Now Police Officer, "Rockin" Robin Blake Remembered! By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (April 27, 2011) Doghouse Boxing - Tweet
“Rockin” Robin Blake would meet Melvin Paul, 17-1, in 1983 at Las Vegas. “I beat him twice in the amateurs at the Louisiana State Fair and the Olympic Trials (1980),” said Blake. Paul had only lost to Hector Camacho. In his 2 most recent fights he defeated unbeaten boxers Tyrone “Butterfly” Crawley and Bobby Johnson.
Just 2 days prior to the Paul fight WBA lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini had his first defense in 10 months since the unfortunate death of challenger Deuk-Koo Kim. Mancini’s opponent was Peru’s southpaw Orlando Romero, 30-0-1, with a built-up record. Mancini would win the decision.
Blake would halt Paul in the sixth round to go 22-0 and become the top contender for Mancini’s WBA title. Everything seemed to have finally fallen into place for the title fight. Mancini’s people were looking to defend the title again in January and it would be a multi-million dollar deal.
Blake got together with his people after the fight for dinner and what was supposed to be a celebration turned into something that would change the course of Blake’s entire career, if not his life.
Blake was a tall southpaw from Levelland, TX, whose pink trunks and exciting style set him apart from other boxers in the early 80’s. He appeared on CBS, NBC, ESPN and a TV/cable favorite. What was supposed to be an after fight dinner turned into what would lead to the destruction of his career for this 21 year old. But first let’s find out how he got to be the WBA’s No. 1 lightweight contender.
Blake’s dad, Roger, once a Marine always a Marine, would take his 5 sons, Sonny, Roddy, Robin, Bobby and Keith (Shane) to the gym at an early age. Besides Robin “Rowdy” Roddy turned professional with a 6-4 (6) record including a win over Felix Santiago, 20-1-1. Keith fought as “Shane” and was 15-6-2 (11) as a middleweight. Robin had almost 300 amateur fights from the age of 7. His dad would mold Robin into the boxer he was.
Blake brought up the airplane crash in 1980 where a USA team was going to Warsaw, POL, to meet the national team. The crash in Warsaw took the lives of 22 team members including officials. “As it turned out I was offered a spot on that team when I met up with them at JFK Airport as I was passing through but declined due to my recent trip. I had gone to East Germany prior to that,” said Blake.
Poppa” Joe Barrientes took over in the professionals and like most pro trainers taught Blake how to set down on his punches. In the amateurs it’s more about accumulation of punches. He was managed by Dave Gorman who had prospects Donald Curry turn pro in 1980 (win WBA #147 in 84’), along with Blake turning pro in 81’ as did Gene Hatcher (win WBA #140 84’) and Steve Cruz (win #126 in 86’). Gorman’s local promoter was Bob Sawyer.
Barrientes was a good trainer. Gorman was learning on the job. Sawyer promoted Blake locally and Top Rank in Vegas/AC. After defeating Paul to become the No. 1 TR was negotiating with Dave Wolf for a title fight with Ray Mancini, the WBA lightweight champion.
Blake was everyone’s favorite on the tube being a tall white southpaw from TX who had pop in his punch. He went to the 1980 Olympic trials and defeated Melvin Paul but lost to Joe Manley in the trials. Manley would make the “Forgotten Team” as I put it in one of my stories about the team that President Jimmy Carter kept from competing at the Olympics in 1980.
“I moved from Levelland to Ft. Worth after signing with Gorman,” said Blake. Blake was 13-0 (10) in his first 13 months. He would travel to Atlantic City for the second time in October of 1982 and defeat Primo Ramos, 8-0, of Chicago, by a 10 round majority decision.
Blake followed up in November defeating veteran Ricardo Jimenez, 27-8-2, in Las Vegas on the undercard of Mancini stopping Korea’s Deuk-Koo Kim in the fourteenth round. Kim would die after this brutal beating and the WBC immediately shortened title bouts from 15 to 12. Jimenez had his 9 bout unbeaten streak broken by Johnny Bumphus the fight before. “I knocked Jimenez down several times but couldn’t keep him down,” said Blake.
