Robert Frankel’s Fight For Life
By Hayley Woodward
Robert Frankel has fought for his life through the power of boxing. He struggled through many forms of abuse at a young age and parented his first child at the age of 16. Then, he got involved in drugs and gangs until he made his debut as a boxer in 2002. Someone asked him if he wanted to buy tickets to watch a fight and he told them he wanted to be in it.
Two days later, he stepped in the ring for the first time, and within 30 seconds he was knocked out. He was in the worst shape of his life then, in more ways than one. He didn’t just lose the fight, he defeated himself.
From that day on, he made the decision that would forever change his life for the better. Although being incarcerated was devastating, boxing continued to be his saving grace. At 34, Frankel, who has lived in Denver for 30 years, has fought and won many battles, in and out of the ring.
Represented by Airtight Boxing in Denver, Frankel has earned himself one American title and two World titles for Junior Lightweight boxing. One of them is a World Boxing Council title. He has been featured in local media, and also on ESPN2 and Telemundo. He is considered one of the best conditioned fighters due to his training styles and ability to spar with other professionals. He won his most recent fight against Robert Rodriguez on Sept. 19, 2014.
What was your life like before boxing?
Before boxing…I suffered a lot of abuse, including mental, physical, and sexual. I already had two kids myself. I had my daughter when I was 16, and I was working a lot at my first job at Taco House. Then, I got involved with drugs, and different situations.
My life was like a rollercoaster ride; I threw my hands up in the air, I guess. I didn’t have much to live for. My whole life didn’t mean anything to me, just because it was the way that it was, and that’s how I treated it. My friends and I were running around with different gangs. We pulled a lot of crazy stunts. We pulled guns on people, got guns pulled on us. It was just the life I was living. They were the only group that accepted me at the time.
Have you ever been incarcerated?
Yes, I was incarcerated a few times before I was 18. In 2009, I went to prison for something that was pretty bad, something I should have never been a part of. I was on a ten year sentence in 2009, and I was looking at 2017 for parole. I was in there for 14 months, and I filed a motion to be reconsidered and when the judge brought me back he had like 75 letters in front of him from people in the government, boxing commissioners, fans, friends, and family that talked about my good character, and the judge decided to let me out and reconsidered my case. I am actually still on probation. He gave me ten years of probation rather than ten years of prison.
Have you trained and fought all year, every year since 2002, or have you taken any ‘breaks’ for a particular reason, and why? I mean, obviously you were in prison for some of that time, but when you weren’t in prison, did you continue to fight in between?
I broke my hand pretty bad once in a fight… It happened in the summer, and I was fighting in December…I had a pin sticking out of my hand for two months, but I was running still. I stayed in shape. I had a big fight in December so I had to get back.
What does boxing do for you? What do you get out of it?
Boxing saved my life. I never really had anything in my life worth living for, besides my kids, but even then I didn’t have anything for myself. I didn’t have any worth for myself. I mean, I love my kids, but I needed something for me. It gave me something to do, get out my anger, because if you don’t have self-worth, no one is ever going to see it.
What have been some of the hardest fights you have ever been in and why?
Vermont Peterson, Mookie Ben Jarvis, and life. Those fights were very hard because styles make fights and I can’t really say why, but I have a weakness and those styles are my weakness. Ben Jarvis, I could beat a hundred of him, but that day just wasn’t my day. I have trouble with some styles of fighters.
How many rounds do you have to go for an entire fight? How long does it typically last?
Well, I’ve been in four rounds, six rounds, eight rounds, ten rounds, and 12 round fights. They can be shorter if you can knock them out sooner. I started with four round fights, and then worked my way up to more rounds with more experience. If you go for a 12 round fight, that means you are going for a championship title. They are three minute rounds, with one minute breaks.
What are some of your strengths as a fighter?
I am one of the best conditioned fighters, which is completely different than my first fight when I was in the worst shape and condition in my life. Now, I am one of the most conditioned fighters, one of the most focused fighters here in Colorado. A lot of my fans really like me because I’m a good fighter. Every time I fight, I put on a good fight. I don’t back down even if I get hit hard. I don’t get scared. I am humble. I hate to see fighters that aren’t, the good fighters that walk around and think that they are better than everyone else.
How do you knock someone out and what moves do you use?
There’s no drawing board for that. Most fighters will say the same thing, when you knock someone out, you don’t even realize you have hit them. It’s not like this is the ‘knock-out punch.’ I can say that, that’s what I am going for or that’s what I want, but I never expect it, when it happens.
What do you think about when you are in the ring?
I expect them to bring something to the table. I just think about survival. I think about winning, and I think about losing.
What do you try to do to win a fight?
I have fought in some really big fights. I have fought Olympians, even gold medalists. I have never had an amateur style of fighting. I fight as a pro. I have always had that pro-edge about me. I just bring me. That is all I need.
What do you want your role to be in boxing when you retire?
I want to train kids, and amateurs, so that I can help kids not have to meet some of the struggles that I had to meet at a young age. I want to help give them the self-worth in their lives. I have seen kids going from wanting to do bad things, and then get involved with boxing and they are taught respect. They go on to graduate and do better things in their lives because of it. The inside of boxing, though, not just the fighters, but the trainers, coaches, promoters and fans, is just a great community to be around. I have made some great friends in boxing.