News May 2019

Robbie Regan on dramatic career “I should have been setting myself up for life not retiring”


By Michael J Jones

In mid 1996 Welshman Robbie Regan had the world at his feet. In his prime at 28-years-old, Regan was the new WBO bantamweight champion of the world and set to cash in on his recently-won belt.

Just two years later, the unfortunate fighter saw himself reduced to an enforced retirement without another contest after a long bout of illness and a subsequent failed MRI scan.

“I was absolutely devastated” sighs Regan as he recalls his ordeal to Livefight. “When I won the world title I expected to be defending my title and setting myself up for life but the year after I won it was probably the worst time of my life.”

The new champion had looked strong in dropping experienced champion Daniel Jimenez and claiming the crown on a clear unanimous decision. Just months later though a severe case of glandular fever hit him harder than any of his previous 22 pro opponents put together.

“When I was usually in training I was banging out 60 miles a week running but when I was ill I could barely run even a short distance. There was just nothing there; no energy.”

The suffering champion was scheduled to face his number one challenger Jorge Julio on several occasions but was forced repeatedly to pull out while still trying to regain full fitness. The WBO eventually stripped Regan but worse news was to follow…

“They found a scar on my brain, it probably would never have affected me but they told me I couldn’t box again. It was very hard having to give up something I’d done my whole life. It took me a long time to accept it.”

Robbie took to boxing in his mid teens under the knowledgeable wing of Welsh boxing guru Dai Gardner. Despite winning a brace of amateur titles including the Welsh ABA’s and competing in the 1986 Commonwealth Games, I have to ask about a certain exhibition fight he boxed towards the end of his amateur days.

“Joe Calzaghe was three stone (42lbs) heavier than me” begins Robbie about the bizarre match-up between two future Welsh boxing legends. “It got made and everyone said we’d just go through the motions in the fight but, when it started, he began loading up with big shots so I came right back at him.

Just midway through the opening round, the ref jumped between the two youngsters to the surprise of both.

“I was surprised the ref stopped it, he said it was getting too rough and Joe was boxing for Wales the following week so the ref didn’t want him to get injured. One thing though; Joe Calzaghe said in his biography that for that tournament he had knocked someone out in a round the week beforehand. Well, that was me and he did NOT knock me out that's just nonsense.”

The Welsh flyweight would turn pro in August 89’ with a draw against Eric George in Cardiff. In his second fight he would travel to London to face another strong prospect in Francis Ampofo. It would be the first of three meetings between the pair in an 18 month period.

How much does Robbie remember about that six-rounder nearly 24 years ago?

“I actually remember it quite well” chuckles Regan. “I’d gone to my brother’s wedding on the Saturday and had a drink at the party and then I boxed Ampofo on the following Tuesday. I won the fight but didn’t feel great and I just said to myself never again will I do that.”

“He was tough but the fact I got the decision on his home ground tells me I surely won well.”

The speedy and skilful prospect wasted no time in his pro campaign, picking up the Welsh title before out-scoring Glasgow brawler Joe Kelly to become British champion after just eight fights. With his career on a swift upward curve though, Regan would encounter his first career banana skin in a rematch with Ampofo.

Following a head-clash when clearly ahead, the champion was left with a nasty cut eye; the result controversially was an Ampofo victory by TKO. Losing an unbeaten record in this manner in front of your own fans was surely hard to take as the 45-year-old explains.

“He just kept putting his head in over-and-over. The ref just let him carry on until I got cut. The cut was bad but wasn’t bleeding down my face or into my eyes…I think with only a round and a bit left I should have been allowed to continue.”

Surprisingly, a rematch was quickly arranged just three months later back in Cardiff. Although many were concerned their hero may get cut again after requiring 56 stitches after the last meeting, Regan showed his talent with a clinical and resounding display of pure boxing. After twelve brisk rounds, the home fighter was declared the champion again on the score-card of the ref.

“Credit him for coming back and giving me the opportunity of winning back the title but I also think he may be able to open my cut up again with the quick rematch.”

“Before the first fight I was actually ill. There was a bug going around and all of my family had caught it. I was even ill right before the fight but I still thought I was well ahead when it was stopped. In the rematch I was much stronger I think it probably shocked Ampofo a bit at my strength in the rematch.”

After winning a Lonsdale belt outright with a dominant stoppage of game James Drummond, Regan set his sights on the European title held by tough Italian Salvatore Fanni. The bout took place in November 92’ and at the close of twelve exciting rounds Regan would add another belt to his growing collection.

“It was an action-packed fight between me and Fanni” remembers Robbie. “He boxed the right fight and crowded me the whole time but I boxed him and, though it was a tough fight, I felt I had done more than enough at the end of the fight.”

“Not only was Fanni one of the best I fought but he was also a true sportsman. When the decision was announced he picked up my daughter and congratulated me on the win.”

There would be little love lost between Regan and his next opponent however. A voluntary defence against Hertfordshire’s big-hitting Danny Porter was soon elevated to grudge match status after an angry verbal exchange between the two flyweights.

Although just 12-8-1 (9) as a pro, 28-year-old Porter was a tough challenger. On two occasions the Englishman had appeared extremely unfortunate to leave Italy without Salvatore Fanni’s European title and nearly all of his defeats were in give-and-take championship battles.

“The fight with Porter was a voluntary defence and it got cancelled after I pulled out injured” explains the Welshman. “When I pulled out he started saying I was scared of him and when it got rescheduled he said he’d knock me out in three rounds.”