In December tough Chris Calvin, 9-2, a former top amateur was brought in for Blake’s “homecoming” in Levelland. “He was one tough son of a gun who kept pressing forward,” said Blake. Blake won with a 10 round decision. Calvin would go unbeaten in his next 10 fights including 2 draws while beating then unbeaten Brett Summers 22-0. It took unbeaten future champ Greg Haugen to halt his streak.
Blake scored a knockouts in February and in April of 1983 while on CBS he defeated Ruben Munoz, Jr., 16-2, stopping him in the tenth round. Munoz had gone 12 rounds with then unbeaten Roger Mayweather for the USBA title. Just 2 fights and 2 months later Blake was in with Sterling McPhearson, 15-0-1, of Las Vegas, at the Astro Arena, in Houston. “He had been very quiet during the pre-fight and it made me feel like this was going to be a test for me. When he got in the ring he was smiling and dancing in his corner and I could see the fear in his eyes. I had fun beating on him for several rounds before stopping him in the fourth,” said Blake.
Next up 5 weeks later would be contender Tony “The Tiger” Baltazar, 23-1-1, of Phoenix. This would be one of the top fights of 1983. “My trainer was very concerned about this fight and told my manager,” said Blake. It was Blake’s twenty-first fight and Baltazar, was coming off his first loss to Olympic Gold medalist Howard Davis, Jr. Blake cut Baltazar in the third round over the right eye lid and it started bleeding heavily. It had been a good round for Baltazar other than that. In the fourth round Blake was boxing well and landing strong combinations from about the last 30 seconds to the end of the round.
In the eighth round it looked like Blake went down when referee Dave Pearl waved it off as a slip. “I was going back and he stepped on my foot,” said Blake. Near the end of the round Blake landed a right hook and Baltazar went down motioning to his corner he was all right. Coming out for the ninth round Blake’s right eye was closing and Baltazar’s was still bleeding.
Blake landed a flurry of punches dropping Baltazar. Upon rising, a straight left rocked Baltazar. Blake followed with another left and down went Baltazar, as the corner threw in the towel stopping the fight in the ninth round.
“He’s a tough fighter and hits really hard,” said Baltazar. “He hit me in the ear in the seventh round and really hurt me. I’m just thankful to my Lord and Savior I was able to pull it out,” said Blake. With his beautiful wife, Denise, now by his side Blake went on to say as the No. 2 contender he wanted the No. 1 in Livingston Bramble in order to get a fight with Mancini for the title. “You can beat anybody, you’re the best,” said Barrientes. “He called me his million dollar man,” said Blake.
Less than 2 months later when the No. 1 Brambles people refused to fight Blake, he would meet Melvin Paul, 17-1, in Las Vegas, and be moved from No. 2 to No. 1 with the win. “I dropped him early and was growing weak from all the punches I was landing by the sixth round when the referee stepped in and stopped it, that was my sixth knock out in a row in six fights against top contenders and I was growing tired,” said Blake.
The stage seemed set for a possible title fight for Blake in January of 1984. Mancini had beaten Romero, and Blake defeated several Mancini types like Munoz, Baltazar and Paul. Something happened at dinner after the Paul fight when Blake sat down with his management team which included Sawyer going to Vegas for the first time. “We want you to fight Tyrone Crawley in 3 weeks,” said Gorman. “I told him I needed a rest. I had been fighting too often and it’s Mancini I want to fight,” said Blake. He had 22 fights in 25 months with plenty of tough opposition.
Several hours later Gorman came to him with some further information about the proposed fight. “Crawley had beaten my stable mate Gene Hatcher (in ESPN tourney). Everyone knows your mind is 75% of the battle. If you are not 100% mentally and physically you aren’t beating anyone. They told me the fight was already sold out in my hometown at the South Plains College and would be seen on ESPN”, said Blake. This was all done prior to the Paul fight without Blake knowing it.
Here he was 22-0, No. 1 in the WBA and took the fight in 3 weeks with a top fighter. “I was young and didn’t know what to do but to go along with it under those circumstances, I didn’t want to let my hometown fans down by not taking the fight, said Blake. He would certainly do it differently today. “I like Crawley and do not want to take anything away from him. I knew he had good motor skills but I had no confidence going into this fight under the circumstances. I would even later call Bob Arum (TR) to tell him I didn’t want this fight. “I was paid 60k for this fight and signed with Top Rank after defeating Robin,” said Crawley.
