When Robbie “Bomber” Peden turned professional in 1996, “No one said it was gonna be easy.”
Peden was born a fighter, and from an early age he always said that one day he would be the champion of the world. Born to an Aboriginal mother and a Scottish father, Robbie grew up in the sunny town of Brisbane, Australia. He loved boxing and had a good amateur career, fighting at international level, representing Australia in the Commonwealth and Olympic games, before making the move into the paid ranks, just after the 1996 Atlanta games in the United States.
Peden enjoyed his time in America, and met some good people in Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy, “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas, and David Tua, while competing for Olympic gold. When he returned to Australia, everyone tried to tell him to stay in Australia, where he would have dominated the super featherweight division, but he was so confident in his own abilities as a fighter that he knew he had to move to America and live and train there, as he knew he could make real money, and also spar and train with the best so he could become the very best in his division.
After settling into his new life and “acclimatizing” to the pros, Peden trained hard and started to make a name for himself, sparring with anyone, anywhere, learning his trade, fighting four-rounders all over America, all the while racking up a good, solid record.
After only eight fights as a pro, he traveled back down under in 1998, and fought and won in the tropical island paradise of Vanuatu, before facing Soliman Catarogo for the IBF Pan Pacific super featherweight title in Auckland, New Zealand, and ended his year with a bang. Catarogo was ko'd in one round.
It was now 1999. Robbie Peden flew back to America and continued to build on his ring experience and steadily moved up in class as that year progressed. With another five wins under his belt in ‘99, Peden was living his dream. He was now 15-0 (9 by stoppage) and in early 2000 he was matched to fight Carlos “El Toro” Rios (48-3-2). Rios was a hard and seasoned pro and had been in the ring with the likes of Cesar Soto, Luis Espinosa, Victor Paz and “Pretty boy” Floyd, and at this stage of his career, this looked to be his last chance at the big-time. At stake was the NABF super featherweight title; more importantly, the winner would get ranked in the top fifteen and with that would come a real chance at the world crown.
In Peden’s hardest fight to date, Rios toughed it out with the young aggressive Aussie, but Peden just edged him out with speed and accurate shots to win by split decision. Rios continued fighting but was never the same. This win showed he had a big heart, and in his next few fights he would need it.
Next up was the dangerous puncher John “The Beast” Brown. This man overpowered his opponents in the ring, taking great pleasure in beating them senseless and was making big waves across the division and with fight fans in America. For Peden, this was the big one. With the winner assured a crack at the IBF world title, Peden and Brown fought a tremendous twelve-round battle, with Brown winning the decision.
Peden regrouped and went straight back to the gym. He felt he had fought well enough against a dangerous puncher like Brown, and with his career at a turning point he had to carry on, but not at super featherweight. In October 2000, he decided to go down to featherweight, taking the pounds off while still carrying his power which had served him so well in his first seventeen fights.
Peden’s next five fights were arguably his most grueling of his career. He was winning them well, but on most occasions he left things in the hands of the judges’ scorecards. In 2002 he was matched to fight the superb boxer-puncher Juan Manuel Marquez, and was battered over ten rounds.
Since that devastating loss, Peden has come back yet again, and worked hard with gritty determination to finally realize his boyhood dream of becoming world champion. Peden has punched his way back to victory, most notably, against Nate Campbell in 2004. Campbell was winning the fight but teased and taunted Peden to take a free shot at his exposed jaw. Bad move for Nate. Peden took his free shot and stopped Campbell in the fifth round.
Peden kept winning and Campbell learned a valuable lesson that night, but the two fighters would meet again in a year or so for the big one: the IBF super featherweight championship of the world.
All Peden had to do was keep winning. Everything was falling into place for him. His chance was only a couple of fights away, and after nearly nine years as a pro, and with all the setbacks in his career, the injuries and all the bullsh** politics that goes with the sport he loved simply faded away for Peden.
Talking with him recently, he told me that he never once gave up. He had come too far, had gone so close to his dream, that when he got his chance he knew it would probably be his last and nothing would stop him.
After a unanimous win in Las Vegas against Armando Cordoba, it was announced that he would be facing Nate Campbell for the vacant IBF world title. Peden and Campbell would go to war again. This time it would be fought in Australia, on the 23rd of February, in the city of Melbourne.
It was always going to be a grudge match. Few rematches aren’t, particularly when the world title is at stake, and especially when one guy knocks the other out with a free shot at his mug.
After all the talking was done and both boxers touched them up, the fight quickly turned from a bitter scrap into a brutal street fight. Peden was relentless in his madness, and Campbell looked if he wanted out, as the wild hooks reigned down on him from “The Bomber.”
Peden beat Campbell up over eight rounds to win the prestigious IBF super featherweight world title.
Since turning pro all those years ago, Peden battled the odds and eventually won. Always a gambler, Peden is taking the biggest gamble of his life on the 17th of September when he will risk his newly won IBF belt and fight the legendary Mexican, superhuman, super featherweight Marco Antonio Barrera, in a bid to unify the division. In what surely must be a purely money decision for Peden, it’s a gamble, all right. It’s also a hard, hard fight for the 31-year-old Aboriginal boxer. But hey, Robbie, “No one said it was gonna be easy.”