Blythewood boxer to fight on CBS Sports Live

Update: Deandre The Matrix’s match has been postponed until October – date and time TBA.

BLYTHEWOOD – The boxing life that Deandre “The Matrix” Robinson-Neal has been living since he was eight years old pretty much comes down to fight night on Aug. 29.

The outcome of that night in Davenport, Iowa, will likely determine the arc of the Blythewood resident’s life as a professional boxer. Robinson-Neal, 26, will take on an undetermined opponent in a Super Middleweight bout for a chance to stay unbeaten in the ring and notch his 21st victory.

Deandre Robinson-Neal, right, bests opponent Rashad Jones on his way to 20 undefeated fights.

“We’ve been in talks with a good bit of different promoters,” Robinson-Neal said, noting the ever-presence of his father, Dominic Robinson-Neal, a former fighter who serves as his coach and manager. “The initiative was to get to this fight right here. It’s a big stepping stone. It’s everything that I’ve been waiting for.”

The upcoming fight, which will be televised live on CBS Sports Live, will go down as more than just a reentry into the ring for the first time in a year and nine months, or even a chance to get signed by a promoter—a mark of success in a boxer’s professional life. For Robinson-Neal, Aug. 29 represents his recommitment to the sport on his own terms, with the steady hand of his father as a guide.

“A lot of people don’t get to have their fathers around like I was blessed with for most of my life,” Robinson-Neal said. “With me boxing and he being my boxing coach, we progressed together every day from age 8 to 26. To get there we had fusses and fights, but we worked together because we’re exactly the same. Nobody’s gonna look out after me like my father will.”

Robinson-Neal, in an interview with his father outside Dominic Robinson-Neal’s boxing academy that was uploaded to Deandre’s Facebook page “Deandre TheMatrix,” Aug. 12, talked about the business of boxing that both know so well.

“Business is probably 85 percent of the whole game,” Deandre said. “It took us forever to learn it. Everything is business.”

“A lot of guys know boxing, but a lot of guys don’t know business,” said Dominic, himself a retired undefeated professional boxer. “Boxing is political. Boxing is being with the right people. You can’t just get in the door and say ‘This is Deandre, I’m calling to get a fight.’ That’s not how it works. You’ve gotta be connected. You can be the best fighter in the world but if you ain’t connected, it don’t matter if you can fight or not.”

Deandre followed up with his father’s explanation to hit on the finer points of scheduling fights strategically, on top of cutting through the business and politics of the sport.

“Every fight isn’t a good fight. It’s not that it has to do with ‘I can’t beat this person,’ it has to make sense financially and promotion wise,” he said. “All these different things have to fall into place. Boxing is a lot of politics. With the layoff, this fight didn’t make sense, that fight didn’t make sense.”

Robinson-Neal actually had an IBO fight for the super middleweight championship in Charlotte scheduled March 16, 2019, just about four months after his last fight in November 2018. That fight fell through, and probably triggered a down time for him.

By that time he had boxed for 16 years, fought in 100 amateur fights and had constructed a promising professional career for the last eight years. When he turned pro at 17, he fought at 154 pounds—super welterweight. As he got older and grew into a 160-pound frame, he felt the middleweight class best fit who he was as a fighter.

Early on in his professional career, the bouts were frequent and he could keep a good rhythm of fighting and training. But in the past few years, fights didn’t materialize for whatever reason.

“I’ve been boxing my whole life,” he said. “I turned pro at 17 and I thought I was about to do this, about to be on TV, but boxing is not like that.”

In his own words, he got down. He got stagnant. He gained weight and was training at 175 pounds, a light heavyweight.

“I was down on myself for a while,” he said. “I gained extra weight. I weighed 175, 180. I was never supposed to be that heavy.”

By March of this year, Robinson-Neal may well have been on the verge of a decision point about whether to continue with boxing or stop.

Enter the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mass cancellation of billion-dollar basketball tournaments, the suspension of NBA play, Major League Baseball, minor league baseball, all spring sports in high schools, colleges, and professional arenas. As well as fight cards.

Robinson-Neal took the suspension of public activities as more of an incentive. While the threat of the coronavirus was cause for concern, he used the precautions, the closing down of daily life as a means to refocus on things that mattered to him.

“During the pandemic I was able to focus on being the best Deandre that I can be,” he said. “As things started progressing, the time away helped me mentally and I was able to clear my head. I’m at a great space in my life now. The pandemic helped me, I was able to shake my weight off and focus on what I do best.”

What he does best is work to outthink his opponents.

“My biggest asset is my brain,” he said. “Most fighters go into the ring and react. I go into a ring with a game plan. No matter who I fight, I think I can adjust to being able to outthink and outclass my opponent.”

He gets his chance to do so in a little over a week—no matter who that opponent is, and no matter where it is.

Robinson-Neal was set to fight left-hander Michael Moore (18-3), but Moore had a torn bicep and will not fight. Even more, the fight was set for the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center, but because of COVID restrictions there, the venue has moved to the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa.

“I do not know,” he said about how to ready for a fight without knowing who the opponent is. “I know it’s weird to say. I just don’t know. With my father being my coach and my manager, I’ll leave that to him a lot of times. We had that opponent, but he fell out and so we had to try to get a new one. We thought we had one right now, but he fell out. How do you prepare? I just get over it (the change) and I let my father coach.”

Yet, no matter where it is and who his opponent is, Robinson-Neal has regained his confidence that his ring savvy will earn him a 21st victory.

He also knows that no matter where he goes, Dominic Robinson-Neal is in his corner, and his family is residing in a quiet corner of a busy area, where the Robinson-Neal Boxing Academy is open for business and training fighters.

“I grew up around Eau Claire, and once I graduated we ended up moving to Blythewood,” Robinson-Neal said. “Blythewood is a quiet, peaceful side of town. Where we were from, it wasn’t as calm and peaceful. So us moving to Blythewood was a big step up to calm. I love Blythewood.”

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