Why put him in with one of the trickiest boxers in the division whose style was nothing like Mancini’s? Blake had 3 weeks after fighting Paul and was drained after winning one of his biggest fights to get to be No. 1. “I even had root canal work done the week before the fight and fought with a cap on my tooth,” said Blake. Crawley would take the decision and Blake would never be the same. On top of that Paul whom Blake had defeated in his previous fight was to get a January fight for the newly created IBF lightweight title against Philadelphia’s Charley “Choo Choo” Brown.
“I couldn’t believe that Blake’s people took me as an opponent. I had lost once and that was to Melvin Paul. I had beaten Gene Hatcher in the ESPN tourney which I eventually won. After the fight with Blake the IBF put Brown and Paul together though I was rated higher,” said Crawley. He would later defeat ex-champ Brown in 1985 for vacant NABF title earning a fight next with WBA champ Bramble in 1986.
“I still have the telegram Mancini sent me saying I’m still the champ,” said Blake. My manager felt so bad he paid for my wife and I to take a trip to Las Vegas for the Hagler-Duran fight. Ray Leonard was walking through the crowd and hugged me and told me the same thing Mancini did. I was never the same fighter,” said Blake.
So who was Blake fighting next in January? A fighter from Youngstown, OH, but his name wasn’t Ray Mancini. It was contender Harry Arroyo, 22-0! Mancini was defending against the WBC Super Featherweight champion Bobby Chacon, a lower weight fighter from another organization which was not a mandatory. This was to be Blake’s fight.
Arroyo was another future world champion who had defeated unbeaten Olympian Joe Manley, another future world champion. The Arroyo-Blake fight was held in Atlantic City and it was a close fight on all accounts. “I thought I won that fight,” said Blake. Arroyo would go onto defeat Charley Brown who had defeated Melvin Paul for the newly formed vacant IBF title.
“I had to do a lot of work to get Brown that fight,” said J Russell Peltz. I know Peltz (Brown’s promoter) would have had Blake fighting Mancini and not Crawley. As it turned out Mancini was ordered by the WBA to fight Bramble or vacate his title. So Bramble refuses to fight Blake and moves back to No. 1 in the WBA with Blake’s loss to Crawley.
“I was very close to fighting Robin. It was a fight I wanted, and I believe he wanted also. He was the top contender, beating everyone, so he surely deserved it. My manager Dave Wolf, I believe was in talks with Dave Gorman about making it happen even after I fought Chacon. Of course they fought Arroyo on the same day, and when Robin got beat, that killed any chance of that fight happening. Robin was a hell of a fighter and a heck of a gentleman also,” said Mancini.
Blake would win 4 more fights in 1984, 3 by knockout. In February of 1985 he would be put in with Adolfo Medel, 22-1, in Midland, TX. In Medel’s last 2 fights he defeated future world champion Fred Pendleton along with Bobby Johnson. Blake would win by majority decision ending Medel’s career. “He was a tough cookie,” said Blake. This would earn him an IBF title fight. “I was supposed to fight Arroyo again but hurt my left hand in training and stepped aside and would fight the Arroyo-Jimmy Paul winner,” said Blake. With Paul defeating Arroyo, he would defend against Blake.
Paul, 22-1, was one of Kronk’s champions. The fight would take place in Las Vegas in June of 1985. In the third round Blake was landing combinations while Paul was using his jab and landed several solid lead right hands to the head. It was a close round but Blake seemed to have the edge. Halfway through the fourth round Blake landed a right hook to the head that stunned Paul. He followed up with 5 more unanswered punches. Paul would come back with right hands over his jab but it was still Blake’s round.
By the twelfth round Blake was behind and got hit with a left hook causing his one glove to touch the canvas being ruled a knockdown. After taking a couple of solid right’s Blake was pushed into the ropes. As Blake was moving off the ropes to his left he took 2 more punches knocking him into the ropes when referee Joey Curtis prematurely jumped in to stop it. Blake complained to no avail. Odd thing about the stoppage is that the referee didn’t stay with the so-called hurt fighter but ran over to Paul who was running to his corner and raised his hand. This is something not usually done until the ring announcer renders the decision.
