early 2006. You know, some of the local boxers like Edgar Santana, Maureen Shea, who is undefeated right now. And in 2006 I went to my first major fight, the Baldomir fight. And somehow I got into the press conference after the fight. You know at the time I also had a friend who also wanted to get involved with the sport. We met Steve Farhood there and he gave us some advice.
I went to a fight that Maureen Shea had fought at Iona College at school and met her at the fight. But actually you know what? I actually saw her fight at the finals before that. It was 2005 when I saw her fight at the finals. But in 2006 I officially met her. It’s amazing; it was really amazing to me at the time to meet a boxer. It’s like meeting a celebrity. To me I was like, “Wow, this is real life.” So really I just tried to meet as many people as I could online.
I became mostly involved in the amateurs and professionals. I would go to the fights and I started taking pictures with people, interviewing people.
JP: You write too don’t you?
BR: Yeah, I dibble and dabble a little bit in that. Anyway, at that time I did a radio show with Macke Roberts called “Fight to the Finish”. I’m very appreciative to him for that opportunity. I guess that was actually the first time for me doing any of this kind of stuff. He liked the things he saw me doing on MySpace and called me up and said he was doing a radio show and asked me if I’d like to do it, so I did. I was trying to get the word out about prospects. There was a segment called “Contender or Pretender” that I did on there.
I also worked as an amateur judge for USA Boxing last year. Basically I’m involved in a little bit of everything. I like to get into a promoters side, a trainers side, and the fighters side. I try to do a little bit of everything.
JP: You’re real involved then?
BR: Yeah. (Laughs) As far as me getting into fighting, you know I guess over a period of a couple of months I went to different boxing gyms. I saw some prospects come up and saw how they were training and kind of saw how they worked out. I went to different gyms and saw different workout styles. Some people worked and others didn’t. It was amazing how some prospects came from out of town and how their workout ethics were very different. So from there I was going to write something about training and the lack thereof. You know what I mean, like a wake up call? I said to myself to snap out of it, like they were going to say, “Who are you? Get out of my gym.”
From there I started training. I really wanted to train before I started to write something. Eventually you kind of catch the bug. The thing is when I first told my father about fighting he said that he knew I wanted to be a fighter because he saw how I hit the speed bag. I guess that’s kind of why I wanted to stay away from lessons for awhile, because you know if I took lessons eventually I would want to fight. So that’s kind of how I evolved and that’s where I’m going from there. I know I have to resign as a judge because I can’t be an athlete and a judge at the same time. So I resign from there.
I still do a lot of writing, but not as much because I spend much of my time training. So that’s kind of my history of boxing.
JP: If there were anything that needed to be changed in boxing in your viewpoint, what would it be and why?
BR: I guess the amount of respect that people have for a fighter. Because if you look at it, they’re the ones that put their bodies through a lot. To workout and prepare for a fight they have to go through sacrifices. Like your friends, your family. The little bit of fun that you want to have. (Laughs) Their personal lives. I mean there are a lot of things fighters deal with emotionally, physically. Trying to make the weight. I feel like I starve myself half the time even though I know I don’t. Cause right now I have to make some weight by Wednesday. But you know, there’s just so many sacrifices that a boxer has to go through mentally, spiritually, really all aspects of their lives. You know that’s a huge challenge in that area. And I think that a lot of times boxers are underappreciated. It’s kind of like this, I’m a case manager. Case managers, we’re the closest to the clients and we have way more paperwork, but then you have social workers and psychiatrists and they’re making all this money but they’re not really doing anything. I see it the same way with the fighters. They just don’t respect them.
I went to a fight awhile ago, and this guy he was a prospect and when he entered the ring he danced, he had on the little flashy robe, you know? And when he got into the ring he just kept dancing, and you know other people could have looked at him and said, “Who is he? He’s nobody.” But I kind of switched the channel and I said, “You know, you don’t know the hard work and the sacrifices that he had to go through to get here.” If that’s the way he wants to come into the ring, then by all means come into the ring that way.
So I think that more people have to have more respect for the fighters. They’re the ones that are putting themselves through all this hard work. It is funny that boxers do all the hard work and they don’t get paid. Or people will talk trash about a boxer when they think they should have done certain things in a fight. I dare any of these people to step into a boxer’s life for a month or so. This is one reason I began to train.
JP: You are affectionately known as the “Boxing Queen of MySpace” among those who know you and your page. Who came up with that nickname and how has your page helped change things in your mind?
BR: I actually think I gave myself that title. (Laughs) I think I have. Basically I honestly think that I was responsible for bringing the boxing community together on MySpace. You know, there’s always been a boxing group that Tom and Jackie Ryan had. They have their group there. I just started meeting prospects and fighters. I started encouraging people to get on MySpace and would tell them what it could do for you. I just kind of went on a rampage, requesting people; you know I started sending bulletins. I don’t know how it happened. Of course it took time, but I think I just started bring the boxing community together. And it wasn’t a one woman’s effort, but for the most part it took a lot of work. So the community’s coming together. My page actually went through a whole transformation.
JP: Right now you’re intensely preparing to compete in the Gloves. How would you describe working with trainer and fighter Dillon Carew and what is the most important thing that you have learned from him during this process?