Usually a quick-fisted boxer, Regan turned puncher in the explosive fight. With very little-feeling out between the pair, the two would quickly locked horns to trade their best punches. The difference seemed to be the confident champion’s superior hand-speed and defence. Just three rounds into the contest the fight was halted in Regan’s favour as Porter was clinically taken apart.

“He got the round right in his prediction” smiles Robbie. “He just picked the wrong man.”

With a world title fight on the horizon, the Welshman would vacate the European belt to concentrate on his world assault but things didn’t quite go to plan.

A mooted bout with WBO champion Baby Jake Matlala failed to materialise as the Cefn Forrest fighter kept busy with a brace of none-title victories. Eventually Regan was matched with the new European champion Luigi Camputaro for his old belt and reclaimed the title with a unanimous decision. He would then set his sights once more towards a world title fight.

Since Regan’s first shot at the WBO crown was scrapped, champion Matlala had been knocked out by heavy-handed Mexican Alberto Jimenez. Seven months after winning back the European title, Regan would engage in his first world title shot at the National Ice Rink in Cardiff.

If facing one of the most dangerous young fighters in the world wasn’t daunting enough, the challenger also had to endure some horrific pre-fight trauma. The 45-year-old takes up the story...

“I had been having hand trouble in the build up to the fight and ended up needing two operations. One was even on the day of the fight! The doctor injected local anaesthetic into the top of my hand and it flew across the room from the hole in my knuckles (left by an abscess). I couldn’t spar for weeks I just had to run to get my weight down.”

Regan also had a problem with his pay-check being short when he received it on what must have been the fight day from hell.

As the WBO title match unfolded, it was apparent Regan wasn’t himself. Jimenez built up a points lead on the cards with his aggression and harder punches but the plucky Welshman kept trying.

At the conclusion of the ninth round it was clear that the challenger was behind on the scorecards but it was still a mild surprise when he was retired on his stool by trainer Dai Gardiner.

As Welsh hearts were broken, Regan was left in floods of tears, even getting consoled by Barry McGuigan after an emotional ringside interview between the pair.

“Before the fight I’d heard Jimenez had stamina issues and in that ninth I could feel his power was going. I’d had a decent round and at the end he winked at me, like he knew he was slowing down.”

“I was probably four rounds down but I feel I had a chance of turning it around and, in my heart, I know I shouldn’t have been pulled out.”

Putting the huge disappointment of the loss behind him, the determined Robbie was back in the gym only days later training hard for his next opportunity. When his next fight was announced for December 95’ many raised an eyebrow to the choice of opponent for Regan’s comeback fight.

Tunisian Ferid Ben Jeddou was an undefeated and hard-punching southpaw who had flattened fourteen of his nineteen opponents to date. The two men would meet for the Interim IBF flyweight title with Regan looking exceptional in blowing away his touted foe inside of two rounds. Ben Jeddou was pummelled all around the ring and had his eye swollen shut before a huge left hook left him on his face to the Welsh crowd’s jubilant celebrations.

“Losing to Jimenez in that way made me hungry” Regan tells me. “I didn’t perform against Jimenez and I’d had all of those problems before the fight but against Ben Jeddou I just went for it. I started catching him early and just kept on him.”

If the Ben Jeddou contest appeared risky, the Welshman’s next fight would provide another shock when announced. In early 1996 it was revealed that Regan would jump two weight divisions to take on WBO bantamweight champion Daniel Jimenez (no relation to Alberto) in Cardiff.

Audacious as the move seemed, Regan was supremely confident he could beat the Puerto Rican champion.

“I was a big underdog as (Jimenez) had beaten Drew Docherty, Duke McKenzie and Al Kotey over here but, what many didn’t realise was, I’d been struggling at flyweight for quite a while. I felt a lot stronger at the higher weight and a lot different a fighter.”

From the first bell the challenger set a frenetic pace and seemed well ahead by half way. With the champion working his way into the fight and the pace slowing a shade many wondered if Regan could stay ahead. In the eighth he would stop any of those thoughts in a single moment.

Towards the end of the round a hard left hook thumped into the champion’s chin sending him down heavily.

“I thought he got a bit of a long count” reasons Robbie. “I dropped him at the end of the round; I feel if it had happened earlier I could have stopped him.”

The champion desperately tried to turn the tide but, especially with the knock-down, Regan was a worthy winner at the close of twelve tough rounds.

Sadly that was the last time Robbie Regan would ever box again as he bowed out with a 17-2-3 (7) record. Although his career was cut prematurely short, Regan had proved himself a tough, highly-skilled warrior who could compete with the very best. Although not noted as a puncher, Regan had showed in his later fights that his power was improving.

Even the great Marco Antonio Barrera couldn’t manage to drop Jimenez.

Although his post-career journey has been a hard one, the retired Welshman has in recent years set his sights on opening his own gym in Cefn Forrest where he intends to produce champions of his own.

“My good friend Julian Pritchard got me back interested in training and since then I’ve fallen back in love with the sport. I’ve had a lot of help and support from Julian and also Lee Rawlings from He’s a real life genuine guy who has sponsored the gym and all the money he makes from the company goes back into helping clubs like ours.”

“I’ve also got to give credit to my partner Bonnie Tenorio, she’s the love of my life and she turned the worst year of my life into my best one.”

“My trainers at the club (which opens soon) are Jamie Ross and Melcome Davies. Robbie Turley (the current Welsh champion) also helps out when he can.”

“There’s really nothing much in Cefn Forrest (for the youngsters) so I’m hoping it won’t be long before I’m producing many world champions.”

Regan destroys Ben Jeddou-

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