Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jimmy Robertson, Duran and "Gordon Shaw's Gym"

By Rick Farris

In the 1960's-70's, there was a well known boat dealership in Hawthorne, California.
"Shaw's Boat & Marine" was located on Rosecrans Ave. just east of the (405) Fwy.

Shaw was one of the South Bay's most successful businessmen. He was also a boxing manager.
One of Shaw's boat mechanics had been his best fighter, lightweight Jimmy Robertson.
Robertson was one of those tough, raw boned warriors who had an unorthodox style, a big punch and strong chin.
He would be the first lightweight contender to challenge the great Roberto Duran for the World title.

I didn't meet Jimmy Robertson until after he and I had both quit boxing, although he fought my stablemate, Ruben Navarro, twice.
In 1976, I was living in Manahatten Beach and a friend of mine wanted to try boxing as an amateur.
Manhatten Beach was right next to Hawthorne, and I remembered that Shaw had a boxing gym behind his boat store.
I located the gym for my friend and we drove down to check it out.

Shaw's Marine was easy to find and after parking we went around back and found the entrance to the gym.
When I stepped thru the door of the small gym, I see a good sized ring, a couple of heavy bags hanging, two speed bags, a double-end bag, room to jump rope or shadow box in front of mirrors on the walls.

The gym had a good feel to it. It was the real deal. Posters on the walls, many featuring the bouts of Shaw's greatest boxer, Robertson.
It was swept clean and maintained, but still had that "sweat on the walls" atmosphere.
I liked it, and I liked Shaw's chief amateur trainer, a guy named Jim Walsh.
This would be a good place for my friend to learn, and if he wanted to have a couple amateur bouts, he could do so thru this club.

I knew that his career would be a short one, so no use taking him to the Main Street Gym. No use breaking his heart on day one.
After setting my friend up with Jim Walsh, I looked around the gym and saw a sign painted on the wall in big letters:

"MR. SHAW WILL PROVIDE EVERYTHING BUT THE GUTS & THE GAS"
Yeah, this was a boxing gym.

I see a guy step in thru the back door wearing a mechanics uniform, I recognized him immediatly.
It was "Irish" Jimmy Robertson.

i walk over to the former lightweight contender and introduce myself. "I remember you", he tells me.
We fought on a couple Olympic cards together a few years back.
Jimmy and I talk awhile, and I introduce him to my friend, who was working as a bouncer in a Manhatten Beach Bar.

A couple weeks later, my friend and Jimmy have struck up a friendship.
My friend gets Robertson a job working as a bouncer at "Brennan's Pub", which happened to be my watering hole of the day.
This gives me a chance to visit with Jimmy Robertson, who shares a great story about his title fight with the great Duran in Panama.

Robertson said he felt anything but welcome when he was in Panama.
His memores of the title fight are simple . . .
"In the second round, Duran and I exchange rights. His lands, mine doesn't."
"The last thing I remember is laying in a hospital bed with my front teeth knocked out."

Jimmy then said, "look at this . . ."
He pulled his two flase front teeth out of his mouth and suddenly looked like a vampire with fangs.
"That's what Duran did. 'Hands of Stone' is no joke. Nobody hits like Roberto Duran."

I shared my experience with Duran at the Main Street Gym.
After all that, it was time for a drink. We toasted Roberto Duran.


-Rick Farris

16 comments:

ashley6 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
allenryle said...

3/6/11
My mother in law Sondra Lynn Roberson was the second wife of jimmy. She has passed away 6 days ago. They lived together in phoenix AZ for the last 10 years. I have known JR for about the same amount of time. He has had dementia the whole time I've known him. Other than that he is alive and well, but deeply misses his lovely wife. I have grown quite found of him the last few days that we have been out here making arrangements for the loss of our beloved Sondra. But he is sure a handful, especially in this trying time. God Bless

allenryle said...

3/10/11
R.I.P Sondra Lynn Robertson, and keep rolling with the punches life throws at you J.R

Anonymous said...

I have the color film of Duran-Robertson. After the fight there is a closeup of Robertson pointing to his mouth as he is giving an interview. One of his front teeth is knocked out leaving a pretty massive hole.

allenryle said...

Can you share your film of the interview and fight on YouTube? I just put part of one of his fights on there that I just watched with him that he has, plus a short clip of him now talking about the fight, called Irish jimmy robertson- then and now.

Anonymous said...

I used to talk to J.R. on a regular basis at The Anza Inn in Torrance, CA 2 or 3 years back. I asked him about the Duran fight and what punch Duran hit him with to knock him out. Jimmy looked at me and said " If I'd of saw it comming he wouldn't have knocked me out. (He said that he never saw the punch at all. Or didn't remember it.)
J.R was one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet.
Off the topic, but Joey Orbillo is another one.

