By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
"When he called, I would be there," Robinson says. Eventually King brought Robinson on full-time. The trainer flew all over the world with Don King Promotions, living out of a suitcase in Vegas, Australia, wherever he was needed. "It was a great experience," he says. "When you get to work with the greatest promoter in the world, you get to meet everybody and do everything. I got to meet Tyson and become friends with him, and through the process, I brought Christy Martin to Don King."
Christy Martin put women's professional boxing on the map. She was the first woman to fight on pay-per-view television, usually on the undercard of the biggest fights. King gets credited with discovering her, but Robinson brought her to King.
Robinson had seen Martin fight in Daytona Beach and thought she was spectacular. When he first suggested adding Martin to the King roster, his boss scoffed. "I have enough controversy now," Robinson recalls King saying. "A woman boxer... they'd eat me alive!"
But Robinson was persistent, and King gave Martin a crack: She stole the show. She made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996.
Not long thereafter, Michael Moorer, who had at one time been heavyweight champion, was again rising in the heavyweight-boxing ranks and came to Robinson for training; he has trained under him ever since. Though Moorer is still working out in L.A., Robinson says the fighter will relocate to Warriors in the near future.
Robinson gets excited when he starts talking about the prospect of Moorer joining Purlett and Briggs; the more worked up he gets, the more he sounds like Don King. While many trainers who've been in the business as long as he has are now jaded and callous, Robinson is still warm and welcoming. He smiles often and never has a mean word to say about anyone. Warriors is among the best training facilities he's ever seen, and Purlett one of the best prospects he's ever trained.
"Oh, we gonna do something great here," Robinson offers. "We gonna raise this here up through the stratosphere. And Purlett is the type of fighter who's gonna get his opportunity, and he's gonna shock the world. He's got all the tools: a good right hand, a good uppercut, a good left hook. And when he get his chance, he gonna chisel these guys up. When he steps to the ring, you gonna see some lightnin', and you gonna see some thunder and all the stuff that comes with it.
"It's sort of like me in a sense. I'm not a world-renowned trainer. A lot of people in boxing know me, but I'm like one of those people that come in the back door. So is Purlett. We're those people that come on in, and when we wind up in the house, people wanna know how we got there. And he's almost there. And it's time to shine. And the truth will come out. We gonna raise this roof. And I done trained fighters in the best gyms and in the worst. And this gym is one of the best I've seen. It's the Caesar's Palace of boxing gyms. This is a world-renowned, first-class, VIP gym."
Shannon Briggs, for one, agrees with Robinson's assessment; that's why he chose Warriors as the headquarters for his comeback. A bruiser from the hard-hitting streets of Brooklyn, Briggs started his career with a first-round knockout win in 1992. Five years later, in front of a packed house in Atlantic City, Briggs (29-1 at the time) got his shot at a belt against 48-year-old fighter and fat-free-grill pitchman George Foreman. The fight was ugly, even by the heavyweight division's currently low standards, and the judging, according to Sports Illustrated, was "outrageous." Outrageous or not, the judges gave the fight to the golden-dreadlocked Briggs, handing Foreman only his fifth defeat in 81 bouts and finally ending his career.
After that Briggs rode a wave of publicity and stardom. Boxing magazines praised his skills. Sports Illustrated ballyhooed him as the next big thing. Then he switched gears and did high fashion. He started modeling and was featured in Details, GQ, and other pop-culture periodicals. Vibe dubbed him a top black athlete, complimenting his fighting skills and promoting his new record label.
Four months after the Foreman upset, Briggs was back in Atlantic City, this time for a title shot against WBC heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. Lewis had been a 12-1 favorite, but no one would have guessed it after the first two rounds. Briggs stunned Lewis with a big left hook and a barrage of combinations in the last 30 seconds of round one that sent the champion staggering across the ring. In round two he did it again, this time with a leaping left hook and vicious combinations to Lewis's also-dreadlocked head. But from then on, the fight was all Lewis. The bigger, stronger champion dominated Briggs so completely that the referee stopped the fight at 1:45 in the fifth round.
A year later Briggs fought to a draw against Francois Botha (a.k.a. "The Great White Hopeless"), once again in cursed Atlantic City. Although Briggs has won every one of his fights since then, the boxing world has generally written him off as an overhyped, has-been chump.