Former JBC champ mulling comeback
TOKYO — Rick Roberts is back at Yokota Air Base, his home for nine years when he made his name as a boxing champion in Japan in the 1990s.
Whether the aging veteran returns to the ring is uncertain.
The longtime Japan Boxing Commission lightweight champion, who fought for the WBA title in February 2001, transferred back to Yokota last month after being assigned to Hurlburt Field, Fla., since June 2000.
Roberts says that since his return Dec. 30, he has been in contact with JBC officials and his trainer, Seiichi Ishikawa, about a comeback. But he hasn’t made up his mind.
“It’s in my blood. It’s something I’ve been in love with since I was 5 and something I’ve been doing since I was 12,” said Roberts, 37, a New York native and tech sergeant assigned to Yokota’s 730th Air Mobility Squadron as a career-development course trainer.
Roberts has visited Ishikawa’s gym in Akishima, near Yokota Air Base, and even attended a boxing card. He spoke with JBC officials on Saturday at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall, the springboard for his career, which began in 1987 while he was assigned to Misawa Air Base.
“We’re still talking about what I’m going to do,” Roberts said.
Attempts to reach Ishikawa Gym by telephone Wednesday were unsuccessful.
The biggest obstacle Roberts could face in returning to the ring is a JBC rule that says boxers 37 or older can’t fight in Japan. According to JBC vice president Akio Yasuhara, the only exception is for champions who retain their titles at age 36.
In conversations with JBC officials, Roberts said they hinted that an exception might be feasible because of his ring record, 38-4-2 with 20 knockouts and a JBC-record 22 title defenses.