My impression of the Uppercut Boxing Gym: a well equipped and airy converted warehouse at 1324 Quincy St NE in Minneapolis. The gym is shaped suspiciously like an old Roman cathedral, with wide central nave flanked by two adjoining aisles.
My impression of Antwan Robertson: short and wiry, hands and feet in proportion to his body; a genuine small man – not just a big guy on a diet. Robertson makes his appearance slightly late, attired in “superman pants,” T shirt, and the obligatory bulky winter coat. His personality is engaging and outgoing. He’s eager to share and excitable.
I am first greeted by Robertson’s coach and promoter, a gentleman named John Hoffman. Hoffman graciously invites me to follow to the elevated ring where he will be working Robertson out. The workout begins haltingly, with much instruction and single jabs thrown. Robertson eventually progresses to two and three jab combinations, with the larger Hoffman occasionally bulling him around the ring. The work is interspersed with occasional pauses, when the two hang on the ropes and watch others work out, or visit with others milling about. But as the workout progresses, Robertson throws more meaningful single hooks, then combinations.
After a brief break to work out a cramp, the workout resumes. The workout moves to another part of the building and I move with it, and Robertson explains along the way that he’s been struggling with a persistent cramp for a week, and his footwork is suffering. As the workout continues it becomes clear that Robertson is a little powerhouse, throwing strong combinations and finishing with hooks that would make a larger fighter proud. Several seven-punch combos follow in quick succession.
Having worked up a good lather in the ring, Robertson moves to the heavy bag, working hard to keep the bag moving. After about fifteen minutes on the heavy bag, a nearly winded Robertson moves further from me, to run on a treadmill at the opposite end of the building. I occupy myself watching another workout, waiting for an opportunity to speak with Robertson at greater length. Clearly taking pity on the stranger, coach John Hoffman ambles over for a visit which turns into a fifteen or twenty minute conversation. What a nice guy he turns out to be! Finally, after a vigorous twenty minute run, Robertson returns to my end of the building with situps on his mind.
But I’ve got an interview on my mind, and I ask Robertson if we couldn’t talk now, and so our interview begins.
We begin by talking about Robertson’s amateur career. He explains that he discovered boxing about four years ago while doing community service for an unspecified offense. He dropped in on Hoffman’s gym in Anoka (now under different management) and was instantly hooked. “I was at that gym Monday through Saturday every week,” he explains – “I just loved [boxing] right away.” However, learning the game takes time and Robertson took part in just twelve amateur matches in nearly four years as an amateur. He compiled a record of 9-3 before turning pro in 2007, including the 2007 Upper Midwest Golden Gloves championship at 112#. It seems that Robertson may have remained an amateur, but he lost his eligibility as a consequence of appearing in a toughman contest in 2007. That’s what prompted him to turn pro. To date his professional record is 3-0 with 2 kayos.
Robertson speaks in glowing terms of his coach/manager/promoter, John Hoffman. Hoffman is a coach and a teacher, he says. He credits his time in amateur boxing (also under Hoffman) with keeping him “out of trouble.” Yeah, boxing is good for that.
As has been mentioned on this blog before, it’s difficult for a very small man to find opponents in this part of the world. Robertson acknowledges that this is the case. Ideally, he says he would like to fight “every couple of months,” up to six times per year. “That would be perfect,” he affirms. In order to stay active, Robertson says that he’s willing to fight above his weight. “I’ll fight guys up to 120, 122 pounds.” This is quite a concession for a man who walks around at about 116 pounds. Asked who he would like to fight, Robertson first mentioned Brad Patraw “because he beat me in amateurs,” then he reconsiders. “Not yet,” he says of Patraw, “I’m still learning the basics, the fundamentals.” Along the same lines, when I complimented his strong hooks he nodded and laughed. “I never threw a hook the whole time I was an amateur! Never, not in any fight, not even once.” The man is still learning to box.
The future is unclear for Antwan Robertson. He doesn’t know what his pro career will look like, but he’s hoping that hard work and talent will take him far. “I never worked so hard as a amateur. I mean it. I run so much – I never ran this much as a amateur. Boxing is HARD. I mean, it’s hard work! People don’t know how hard you’ve got to work.”
The Fistic Mystic says: With a good coach and careful management, and with a good work ethic, this talented young man should be able to make a nice professional run. Just how far he will go, only time will tell.