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Determination made Roby a champ

Retired boxer applies lessons from the ring to life

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
John Roby, a Fort Dodge native who was the International Boxing Organization's super featherweight chmapion in 1993-1994, shows a copy of his book. "The Belt of Wisdom" recounts his fighting career and the life lessons he learned from it.

You could call them jittery nerves. You could call them butterflies in the stomach.

No matter what those uncomfortable sensations are called, John Roby felt them every time he stepped into a boxing ring.

But then, early in every fight, his opponent landed a punch.

That blow chased away the butterflies and brought out something else.

“You think – this guy’s going to hurt me,” the Fort Dodge native said. “I got to do something real quick.”

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
John Roby, the International Boxing Organization's super featherweight champion in 1993-1994, demonstrates his fighting stance recently. Roby is a Fort Dodge native.

“The mean streak comes out in you,” he added.

For Roby that mean streak came out many times. It came out so many times that in 1993 he won the super featherweight title belt of the International Boxing Organization.

His pro career would include 48 fights and another championship belt from Capital Promotions. Roby is now retired and living in Des Moines.

But certain lessons from his boxing days carry over into his retired life, He likes to share them with those he meets.

“If you get knocked down, get back up,” he said. “If you get back up – you’ve got a heart.”

“You will overcome and you will do it,” he added.

Roby said when he was growing up in Fort Dodge, he had a cousin who was a good fighter. He followed his cousin into the sport when he was 16.

“I learned I liked it,” Roby said of boxing.

The late Bud Fair, who had legendary status in the amateur boxing scene in Fort Dodge for decades, was one of his earliest trainers.

“I loved Bud,” he said. “Bud was a helluva guy.”

“Bud would be there all the time for his fighters,” he added.

In addition to footwork and jabs, Fair also taught his young charges some lessons about being good men. Roby recalled that they merely had to watch how Fair conducted himself if they wanted to see an example to imitate.

As an amateur boxer, he posted a record of 40 -7.

In 1988, he turned pro and moved to Long Beach, California.

His first pro fight was a lightweight bout against Alonso Hidalgo at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. Roby won by major decision in the fourth round.

His 20th professional fight was on April 3, 1993, in Dayton, Georgia. The International Boxing Organization’s super featherweight title was at stake. Roger Bonine was Roby’s opponent.

Roby won in the fifth round by technical knockout. But seeing Roby win the belt did not sit well with many in the audience. Roby was pelted with beer cans and racial slurs. Eventually, Bonine recovered enough to take the microphone and assure the crowd that Roby had won fair and square.

Roby lost the title on April 21, 1994, when Jeff Mayweather defeated him by unanimous decision at the Silver Nugget Casino in North Las Vegas, Nevada.

But on May 6, 2000, he won the Capital Promotions belt by knocking out Lucky Briggs at the Coliseum in Marshalltown in a super middleweight fight.

He finished his professional career on July 15, 2006, with a win by unanimous decision at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Manchester.

The retired fighter is disappointed by some of the recent changes in his sport. He feels there are too many organizations and sanctioning bodies involved now.

“It’s all about politics,” he said.

He also doesn’t think today’s boxers measure up to those of his generation.

“They’re not as good as the old school fighters,” Roby said. “We paved the way for these young guys to get the money.”

Roby has chronicled his career in an autobiography entitled “The Belt of Wisdom” co-authored with Kathy Bruins. The book is available on amazon.com.

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