Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sugar Ray Robinson Remembered

By Peter Silkov

Sugar Ray Robinson was one of the most talented boxers ever seen, who achieved the kind of worldwide fame and recognition that was usually reserved for the Heavyweight champion of the world.  Robinson was the outstanding boxer pound-for-pound of his era and is rated by many as the greatest boxer pound-for-pound of all time.  Born Walker Smith in Detroit, on May 3, 1921, Robinson had an outstanding amateur career, which saw him win all 85 of his bouts, 69 by knockouts and 40 didn’t pass the 1st round.  He won the Featherweight Golden Gloves championship in 1939 and the Lightweight title in 1940. Smith picked up his new name when he made his professional debut in 1940 when substituting for a boxer named Ray Robinson. The ’Sugar’ was soon added after a spectator watching him sparring remarked that he was ’sweet as sugar’.

Robinson quickly became a huge fan favourite with his perfectly balanced, yet, flamboyant boxing style. He was a perfect example of a complete fighter, with superlative boxing skill, lightning speed of hand, the mobility of a dancer, and a knockout punch in either hand. 

In the first eleven years of his career, Robinson was beaten twice in 132 contests.  From 1940 to 1943, Robinson won all 40 of his fights before being out-pointed by Jake Lamotta, in what was his first defeat, as an amateur or professional. This was Robinson’s second of six legendary meeting’s with Lamotta in the ring; he had won their first fight, and would win the remaining four. After losing to Lamotta in 1943, Robinson would win 91 fights in a row before his defeat by Randy Turpin in 1951.

Despite his popularity and success, Robinson had to wait until 1946 until he was finally granted a shot at the World Welterweight championship, and out-pointed Tommy Bell on December 20, 1946, to become world champion.    

In 1951, Robinson moved up to the middleweight division and won the World Middleweight championship when he stopped his arch-rival Lamotta in the 13th round, on February 14, 1951. Robinson’s reign came to an abrupt halt on July 10 that same year, when he was out-pointed by Randolph Turpin, in London England, in what was one of the biggest upsets ever seen, with Robinson having been considered practically unbeatable until then. Sugar Ray regained his middleweight throne just over two months later when he stopped Turpin in the 10th round.

Following successful defences against Carl ’Bobo’ Olsen and Rocky Graziano, Sugar Ray took on World Light-heavyweight champion Joey Maxim, on June 25, 1952, in an attempt to win a third world title, and become one of the select few fighters to win world titles at three different weights. For the first 10 rounds, Robinson seemed well on his way to victory, out-boxing the much slower Maxim with ease, but then the heat of the night (which caused the referee to collapse after the 10th round, leading to him being replaced) began to get to Robinson.  By the 13th round, Robinson was suffering from heatstroke and could hardly stand, and after collapsing in his corner after the end of the round, he was unable to come out for the 14th round. The defeat was a bitter disappointment for Robinson and six months later, he announced his retirement.  Robinson tried to make a career in show business as a dancer, but found that he was not as in demand as a dancer, as he had been as a boxer.

In 1955, after almost three years out of the ring, Robinson started a comeback. His comeback seemed doomed to fail after he was beaten on points by Ralph ’Tiger’ Jones in his second return fight, but after 4 wins in a row, Robinson sensationally regained the World Middleweight title on December 9, 1955, when he knocked out Carl’Bobo’ Olsen in the second round.  In his mid and late 30’s, Robinson was still a great fighter, but he found it harder and harder to sustain the brilliance of his earlier years. He lost the middleweight crown to Gene Fullmer on January 2, 1957, but regained it four months later, after he knocked Fullmer out in the 5th round, with a picture perfect left hook. Four months after his victory over Fullmer, Sugar Ray had his title taken away by Carmen Basilio, losing on a split decision.  Many thought this was the end of the road for Robinson, but on March 25, 1958, at the age of almost 37 years old, Robinson regained the World Middleweight title again, when he out-pointed Basilio and became the only man to win the middleweight championship five times. 

Following his victory over Basilio, Sugar Ray was inactive for most of 1959 (save for a non-title bout) and on his return to the ring on January 22, 1960, lost his World Middleweight title again when Paul Pender out pointed him. This defeat would signal the end of Robinson’s time as a world champion, although he would make several attempts to regain it once again.  
On June 1960, Robinson was again out-pointed by Paul Pender for the World Middleweight title, and then six months later on December 4, 1960, Sugar Ray held Gene Fullmer to a draw, in an effort to win NBA recognition as world champion. Three months later, in what was their fourth fight, Fullmer out-pointed Robinson again for the NBA World Middleweight title.  This was to be Robinson’s final attempt at regaining the World Middleweight title. Now in his 40’s, Robinson fought on for another four years, still hoping to get another shot at the world title, and talking about ending his career in a blaze of glory. Although Robinson’s faded skills were still more than enough to see him through against most run of the mill fighters, he was now losing to men he would previously have beaten with ease in his prime.

Sugar Ray Robinson’s final fight came on November 10, 1965, when he was out-pointed over 10 rounds by Joey Archer. Robinson announced his retirement one month later. When he retired, the greatest fighter of his and perhaps any other generation retired broke, with barely any furniture inside his modest apartment. 

Robinson retired with a final record of 174(109koes)-19-6.  He was never knocked out in his career, and was only stopped in the Maxim fight.

Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail

No comments:

Post a Comment