Though it looked like Blake could have survived the round he was behind on points (126-121, 129-117, 127-119) and would have needed a knockout to win. The time of stoppage was 2:41 of the fourteenth. This would be Blake’s first and last title shot. “I knew I could go on and up until you pointed it out I always thought I was ahead in that fight,” said Blake.
Putting a call into Manny Steward who trained Jimmy Paul, he had this to say: “We just beat Harry Arroyo for the IBF title and Bob Arum said we are fighting Robin Blake next. I begged him to get us out of this fight. I remember at the Nationals and the Olympic trials that we all feared Blake and Donald Curry from that group. Blake was knocking everyone out. It was a tough fight but fortunately Paul won,” said Manny Steward.
Blake watched his teammates Curry, Hatcher and Steve Cruz all win titles and knew he should have been champion, too. It would be 8 months before he fought again and it would be Olympic Gold medalist and future IBF champion Meldrick Taylor, 9-0. There never seemed to be a break for Blake. In 1983 he was fighting Baltazar, (Melvin) Paul, Crawley and Arroyo right in a row. No other fighters were doing that in the division. He beats Medel, fights (Jimmy) Paul and Taylor in a row. “Taylor was an Olympic champ and very fast but not a big puncher,” said Blake. Blake lost by decision.
Blake would score a knockout 5 months later and not fight again for 15 months. He would come back and post a pair or knockouts at light welterweight and take on Harold Brazier, 53-7-1, for his NABF title in March of 1988 in Las Vegas. His brother Roddy, 5-1, would post his fifth straight knockout on the undercard. “I dropped Brazier early but he wasn’t hurt. He seemed more upset about getting knocked down. Despite his age he was in great condition,” said Blake.
The fight would go into the ninth round. “I took a standing count in the ninth. Then I got hit with a punch to my left side that I didn’t see coming and went down. I couldn’t beat the count,” said Blake. Brazier would challenge WBC light welterweight champion Roger Mayweather 2 months later and lose by split decision. He would go onto win over 100 fights.
Blake would go 3-3 after the Brazier fight and end his career against Nika Khumalo, 31-3-2, of South Africa, who 2 months later lost in a bid for Manning Galloway’s WBO welterweight title. “I had broken away from Gorman in 1989 and was in training for the police academy when I took that fight,” said Blake. Even this, his last fight was on the USA network. The fans never got tired of seeing Blake.
Blake’s career ended in June of 1990 with a record of 33-8 with 21 knockouts. On April 16th this writer contacted Blake which happened to be his forty-ninth birthday. I should have known better than to take up his day but once we started talking (3 hrs later) about his career as luck would have it (for him and his family) my cell phone died out. We would finish up later in the week.
“I married a preacher’s daughter. We will be married 30 years in October,” said Blake. He went on to tell me their daughter Melissa had graduated from Odessa College and was working in the medical field along with her mother. Their son Brandon is also an officer on the Odessa police force where his dad has been on for 17 years. “God was leading me that way,” said Blake.
“My wife, Denise, ran across a friend of ours and expressed my interest in becoming a police officer. She then made a connection for me with George Lawless to apply with the newly forming police academy which was starting in June of 1990. I took the test in January and took some classes at South Plains College. My Aunt Vonnie DeArmond would sponsor me and pay for whatever my partial scholarship didn’t. The sponsorship was named after my cousin Derl, her son, who was killed in an auto accident,” said Blake.
“I first worked on the campus of Texas Tech University starting in October of 1990 until June of 1994. I transferred wanting to be in the city of Odessa on July 7, 1994, which has a population of over 100,000. I have 21 years of combined service in Law Enforcement,” said Blake.
“I really don’t talk about boxing around the job or much at all. You have brought up things from the past that I can relate to,” said Blake. No matter how long one’s been away from the game they could always relate back to the “good old days” sitting at home watching when “Rockin” Robin Blake came into the ring with those pink trunks and ready to knock someone out!