Exquisite: Ángel Robinson García

By Juan Pérez Ortiz on December 12, 2014
Exquisite: Ángel Robinson García
“He was a unique character, always smiling and joking around. A very likeable man.”

The French actor Jean Paul Belmondo recognized the homeless beggar and contacted the Cuban government…

“This Cuban bastard knows a lot,” said Roberto Durán after his bout against Ángel Robinson García. “I want him to teach me a little.”

García was an exquisite boxer. After winning a Cuban national amateur championship, he turned pro in 1955 at the age of 18 and won 24 of his first 26 fights. Before retiring from the ring on February 25, 1978, García won 135 bouts, lost 83 (only three by knockout!) and drew 20.

Indomitable reveler, drinker and smoker, Robinson García was born to fight. Those who saw him in action say that he was a true talent, the ultimate uncrowned champion.

Born in Havana, Cuba on May 9, 1937, his life was a great adventure. He fought against the best, won some and lost others, and often fought while under the influence. But Robinson García never turned down or cancelled a fight. In addition to Durán, he fought Esteban de Jesús, Ken Buchanan, Wilfredo Benítez, Eddie Perkins, Ismael Laguna, Pedro Carrasco, and Miguel Velázquez. He fought against world and European champions. He fought all over the world (21 countries). He also loved life and lived it to the fullest. 

Fernando Riera, a Spanish boxer who fought from 1961 to 1967 and trained and traveled with him, said of Robinson García: “He was a magnificent spectacle. Solemn when he wanted. He smoked too much. Excesses have to be paid, and García was an extreme man.” According to legend, Italian police arrested him two days before fights to keep him sober. After the bouts, they contracted the service of several prostitutes for him. (“In Genoa. In jail. I beat up my whore and they gave me six months.”) Sometimes reality tops fiction, but in the case of Robinson García, reality trumped fantasy.

A member of the same generation (and as brilliant and unique) as Luis Manuel Rodríguez, Florentino Fernández, Benny Paret, Sugar Ramos, José Mantequilla Nápoles and José Legrá, Ángel Robinson García escaped Castro`s communist dictatorship to the delight American and European boxing fans. Everyone had their own character inside the ring. “Fernández can knock out a horse,” said Gil Clancy, who then coached Emile Griffith. “But Rodríguez was the best one.”

This is how American boxing historian Hank Kaplan described Robinson García when he first entered Dundee’s Fifth Street Gym in Miami: “The first time I saw Angel Robinson he came into the gym dressed in an expensive suit and puffing on a cigar. He was a unique character, always smiling and joking around. A very likable man. Always smiling. A friendly man.”

After fighting main events in the U.S., Panama, Mexico, and Venezuela, Robinson García traveled to Paris in November 1961, where he succumbed to the charms of the local nightlife. It was then he gave free rein to his wild side.

Robinson García left a permanent scar among those who saw him fight. He fought against Wilfredo Benítez in Puerto Rico; against Eddie Perkins in Arizona; against Saoul Mamby in Florida; against De Jesús in Puerto Rico; against Durán in Panamá; against the best Spanish and Italian boxers in Spain and Italy. Before the bout against world and champion Miguel Velázquez, on 21 May 1975, the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia wrote, “Robinson García is very dangerous, unless he decides otherwise.”

After barnstorming through Europe, he returned to the United States but was refused a license. He returned to France where his application for a license was rejected as well. After years of abuse and countless tough fights, Robinson García was almost blind and reduced to panhandling in the Paris subways. 

Reportedly the great French actor Jean Paul Belmondo recognized the homeless beggar and contacted the Cuban government. Fidel Castro repatriated him to Cuba, where Robinson García, in failing health, could visit Havana’s Malecon a final time.

After years of economic hardship, he died in his native Cuba in 2000 at the age of 63.

His Cuban contemporaries were world champions. Robinson García had been a ranked lightweight and junior welter, but he never wore the crown. Maybe he did not care. After all, after each fight, someone was waiting him in the hotel.

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ANGEL Robinson Garcia [François Thévenon-Philippe Luttun]

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  1. Kevin 07:19pm, 12/12/2014

    Wonderful piece about a fantastic fighter.

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