Pound-for-Pound Greatest 🥊 - The Sweet Legacy of Sugar Ray Robinson

Pound-for-Pound Greatest 🥊 - The Sweet Legacy of Sugar Ray Robinson

For many boxing historians and experts, Sugar Ray Robinson stands above all others as the single greatest prizefighter who ever lived. The epitome of boxing skill, grace, and versatility, Robinson towered over the sport from the 1940s through the late 1950s. Over that near 20 year span, he compiled a jaw-dropping record of 173-19-6 with 108 knockouts while showcasing defensive wizardry, tactical brilliance, and vicious two-fisted power. 😲 Robinson won world titles at both welterweight and middleweight in dominant fashion, cementing his legacy as perhaps the “pound-for-pound” GOAT of the squared circle. This is the story of his incredibly sweet career.

 

The Early Years

 

Born Walker Smith Jr. in 1921 in Detroit, Michigan, Robinson took the name “Ray Robinson” early in his amateur career possibly to exploit the fame of a popular boxer named Sugar Ray. The nickname “Sugar” also spoke to his smooth, slick, and sweet boxing style even as a young fighter. After winning 89 of 100 amateur bouts with 69 knockouts, Robinson turned professional at just 19 years old in 1940 after moving to Harlem, New York City. 🤩

 

Managed by George Gainford and trained by his gym partner Harry Wiley, Robinson developed swashbuckling, athletic style – a blend of fluid movement, feints, masterful defense, blazing hand speed, and formidable power in both hands. After starting 25-0 in his first two years, Robinson got his first title shot in December 1942 against reigning welterweight champion Tommy Bell. Though losing a disputed 15-round decision, Robinson won the rematch easily by knockout in round 2 just 3 months later to claim his first world title at age 22. The beginning of a long, legendary championship run was born. 🏆

 

 

Welterweight Supremacy

 

As welterweight champion over the next five years, Robinson established himself as an all-time great talent indeed. Making the 147lb welterweight limit with ease thanks to his 5’11” height, Robinson simply had every skill – mobility, combination punching, speed, power, defense. He made world class opponents look helpless, dominating with an array of flashy punches thrown from every angle at blinding speed. During one period from 1943 to 1951, he won over 90 consecutive professional bouts. 😯

 

Robinson made 11 title defenses from 1943-1946, beating top contenders like Marty Servo, Jockey Sammy Angott, and Tommy Bell twice more during his reign. He appeared unbeatable, winning 39 of 40 bouts during that stretch. After temporarily retiring in 1948, he returned and won back his welterweight title with an easy knockout of Cuba’s Kid Gavilan in 1949.

 

Though the return was short lived after losing two close 15-round decisions to the crafty Charley Fusari in 1950, Robinson had run the division for the better part of a decade with only rare hiccups. Even past his athletic peak, as evidenced later in several failed comeback attempts when losing to solid but unremarkable opponents, Robinson proved nearly impossible to defeat during these years. Standing 5’11” with a 72 inch reach and jaw-dropping hand speed and reflexes, Robinson bewildered all comers during his welterweight supremacy as arguably the best fighter at 147lb in boxing history. 😎

 

 

Taking Over the Middleweights

 

In 1951 after struggling to stay at welterweight, Robinson challenged the legendary Jake Lamotta for the middleweight crown at 155lb. He had beaten Lamotta all but once in their storied six fight rivalry from 1942 through 1951. Despite taking punishment in a grueling bout, Robinson stopped Lamotta in round 13 scoring a TKO to lift the middleweight title as well. 🤼

 

Just months later, he assaulted his welterweight title for an unheard of third time, beating Gavilan again via close decision to become the first man history to hold the welter and middleweight titles simultaneously. Though again vacating the 147lb belt after the win, Robinson embarked on a dominant title run at middleweight too over the next six years. Starting in 1952, Robinson made six straight defenses scoring stoppages in all but one against top ranked middleweights including Carl “Bobo” Olson, Randy Turpin, Gene Fullmer, and more.

 

Robinson dazzled with his trademark hands at his waist style, luring opponents in before unleashing lightning combinations. When hurt, he showed tremendous heart battling back to score improbable knockouts as late as round 14. Though briefly losing the title in a massive upset to England’s Turpin in 1951 during his European tour, Robinson won the immediate rematch KO only two months later to reclaim the throne. His combination of speed, skill, power and resiliency had rarely shown so complete in one fighter. Sugar Ray ruled the middleweights just as he had the welters. 👑

 

By 1958 after incredible success spanning three decades, Robinson finally began to permanently decline physically as a fighter. Stripped of his belt on the scales before a title defense vs Carmen Basilio, he then lost the bout too as Basilio rallied to stop the aging legend in round 12. Though again regaining the title months later in a rematch, Robinson lost his final attempt against Fullmer in 1960. Clearly faded as he approached 40 years old, Robinson still showed glimpses of former brilliance but couldn’t sustain it any longer. He finally retired for good in 1965 after failed comeback attempts, closing the book on a 25 year career that stood the test of time as possibly the best ever, pound for pound.👴

 

Sweet Legacy

 

Robinson retired with an astonishing record of 173-19-6 with 109 knockouts, showcasing world class skill that spanned across two full decades. Apart from perhaps the most dominant fighting prime ever at both welter and middleweight, Robinson accomplished feats that write legend. He was the first boxer to ever win a world title five times. He once scored knockdowns 40 seconds apart after getting off the canvas himself earlier in the round. His performances inspired mock eulogies and even a satirical obituary famously published accidentally in a 1951 issue of The Pittsburgh Press after his first loss to Turpin. 😅

 

More importantly, Robinson’s style and charisma outside the ring left a cultural legacy too. Handsome, intelligent, and outspoken with an affinity for fashion and the performing arts, Robinson transcended boxing. He socialized with celebrities like Frank Sinatra and pursued passions as an entertainer and businessman over his long retirement. Known for flashing style and pink Cadillacs, Robinson leveraged his sweet nickname into “Sugar Ray’s Cafe,” a nightclub venue that launched stars like the Temptations and Gladys Knight.

 

Sadly, Robinson fell into financial and drug issues over time like many aging stars. But his impact on boxing and importance as a pioneer black athlete and transcendent cultural icon never faded even up to his death in 1989. 💔 The International Boxing Hall of Fame was created in his adopted hometown of Canastota, New York in honor of the man many still revere as the greatest ever – Sugar Ray Robinson: 1925-1989, RIP to the sweetest champion.😇

 

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