Who Was Sweeter than “Sugar” Ray Robinson?
Who was Sweeter than “Sugar” Ray Robinson?
By: Ken Hissner
“Sugar” Ray Robinson to this writer was the greatest P4P boxer that ever lived. When I hear names like Whitaker, Mayweather and Leonard I have to wonder what people are thinking. Henry Armstrong would have cleaned house with these three within a month. I take nothing away from Leonard who was the best P4P in his days.
If only Robinson like too many boxers didn’t stay around too long. His amateur record was 85-2 with 69 knockouts. The two losses were under his real name Walker Smith. He defeated 16 former, reigning or future champions. He won his first 40 professional fights before losing to Jake LaMotta, 30-5-2, in 1950. Robinson had defeated LaMotta in a previous bout and won their next three bouts.
Robinson would go onto win his next 88 fights plus a pair of draws before losing to Randy Turpin, 40-2-1, in the UK. Just two months later he defeats Turpin at the Polo Grounds in NY. He didn’t win his first title until his seventy-sixth fight for the vacant NBA and NYSAC welterweight titles beating Tommy Bell 39-10-2, in December of 1946. In his previous fight the month before he came off the canvas against Artie Levine, 45-9-5, but finished Levin off in the tenth and final round with a right to the solar plexus. Robinson said it was the hardest that he was ever hit with getting knocked down.
Robinson made two title defenses in 1947 including a non-title bout with Georgie Abrams, 48-6-3. A month later he defended his titles stopping Jimmy Doyle, 42-6-3, in 8 rounds. He was in the first of two wars with the Cuban “Hawk” Kid Gavilan, 46-5-2. It would be 18 months before they would meet for the world title. He had a non-title bout winning over Harry Brimm, 23-9-2, on a split decision.
Prior to the Brimm fight Robinson knocked out Young Gene Buffalo, 112-32-10, in the first round. At 147 he had his rematch with Gavilan, 53-6-2, in Philadelphia. It would be his last fight as a welterweight. He would state they were two of his toughest fights in his career with Gavilan. The following month he stopped Steve Belloise, 90-10-3 and five years after drawing with Jose Basora, 77-14-7, Robinson knocked him out in the first round.
At Convention Hall in Philadelphia Robinson knocks out Carl “Bobo” Olson, 41-3, for the Pennsylvania middleweight title, before some 28,000. Robinson defended the world middleweight title in the third meeting with Jake LaMotta, 78-14-3, stopping him in the thirteenth round.
Then Robinson was off to the UK losing for the second time. This time to Randy Turpin, 40-2-1, in a title defense, dropping his record to 128-2-2. The rematch took place two months later in the Polo Grounds with Robinson stopping Turpin to regain the title in September of 1951. Six months later he defeated Bobo Olson, 48-5, in a title defense. A month later he knocked out Rocky Graziano, 67-8-6, in the third round after he was floored in that round. Robinson gave up his title to fight for the light heavyweight title that Joey Maxim, 78-18-4, held.
Robinson was well ahead after thirteen rounds by 10-3, 9-3-1 and 7-3-3. It was held in Yankee Stadium and the temperature was 104 degrees. It was so hot that referee Ruby Goldstein had to be replaced after the tenth round by Ray Miller. Robinson couldn’t come out for the fourteenth round due to heat prostration. Six months later without any bouts Robinson retired in December of 1952 with a 131-3-2 record and age 31.
After being in retirement for two and a half years Robinson would make a comeback after a win in his next fight the gate keeper Ralph “Tiger” Jones, 32-12-3, defeated him. He would go onto win four fights including a split decision over Rocky Castellani, 62-8-6, earning a middleweight title fight with his old foe Carl “Bobo” Olson, 71-7, who was then champion. He would regain the title stopping Olson in December of 1955 and in a re-match.
Robinson would lose his title to Gene Fullmer, 37-3, and knock out Fullmer in a re-match. Fullmer was standing in his corner watching Robinson jumping up and down and said “why is Robinson jumping up and down since the fight hasn’t started yet” not realizing he was knocked out earlier. In back to back fights with Carmen Basilio, 51-12-7, he would lose and then with the title back in the re-match with both fights gaining Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year” in 1957 and 1958. This is when Robinson should have hung up the gloves with a 141-6-2 record.
It would be 22 months with one non-title fight before Robinson would fight again after the two wars with Basilio. He loses to light punching Paul Pender, 35-5-2, and five months later to Pender with both fights split decisions in Pender’s hometown of Boston. At the end of 1960 Robinson fight to a draw with NBA champion Fullmer and lose three months later. In 1961 and 1962 Robinson would defeat Denny Moyer, 30-5, and lose to him in a rematch. In January of 1963 he would return to the US from another European tour and posted a split decision win over Ralph Dupas, 98-17-6. After winning six in a row he went to Philadelphia and lost to future champion Joey Giardello, 90-23-8.
In 1965 Robinson would go to Jamaica and back to the US for three wins. He then lost in Mexico to Memo Ayon, 15-4-1, and in Hawaii, to Stan Harrington, 57-16-1, for the second time in two months. He would win three straight before ending his career losing to Joey Archer, 44-1, being dropped and losing a decision in Pittsburgh.