Ashley6 said...

Does any one remember a man named Craig Cass and Rory Cass?

DanaS said...

I fought and trained at Shaw's in the late 60's early 70's and sparred many rounds with Jimmy in his heyday. Jimmy had a wicked left jab and hook and an iron jaw, eyes cut to easy though which really prevented him from ascending anything further than a top 5 contender. I never met Sondra, but was friends with his first wife, Emma and his daughter Leslie. I gave up boxing and lost contact with the Robertson's after their divorce. Jimmy, Jim Walsh, Tivo Tomelle, and Mr. Shaw were a group to draw too at the gym - and a hell of lot of fun to be around. I don't know what became of Tivo and Jim but, it sure saddened me when Mr.Shaw died of brain cancer and it's equally sad to hear of Jimmy's dementia. Good folks!

Anonymous said...

I was also an alumni of Mr. Shaw's gym in the 60's and 70's. My trainer was Jim Walsh. I started with Tivo then was taken over by Jim. Many rounds of sparring with Jimmy Robertson, Rudy Robles, Gene Meara, Davey Portino, a couple of Samoan heavies, and a slew of fighters that came and went. Tivo passed in the mid-90's and Jim in 2007. And then there was "Pepperoni" that lived in the front of the gym. What a great time! I can still remember Mr. Shaw sitting on a chair with his leg draped on the lower ring rope watching us spar. I tell friends it's where i grew up. If not for that gym and Jim I'd hate to think how I would have ended up. They taught me discipline and self control - something I needed. If anyone has pictures of the gym and the people, please share.

Shy, but tough skinny kid. said...

I was 12 in 1969 when my dad decided to take me to Mr shaw's boxing gym after withstanding and never quitting the flurry of punches from any other kids on my block, in neighboring lawndale, around my size could delivery. Trained by Tivo and at times, Jim walsh got to know jimmy and was constantly reminded of his greatness from my dad. I remember Dana, the other post above mine and also a young guy who was nick named "Sioux city" by someoone in the gym. I'm now 58 and saddened to have read of Mr shaw's, tivo and jim's passing. I occasionally drive past the corner where the boat store and gym once sat and think of my dad, who has since deceased since 1979 when I arrived home on leave from marine Corp
bootcamp. What could have been...

Shy, but tough skinny kid. said...

I was 12 in 1969 when my dad decided to take me to Mr shaw's boxing gym after withstanding and never quitting the flurry of punches from any other kids on my block, in neighboring lawndale, around my size could delivery. Trained by Tivo and at times, Jim walsh got to know jimmy and was constantly reminded of his greatness from my dad. I remember Dana, the other post above mine and also a young guy who was nick named "Sioux city" by someoone in the gym. I'm now 58 and saddened to have read of Mr shaw's, tivo and jim's passing. I occasionally drive past the corner where the boat store and gym once sat and think of my dad, who has since deceased since 1979 when I arrived home on leave from marine Corp
bootcamp. What could have been...

Shy, but tough skinny kid. said...

I was 12 in 1969 when my dad decided to take me to Mr shaw's boxing gym after withstanding and never quitting the flurry of punches from any other kids on my block, in neighboring lawndale, around my size could delivery. Trained by Tivo and at times, Jim walsh got to know jimmy and was constantly reminded of his greatness from my dad. I remember Dana, the other post above mine and also a young guy who was nick named "Sioux city" by someoone in the gym. I'm now 58 and saddened to have read of Mr shaw's, tivo and jim's passing. I occasionally drive past the corner where the boat store and gym once sat and think of my dad, who has since deceased since 1979 when I arrived home on leave from marine Corp
bootcamp. What could have been...

fc51 said...

My trainer, Jim Walsh told me that Duran had Jimmy on the ropes, Jimmy threw a right and Duran's right got there first. Jimmy was a converted southpaw, thus the slower reaction time. He said that Jimmy was on all fours crawling around looking for his mouth piece...why, because his front teeth were in the mouth piece. As I remember, he had a bridge that he removed before sparring revealing about 4 missing teeth. Either Jimmy, Tivo, or Mr. Shaw told me that Duran stated later in his career that the hardest hitter he ever fought was Jimmy Robertson. Quite the compliment from one of the greatest. A toast to Jimmy Robertson, a true warrior.

Jon Newsom said...

My father, Johnny Gordon, wrote that sign on the wall in Mr. Shaw’s gym in 1960. I have a picture of him next to it years later.

culture said...

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culture said...

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