Craig Robinson may have one of the hardest heads in boxing. He has shattered the hands of sparring partners in the gym, and he applied it as a battering ram when he fought Jamaica's Joe Greene at the Huntington Townhouse in Huntington, L.I.
Robinson staggered Greene with a headbutt midway through the first round, but Greene (6-0, 5 KOs) regrouped and stopped Robinson (7-2-2, 6 KOs) 2:44 of the third round in a six round middleweight bout.
Nearly 30 minutes after the bout, Greene, 19, was still groggy from the collision.
“I was a little dazed, but I was good enough to continue,” Greene said. “The next round I was back on point, and I went back to work. I was just trying to remain calm, keep my hands up and break him down. I felt good about what went on out there.”
If the name Joe Greene doesn't register on the popularity-index, it's because he has fought mostly outside of New York in North Carolina and Atlanta. While boxers from Queens such as Jaidon Codrington and Ehinomen Ehikhamenor have evolved into mini-celebrities appearing on Lou DiBella's shows in Manhattan, Greene has made little noise so far. Nonetheless, of all the boxers fighting for elbow room in New York, Greene may have one of the strongest resumes.
He won the Golden Gloves in 2003 and 2004, the National Golden Gloves in 2004, for which he collected the Golden Boy award for the competitions best fighter, and he came within a hair of qualifying for the 2004 Olympic team, losing to eventual bronze medalist, Andre Dirrell in the finals of the Olympic trials 16-13. Greene started boxing when he was nine, and he estimates that his amateur record is 180-4 with 100 knockouts.
He is so feared in New York that his manager, Jack Stanton, maintains that nobody will fight him here. Thus, they have taken to the road like vagabonds, hunting for bouts.
“We have a hard time getting opponents,” said Stanton, a lawyer who only manages Greene. “Joe is so well known in New York that people don't want to get into the ring with him. We've had to go out of town just to find guys. We'll fight anyone.”
Greene is trained by Don Turner, who worked with Evander Holyfield and Larry Holmes and was in semi-retirement in Atlanta when Stanton, a close friend, invited him to watch Greene fight. Turner was so impressed that he joined co-trainer Andre Rozier in the corner.
“He's a throwback,” Turner said. “He doesn't give the guy a target to hit because of the way he stands, always leaning back and then moving forward with punches. He's tough to handle. At the age of 66, I'm not interested in training just any ordinary fighter. I think he can become a good prospect in boxing.”
Stanton found Robinson, Green's opponent, in Pine Mountain, Ga. which Robinson said has a population of around 200 people. The muscular Robinson, 27, is a Mike Tyson clone, dressed in black shorts and black shoes. He fights in the same peek-a-boo style as Tyson, and he can take a punch like Tyson.
Greene, who wore green shorts, green shoes and a green warm-up jacket, knocked Robinson down with a left uppercut in the first round, but Robinson responded with the head-butt that momentarily stopped Greene in his tracks. Once he cleared his head, Greene continued landing punches, and three times during the bout while retreating, Robinson got tangled up in the ropes, requiring the referee's assistance.
A volley of hooks and right hands left Robinson defenseless in the third round, prompting referee Wayne Kelly to stop the bout. Greene had around 90 family and friends in attendance, and he walked to the ring with a song by the rap group, “Don Thugs” from Jamaica, that was written for him.
“I was so mad when they stopped it,” said Robinson, a plywood mill worker in Pine Mountain. “I don't make any excuses, but I was OK, all my senses were clear when they stopped it. I'm just so mad right now that they stopped it.”