Boxing, like life, is all about seizing the moment, taking full advantage of the opportunities which come your way. After all, it takes just one punch to turn things around, change the entire course of a fight, or better yet, end it in spectacular fashion. Robbie Peden knows this all too well.
It was March of 2004 when Peden, who was behind on the scorecards, landed a crushing left hand on the chin of Nate Campbell. In a moment of utter stupidity, Campbell had stuck his chin out to let Peden tee off and the resulting blow was enough to put Campbell down for a full ten count.
While the peculiar manner in which that match ended remains for many the most memorable moment of Peden’s career, he should be remembered for much more. During his ten years as a pro he displayed what few fighters do these days, a willingness to take on all comers. He fought some of the greats of his time and, when all was said and done, earned the right to be called a champion.
It was a rematch with Campbell just under a year later, in February of 2005, that Peden highlights as the pinnacle of his career. He stopped Campbell again, this time by TKO, in a bout for the IBF super featherweight world title.
“I had a lot of fights you know,” says Peden. “I’d won a few pretty big tournaments in the amateurs, against Olympic gold medalists, but that fight against Campbell would have to be the pinnacle.”
While holding the world title belt aloft was the high point of his career, the big win also came with a cost for Peden, who claims he still hasn’t been paid for the fight. Regardless, the man they call “Bomber” isn’t too concerned.
“I still haven’t been paid for that fight yet,” Peden said. “Caradona put that on and he rorted me. But it wasn’t about the money though; it’s never been about the money. It was always about the final product, having a world title fight in my own country.”
Peden walked a much different path than most Aussie boxers by choosing to start his career in the United States, a place where he could gain much-needed experience and bigger opportunities. A meeting with Pernell Whitaker when he was just an amateur no doubt played a part in the move.
“I was an amateur when I went over to spar with him the first time,” said Peden. “I jumped off the plane and went six rounds with Pernell Whitaker. He’s a champion person; he wouldn’t hurt you but he would teach you. I mean he would let you know he was there. If you were going to drop your hands, you’d know about it. You picked things up quickly when you were sparring with him.”
Opportunities such as these are rare in a country like Australia, where boxing popularity and participation pale in comparison to other sports. The opportunity to spar world-class fighters was something Peden relished in and looks back fondly on.
“I sparred them all: Arturo Gatti, Vernon Forrest, Vivian Harris, Pernell Whitaker, Mark Breland, Junior Jones, Zab Judah,” says Peden. “I’ve worked with them all and once you know you belong, the guys over there look after you.”
Peden’s ambition went beyond just winning one world title. Right after the win against Campbell he took on the great Marco Antonio Barrera in an attempt to unify the belts. Unfortunately for Peden it wasn’t to be and he lost his title just seven months after winning it, but not without giving the Mexican legend a little reminder of their time shared in the ring.
“Barrera told me that I broke his nose with the first punch I hit him with,” recalls Peden.
Barrera wasn’t to be the only hall of fame level fighter Peden faced; he battled with another Mexican legend in Juan Manuel Marquez in March of 2002. Like the first match against Campbell, it ended up being a memorable one but with Peden on the losing end this time.
It was the end of round ten and Marquez had just landed a big body shot on Peden. As soon as Robbie got back to his corner he started vomiting blood. His trainer Roger Bloodworth had no option but to call the bout off.
“Juan Manuel, I fought him in 2002 I think. He was in his prime, 26 years old, not 37, 38 like he is now. He’s not as sharp as he used to be,” says Peden. “I had a viral infection going into that fight, was hit with a nice body shot in the tenth round and started throwing up.”
Having faced two of the greatest Mexican fighters of the time puts Peden in a position to compare the two greats, but when asked who was the better fighter of the two, Barrera or Marquez, Peden understandably has trouble deciding.
“They’re different animals,” he reflects. “I would say Marquez was technically the better fighter, technically, but then Barerra had more monster in him.”
Despite the losses to Barrera and Marquez, the word title victory over Campbell all but assured Peden a spot in the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame and it’s an honour he received with great pride. But his reaction to the honour shows a funnier side to the man, who, despite sharing the ring with legends of the sport, doesn’t take himself too seriously.
“It was great to be elected. The first year I was eligible for induction I was going to have a fight that year and they said, ‘Nah, Bomber, you’re getting inducted this year, mate,’ and I said, ‘Well, I was trying to have a fight every four years, so I couldn’t get inducted,” laughs Peden. “Just being a smart ass, you know, but they said ‘No, you’re inducted; that’s it.’ So I figured it was time to hang the gloves up and start something outside of boxing.”
Robbie Peden had a memorable career in the ring and he definitely wasn’t afraid to take on whoever was put in front of him and for that he earned a great deal of respect. He took the opportunities that were offered and in the process had his share of high times.
“I had a ball over there,” he says with a smile. “Ten years being a professional athlete in America, I had some fun, put it that way!” — Daniel Attias