The good fight
CORBIN Robertson presents an incongruous image as he climbs through the ropes.
Screaming skull tattoos, piercings, and a battle hardened look in his eyes are enough to set his opponents on the back foot before he has thrown his first left hook.
And his combos back up that image. He beat the Queensland state champion Simon Cooper on his way to finishing second in the Golden Gloves event at Brisbane last weekend.
It is not until you talk to Robertson about life outside the ring that his image is anything other than hard hitting.
According to long-time Grafton Amateur Boxing Club trainer Mick Brilley, Robertson is the hardest worker in the gym.
He trains relentlessly and has travelled the country in search of fights.
But sometimes Robertson has to miss training because of shift work.
Years ago shift work meant he would be on nights at the abattoir, or a prison guard at the local jail.
But this is where the other side of Robertson's life contrasts so drastically with his image on the canvas.
The 20-year-old is a support worker at Caringa Enterprises and spends his working week assisting disabled kids.
"I've got the New South Wales state titles coming up in four weeks at Wollongong and I reckon I'll go pretty good," Robertson said.
"I beat the Queensland state champion (Cooper) last Friday night, beat another Queenslander, Sam Benny, on Saturday night and only got beaten on points by Roger Grant from Sydney on Sunday in the final.
Despite leading the fight in the eyes of three of the five judges, the countback to the computer score saw him narrowly outdone by the Surrey Hills fighter, Grant.
Judged in the same way as the Olympic boxing, the judges have linked computer terminals, at which a hit must be registered by judges within two seconds of each other.
"It was better when we used sheep counters to track the hits," trainer Brilley said.
"I didn't travel up to Brisbane at the weekend, but the bloke who did said he couldn't understand why Corbin didn't win the final.
"He was in front and slackened off on him a bit, thinking he'd done enough to win the fight. There was only a couple of points in it."
Proudly wearing his miniature silver gloves medal, there is no hint Robertson would have succumbed to Olympic-style dissatisfaction with second place.
Should Robertson perform well at Wollongong next month, he will qualify for the Australian titles as a New South Wales representative.
Beating state champions in the ring, and fighting life's battles with disabled kids outside it, gives Robertson a mental edge going into the championships.
His opponents won't know that of course.
They will just sneak a glance at his tattoos as he climbs between the ropes, and pray they can keep out of the way of the powerful blows sure to follow.