Muhammad Ali fold Robinson “if you change to become a Muslim I will have one million Muslims put up a $1.00 each to give you a million dollars”. Robinson declined. Robinson was well known to be the best rope skipper and was a good tap dancer.
For those who never saw “Sugar” Ray Robinson box please go to www.youtube.com
More Boxing History
Floyd Mayweather: The Greatest Of Them All?
By Hans Olson
When all is said and done, how will Floyd Mayweather be remembered?
Where will he rank next to history’s all-time greats like Sugar Ray Robinson, Willie Pep, Henry Armstrong, Wilfred Benitez, and Sugar Ray Leonard?
More favorably than you might think.
In ESPN The Magazine’s upcoming “Analytics Issue” which hits shelves on March 5, writer Igor Guryashkin breaks down Floyd’s numbers, and what he finds is staggering.
Using CompuBox punch statistics, Guryashkin found that Floyd bests all current fighters with a connect percentage of 46%. In fact, only boxing greats Joe Louis and Lennox Lewis hold an advantage over him with a small 2% edge. Regarding his opposition’s connect percentages, Floyd is utterly dominant. In his story, Guryashkin writes “…perhaps even more impressive is Mayweather’s opponents connect percentage: 16%, the lowest ever recorded in CompuBox’s 4,000-fight database. The astronomical 30% difference between the two stats stands atop history’s pugilistic pantheon.”
CompuBox is based on a computer program, originally named FightStat, which was developed by Jon Gibbs in 1984. The system calculates every punch a fighter throws and lands. Stats are compiled by two operators who each have access to four keys corresponding to jab connect, jab miss, power punch connect, and power punch miss. Certainly the human element involved renders the system less than 100% accurate, but its overall ability to gauge punch statistics is noteworthy nonetheless.
If the numbers don’t convince you, let’s consider a few other things.
Currently, Sugar Ray Robinson is almost universally regarded as the greatest fighter, pound for pound, to have ever lived. I would agree with this.
Few other than Floyd himself would have the gall to go as far as saying Floyd Mayweather deserves that coronation. If we’re talking numbers, Robinson’s record of 173-19-6 trumps Floyd’s perfect 42-0 based on the sheer volume of fights. It’s also worth noting that Robinson was 40-0 going into the 3rd year of his pro career before dropping a decision to Jake LaMotta (a loss he would avenge 5 times over). It took Floyd close to 13 years before winning his 40th pro bout, a virtual shutout of pound-for-pound mainstay Juan Manuel Marquez in September 2009.
From the time he first lost to LaMotta in February of 1943, until his next loss over 8 years later, Robinson would fight 91 bouts, going 88-0-2 (with 1 NC) before losing another fight, a points loss to the UK’s Randy Turpin in July of 1951.
Since Floyd defeated Marquez, he’s fought only twice more, giving a sensational boxing clinic to Shane Mosley in May of 2010, and a lesson in boxing’s cardinal rule of “protect yourself at all times” to Victor Ortiz last September.
Comparing the activity levels alone, obviously Sugar Ray looks more impressive.
The question is, though, if you swapped Floyd and Sugar Ray into each of their respective eras, how would they fare?
I’m of the opinion that each would be equally impressive, regardless of era.
But when you look at some of the names ands records of Robinson’s opposition during the aforementioned 88-0-2 stretch, a few things jump out.
I mean, what can we take from a W10 that a 124-1-2 Robinson earned against a 12-26-9 Jean Wales in May of 1951? Or in 1950 a W10 against the 56-31-7 Billy Brown in Brooklyn? Sheer activity is impressive, but one wonders if Floyd wouldn’t have dominated in the same way that Robinson did, had he not been born in an era where the norm is fighting once or twice a year on pay-per-view. If Floyd fought anyone with less-than-stellar credentials, the media would destroy him. That’s not to say that Robinson didn’t fight some hardcore dudes, but Floyd hasn’t had a “gimme” fight in years.
We also must acknowledge that Floyd Mayweather is fighting in an era of advanced sports science.
Much like the perception of the Klitschko brothers–at least in certain quarters of the United States–as not being “all time greats,” Floyd falls victim to the perception that he is plying his trade during a weaker era of the sport–a notion which may not necessarily be true.
In an October 2010 column by RingTV’s Michael Rosenthal, boxing historian Bert Sugar is quoted saying, “It’s impossible to compare fighters from different eras. Did Klitschko fight Georges Carpentier? If he did, then I could compare him to Jack Dempsey. Did Klitschko fight Jess Willard? Then I could get a comparison. Otherwise I can’t. You can only rate someone in the context of their time. Anything else is illogical.”
Sugar makes a fine point, and one that contradicts what many believe when automatically assuming Floyd Mayweather could never be viewed as the greatest fighter of all time.
In this era, there has been no fighter that has been as dominant.
Too often, modern fight fans get caught up in hyperbole over who Floyd has or hasn’t faced.
How he’s acted outside of the ring.
How he projects his image.
How he wins fights.
How he allegedly avoids fights.
When it comes down to it, none of those things matter. Neither do purse-splits, tweets, or who he is or isn’t promoted by.
What he does in the ring is all that matters.
And when all is said and done, Floyd Mayweather may be the one fighter who has mattered most.
(Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @hansolson)