In the first article in a new series named ‘Boxing History’, I take a look back on a fighter who many believe was the best to ever lace up the gloves. Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson, born Walker Smith Jr. on May 3, 1921, in Ailey, Georgia, is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time. His remarkable skill, dazzling speed, and impeccable technique inside the ring earned him the nickname “Sugar Ray” and solidified his place in boxing history.
Robinson’s early life was marked by hardships and challenges. His family relocated to Harlem, New York when he was just a child. At the age of 12, he began frequenting the local boxing gyms, using a fake identification card bearing the name “Ray Robinson” to circumvent the rules and regulations that barred underage boxers. Thus began his journey into the world of pugilism.
Robinson turned professional at the tender age of 19 in 1940. In his early fights, he showcased his exceptional skills and quickly established himself as a rising star in the welterweight division. His graceful footwork, lightning-fast hand speed, and devastating punching power made him a force to be reckoned with.
Throughout his career, Robinson faced and defeated some of the era’s greatest boxers. He won the welterweight championship for the first time in 1946, defeating Tommy Bell. Over the course of his career, he would go on to win the title a total of five times, an unprecedented achievement. Robinson’s fights against legendary fighters such as Jake LaMotta, Carmen Basilio, and Kid Gavilan remain etched in boxing folklore.
One of Robinson’s most famous rivalries was with Jake LaMotta. The two engaged in six brutal battles, with Robinson winning five of the bouts. Their rivalry culminated in the legendary “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” in 1951, where Robinson unleashed a punishing assault on LaMotta, ultimately knocking him out in the thirteenth round.
In 1951, Robinson made the audacious leap from welterweight to middleweight, capturing the vacant middleweight championship by defeating LaMotta. He would go on to win and defend the middleweight title a remarkable five times, solidifying his status as one of boxing’s all-time greats.
Outside the ring, Robinson exuded charisma and style. He had a magnetic personality and was known for his impeccable fashion sense. His charm and good looks made him a celebrity beyond the realm of boxing, earning him fans worldwide.
Robinson retired from professional boxing in 1965, having amassed a record of 173 wins, 19 losses, and 6 draws. After retirement, he briefly returned to the ring in the 1960s and early 1970s before retiring for good in 1972.
Sugar Ray Robinson’s legacy extends far beyond his boxing achievements. He set the standard for future generations of fighters with his graceful technique, exceptional speed, and versatility. His impact on the sport is immeasurable, and his name will forever be synonymous with greatness in the world of boxing.