R: Jackie Robinson
In the early 1970s there was no more competitive weight division than the lightweight class. George Kidd increasingly precariously ruled the roost, followed by the more active Johnny Saint, Jim Breaks, Jon Cortez, Al Miquet, Zoltan Boscik, Bill Ross, Me Riss and Jim McKenzie. Making your mark amongst this formidable group was a challenging proposition. But young Jackie Robinson did it.
Admittedly Jackie had the family heritage, but that alone was not enough to have any impact. It needed skill, and Jackie had bags of it. Not to mention the agility, the strength and a likeable character that made him a favourite with the fans. Skill was developed by a couple of family members who knew their way around the ring. His father was the one time boxer and pro wrestler Alf Robinson, whilst his cousin was British heavyweight champion Billy Robinson. Coming from such a famous wrestling family expectations of the youngster were invariably high, but the new addition to the Robinson clan certainly did not disappoint.
Unlike his famous relatives Jackie was not a heavyweight. He tipped the scales at around 11 stones, right in the middle of that star spangled lightweight pack. What he lacked in the power of his heavyweight predecessors he more than made up for with speed, agility and the wrestling knowledge that had been passed down to him. Trained by Alf and Billy, with more than a few added bits and pieces from Ken Cadman, Martin Conroy and Jack Atherton.
Jackie turned professional in 1969 following amateur training at the Failsworth Amateur Wrestling Club. The first few bouts saw him matched with youngsters like Dave Barrie, Meru Ullah and Paul Mitchell as well as experienced and highly rated Alan Wood, Alan Colbeck and Jon Cortez. So certainly no easy start.
In the 1970s, as the general standard of pro wrestling declined Jack Robinson was one of those who demonstrated that all was not lost, finding fans across the country and maintaining the quality of wrestling appreciated by long standing fans. Promoter Graham Brooks said: “Whilst the Big Daddies did their six minute bill-toppers, it was undercard stalwarts like Robinson that kept the whole thing ticking over and gave it credibility.”
Jackie’s appearances were mostly limited to the midlands and northern England, but he had fans nationwide thanks to frequent television appearances between 1970 and 1987, opponents including Johnny Saint, Jon Cortez, Jon Naylor, Jim Breaks and Bert Royal.
For more than twenty years Jack Robinson was to remain at the top of one of the country's most competitive weight divisions, three times grasping the European lightweight championship.
Jackie Robinson died on 27th June, 2021. Fellow professional Paul Mitchell said: “R I P Jackie. cracking lad fantastic worker, be very much missed,so many good memories.”
A Tribute from his friend Eddie Rose
Jackie Robinson, whose death has been reported, was an outstanding wrestler, a member of a great wrestling family and a friend of mine for more than fifty years.
I first encountered Jackie at a local amateur championship meeting at the Failsworth AWC: Jackie's own club. I was with a team of school boy wrestlers that I had just started to coach and he was helping organise the event.
I knew him by repute having met his cousin Billy, the legendary heavyweight wrestling champion, and his dad, Alf, a former heavyweight boxer of great repute. Jack was different; he was not a heavyweight and in wrestling terms a lightweight. This was often source of fun to Jackie, the fact that he was so much smaller than the rest of the family! I was a member of the neighbouring Manchester YMCA wrestling club.
I never wrestled him as an amateur but did pull round with him on several occasions in the gym and I was always impressed by his strength, his skill and his quick reactions to any wrestling move. We both moved on to the professional branch, Jackie with Joint Promotions and me initially via Panther's gym and the “Opposition” or Independent promoters.
Our paths crossed from time to time and Jackie was always the same amiable, witty and positive person. I had heard that he was not in good health but nothing to suggest the seriousness of his condition and news of his death came as a shock.
He will always be remembered as a very skillful wrestler with a a mastery of many holds and throws but also as a good friend over so many years. RIP Jackie.
Eddie Rose (Manchester)
Page added 01/07/2021
Page reviewed 02/06/2022