August 5, 2001 – By Paul Upham: Australia’s best amateur boxer of recent times is finally on the verge of fighting for a world title after living in the USA for the last five years. IBF No.4 Robbie Peden will face IBF No. 3 and former world title challenger Augie Sanchez on August 18 in Las Vegas in the main support to David Tua vs. Chris Byrd on American cable channel Showtime.
“Kid Vegas” Sanchez is best known for his thrilling up-and-down war with Prince Naseem Hamed, which took place a year ago.
“I’ve seen him fight and Augie is a very nice guy. He has been in some high profile fights. He has got some questions about his chin and his boxing ability but he is a strong kid and he can punch,” said Peden, 19-1 (10).
“He has fought at that level so you can’t take anything for granted. I think it is going to be a terrific fight. I really do, I think that it will be better than the main fight.”
Unable to secure bouts with any of the featherweight champions, Peden has had to commit himself against Sanchez, 28-2 (25), to work his way to the IBF mandatory defence position.
“I’m very confident. I have been preparing for this fight for nine weeks. We didn’t have Augie Sanchez as the agenda, we were trying for Frankie Toledo but he didn’t want to fight me. Derrick Gainer didn’t want to fight me, the WBO champion didn’t want to fight me. Victor Polo didn’t want to fight me,” said Peden.
“Finally, I commend Augie for stepping up and taking me on. Not a lot of these big name fighters want to take me on. They might get a shot with the Prince, Barrera or Morales so I can’t be too mad at them, but I just want my opportunity.”
Growing up in the city of Brisbane in Australia, Peden was introduced to the sport by his father Brian at an early age.
“I started boxing watching my dad train my uncles on my mother’s side. I was four or five when I went to the gym for the first time. My dad was a fighter and I just picked it up. It was progression. I just had to do it. It was in my blood,” said Peden.
Representing Australia at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, Peden was looking for Olympic gold. He made it to the third round in Barcelona as a flyweight and to the second round in Atlanta as a featherweight and finished his amateur career with a 130-15 record.
“I thought I’d be an amateur my whole career. I was after that elusive Olympic gold medal. It didn’t seem to work out for me. I was a good amateur with the computer scoring, but I was more suited to the pros,” said Peden.
“I had won a couple of tournaments overseas and Main Events had heard about me and brought me over to the US to trial with them in 1995. I boxed with Pernell Whitaker, Zab Judah, Jake Rodriguez, Vernon Forest and Arturo Gatti. Lou Duva, Shelley Finkel and Kevin Barry sat down with me and signed me up after the Olympics in 1996.”
After being promoted by Main Events in his first eight fights, Peden has not had a promotional contract for over two and a half years and has been working on a fight by fight basis with America Presents. Now managed by Kevin Barry, Peden is hopeful of securing a contract with America Presents.
Making his base at Big Bear in California, Peden lives in Fernando Vargas’ training camp where he can concentrate only on becoming a world champion.
“It is a really nice place and Fernando is a very good friend and he looks after me. Without him I wouldn’t be here,” said Peden of the former IBF junior middleweight champion. “He is a really good guy. People get mixed up what he is all about. In the ring he is an animal and does what he has to do. Outside of the ring he is a terrific person. He looks after his family and friends. He is a very loyal person.”
Peden has appeared in five televised fights in the USA, including his only loss to John Brown in June 2000 which was seen on Fox Sports Net Sunday Night Fights. “I thought I won the fight. In the fourth or fifth round I tore my rotator cuff in my right shoulder and I basically fought the rest of the fight with one hand,” said Peden, who lost a close point’s decision.
“I only spared for two weeks and I dislocated my left wrist before the fight. A lot of things went bad before that fight but there is no excuse. He got the win. I lived and learned from that fight and hopefully we can get it on one more time.”
After campaigning at junior lightweight, Peden decided to move down to featherweight in an attempt to secure a fight with the many big names there.
“I thought with Tapia coming up, the Prince was already there, Gainer went back down, Morales was there, and Barrera was lurking around there, it would be the most exciting and evenly matched division in boxing,” said Peden.
“I thought I could make the weight if I make some sacrifices, so why not throw my hat in there and try and get a fight with the guys. I work very hard and I know what I have got and what I can do and what I’m capable of doing.”
Peden’s decision paid dividends when he won the NABF featherweight title when he defeated Edgar Barcenas who was ranked No.4 by the WBC at the time in October 2000.
“It has been worth it. I feel strong and I feel really good. It wasn’t an easy fight. He was very rough. He is a very tough kid from Mexico City training at 10,000 feet. He was in shape and it was a terrific fight,” said Peden, who is trained by Roger Bloodworth.
“Roger will be my trainer until the end of my career. He is a terrific trainer. My dad coached me for my first 13 years, so it was very hard for me to leave him. My dad told me that there were people out there with more resources and they know more about the boxing business. He took me as far as he could,” said Peden.
The only fight important right now for Peden is his bout with Augie Sanchez. A win will see him secure a mandatory fight with the IBF champion. Title holder Frankie Toledo has a mandatory defence coming up against Manuel Medina and then nine months after that, the winner will have to face the winner of Peden and Sanchez.
“This is my career right now. This fight is my career. Lose this fight and I may as well pack my bags and go home. It would take me two or three years to build back up. Win this fight and I am right at the doorstep of a world title,” said Peden.
“Hopefully with this Showtime card we can get out there and people can see that there is a guy from Australia that really can fight. It is my goal to become world champion and hopefully unify it.”
IBF champion Frankie Toledo’s upset win over South African Mbuelo Botile in April to win the title was very impressive says Peden.
“Medina beat Toledo pretty easily last year in a decision. I have to give it to Frank, I didn’t give him much chance against Botile, but he fought the fight of his life and he beat him. Sometimes when you become a champion you become a better fighter. You get a little bit more confidence. You take a little bit more risk,” said Peden.
“That fight leads to Medina winning, but you never know. You are one punch away from stardom and one punch away from working at Burger King.”
At this time Robbie Peden is unsure as to when he will return home to Australia to live. He hasn’t been home since January, but he is planning a visit in August to celebrate his win over Sanchez.
“I don’t think I’ll be living in the US for the rest of my life, but I think I will be training and managing fighters over here. I know a fair bit about boxing now and have been in the sport for twenty years,” said Peden, who at 27 years of age knows that now is the time for him to make his mark.
“I have to get a move on. I feel good as I have only had twenty fights. I have fought six top ten fighters in twenty fights but I haven’t been beaten around. I should be able to keep going for a few more years.”
Peden has been living a dream for the last few years and is happy every day in what he is doing. He would like to win his first world title and then take steps to unify and can see himself moving up the divisions to fight at 130, 135 and 140 lbs.
“I just need my first title shot. I have to get past this fight and get to terms with America Presents for a promotional agreement,” said Peden.
“I am in terrific shape and I’m ready.”