BR: Well it’s an honor to actually work with him. He isn’t really known yet here in the United States. Just hearing that he was a part of the 1992 Olympics, and looking at his style and studying it, I went on the internet and looked it up and saw that Oscar De La Hoya was in that class as well. And I said, “Hey, did you meet Oscar De La Hoya?” And he said no, but that he used to watch him run. He thought he was going to be his opponent or something. (Laughs) But it’s really an honor to work with an Olympian. He not only went to the Olympics but he actually won a fight or two in the Olympics. He was the first South American to win at the Olympic trials. I just like his style of training. I guess the most important thing that he’s taught me is that the best defense is a great offense.
I mean I just started training, you know you don’t learn boxing overnight. I just think of something strong and that I will make it work for me. Carew has boxed for 22 years. Like I said he won fights at the Olympics, is a former Champion and has fought all over the world. I feel that if he can do that he can make me a Champion too. Carew brings to the table different tactics within my training methods that might not be familiar with other more conventional ways of training. He brings energy. He wakes up in the morning and goes running with me. I had an injury once in the gym and he left his clients with someone else and came with me. That was very important because others don’t care. I know that he cares about his fighters. Dillon was my first sparring partner and he has been in the ring with so many different kinds of fighters that he used several styles which made it difficult for me, while at the same time I had to learn to adapt to each style.
JP: If someone had never seen you spar in the gym before or fight how would you explain your style to them?
BR: Ah, I guess that depends on who I’m fighting against. (Laughs) For the most part I joke and I call myself a Mexican. (Laughs) For me, I mean defense is something I really need to work on. I’ll get hit and I’ll keep moving forward. I mean I don’t really like the style, but it’s something that I’ve fallen into. I mean in sparring I keep coming forward and I don’t back up. I guess I’ve only sparred about 3 or 4 times because I had a shoulder injury. So in the little bit of time in my experience I’ve had an injury already. I’m actually going to start sparring heavily next week, like 3 to 4 times a week.
As far as my strong points, definitely my right hand and my footwork. Also, I am powerful, which is not too familiar in women’s boxing. It’s funny because my sparring partner, Sonia, has won the Golden Gloves the last couple of years. I mean she’s very aggressive, she’s non stop aggression. And I asked during training what she thought my strong points were, and she said my right hand and my trainer said my footwork. My footwork is going to help get me out of danger. (Laughs)
But a lot of times in the amateurs, one thing that Dillon’s taught me, is that it’s not about style. It’s about getting points. So if I’m not getting points it’s not going to do anything for me.
JP: Are there any boxers, be they male or female, that you look up to or pattern yourself after?
BR: You know at this point I don’t really pattern myself after anyone or any fighters. You know my trainer’s Guyanese, Wayne Braithwaite and me have the same trainer. It’s kind of like I want to fight like him. I always told my trainer he needs to teach me how to fight like him. My trainer has the best defense in the world. I told him I’d be lucky if I could hit him two times in a round. I just like their style of fighting which is totally different from the American style, meaning great defense and a lot of foot movement.
I went to Wayne’s fight just not too long ago and he was nonstop on his feet, you know? They’re greatly conditioned and the road work is totally different from what is done here. If I could fight like my trainer I would love to be a fighter. (Laughs) I told him I would be the female version of him. But if I’m a Mexican fighter I don’t know. (Laughs)
JP: Where do you see yourself in relation to boxing in 5 years time?
BR: Well basically right now I’m going to have this fight. And after I’m going to probably get into managing a little bit. I’ll probably still do more writing. Basically everything I’m already doing right now and then adding on a new experience. And I’ll dibble dabble in some fighting; I have see if I deal with some personal things or resume my boxing career at that point. I’m going to just continue to do what I’m doing right now and maybe add a thing or two. You know what? My thing is to experience as many things in boxing as I can. I want to do it all. I’m kind of giving myself a crash course and I kind of learn from everybody. Like I said, doing a little publicity and doing the fighting, you know being a manager, so really I just learn from everyone that I can. See within my writing even, I’m not writing on the outside looking in. I’m on the inside.
I plan on doing great things and playing several roles within the sport. At this time I am in the planning stages. Within the next five years I will probably have some major life changes so it will all tie in somehow.
JP: Thank you for speaking with me Bernadette, it’s been my pleasure. Is there anything I left out or anything you’d like to add at this time?
BR: I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity you’ve given to me to do this interview. I’m looking forward to winning Gold later on this year in April. There are three girls in my weight class at the gym so I’m not going to fight until the semi-finals, late March, early April. And then the finals are in April, April 20th which is my birthday. So just to win some Gold around my neck would be wonderful. I don’t plan to participate, I plan to win. I guess on my end there’s a lot of confidence that plays because in amateur boxing there is no novice or open class you just go in there and fight. You have to fight. I’ve just been working really hard and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices over these past couple of months. I really like walking in the shoes of a boxer, all the sacrifices. The injury sucks though; I lost time from my training. But you know I just love going through it.
JP: But you got back in there. A lot of people would have quit.
BR: Yeah. (Laughs) A couple of days after though I went back to the gym even though I threw my shoulder out. I’m really thankful for the whole experience. Yeah, just like I said thank you for the opportunity and I just can’t wait until this fight is over so I can live again. (Laughs) I’m really thankful for everything.
(Closing Note: Any individuals who are interested in contacting Bernadette can do so at her MySpace page at: www.myspace.com/bernapril20).