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Robinson, Sugar Ray 1921–1989

Sugar Ray Robinson 19211989

Professional boxer

As Sweet As Sugar

Wins First World Title

A Change of Weight Class

A Fighter in His Prime

Retirement Stopped by Money Problems

Sources

It is a testament to Sugar Ray Robinsons greatness as a boxer that when people discuss who was the greatest boxer of all-time, pound-for-pound, not only is no one else usually picked, but rarely is anyone else even considered. Robinson dominated first the welterweight and then the middleweight divisions at a time when boxings popularity was at its peak, and his skills were so widely admired that famed boxing writer Bert Sugar once wrote that being knocked out by Robinson was more of an honor than a disgrace.

Robinson was born Walker Smith, Jr. on May 3, 1921 in Detroit. He grew up poor in the Black Bottom section of that city. In 1932 his father, Walker Sr., and his mother Leila were divorced, and the elder Walker left the family. Leila took Ray and his sisters to New York, where she looked for work. Young Walker had tried boxing at the Brewster gym back in Detroit, and he pursued the sport in earnest once in New York. His manager, George Gainford, ran the gym Smith trained at as an amateur, and remembered the first time Smith came to his gym. I told Smitty he was too young to fight, he recalled in Harry Carpenters book, Masters of Boxing Besides, he said his ma would kill him if he got mixed up with the fight game. So I chased him away from the gym, back to delivering groceries and dancing for dimes. But he turned up again. I took him into my home, taught him a few tricks and let him stay around when I took my team round the clubs. I smacked him down more than once. Smitty deserved his breaks, though. In those days he had nothing.

As Sweet As Sugar

A turning point in the legend of Sugar Ray Robinson came one night in Kingston, New York, when Smith was 15. Gainford was short one boxer for a show, and decided to use Smith. Since New York state law forbade anyone under the age of 16 to box, however, Smith needed fake credentials. Gainford happened to have in his pocket the fight card of one Ray Robinson. Smith fought under that name that night, and he would never be known as anything else for the rest of his career. The rest of his name was coined in Watertown, New York, when a reporter observed to Gainford that Robinson was as sweet as sugar, the trainer concurred. The fighter was briefly known as Ray (Sugar) Robinson, until it was decided Sugar Ray sounded better.

At a Glance

Born Walker Smith, Jr., May 3, 1921, in Detroit, Ml; son of Walker Smith, Sr. and Leila Smith. Married three times: second wife Edna M. Holly, from 1943-60; third wife Millie Johnson, from 1965-89. Died April 12, J 1989.

Career: Professional boxer, 1940-65. Welterweight world champion, 1946-51; middleweight world champion five times, 1951, 1951-52, 1955, 1957, 1958-60. Inducted to Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Robinson won the New York Golden Gloves championship at featherweight (126 pounds) in 1939 and lightweight (135 pounds) in 1940. Some historians claim he was never beaten as an amateur, although others say he lost twice. On October 4, 1940, Robinson turned professional with a bout at Madison Square Garden. The 19-year old stopped a fighter named Joe Echevarría in the second round, and his winning streak extended through the first 40 fights and 28 months of his professional career. Twenty-nine of those early victims failed to go the distance with Robinson, including world-ranked welterweights such as Pete Lello, Fritzie Zivic, Norman Rubio, Tony Motisi and Izzy Jannazzo.

Robinsons first professional winning streak came to a close, and one of his most lasting rivalries was born, on February 5, 1943 in Detroit. He lost a 10-round decision to Jake LaMotta, a fighter he had beaten the previous fall in another 10-round decision in New York. Three weeks after losing to LaMotta, Robinson beat him in another rematch in Detroit. The second fight between the two was the only one of six LaMotta would ever win, but his status as the first fighter ever to beat Robinson was a major facet of his reputation for years to come. The LaMotta-Robinson series has gone down in history as one of the sports great rivalries.

Robinson fought at a pace that would be unheard of today. It was not unusual for him to fight twice within the span of a week, and in 1941 alone he fought an amazing 20 times, including two fights in August just two days apart. His schedule slowed in 1943, when he had just six fights, and ground to a halt in late summer, when he began a stint in the U.S. Army. The first bit of controversy in Robinsons career stemmed from that army hitch. The army was letting high-profile boxers, most notably Joe Louis, avoid combat duty by fighting exhibition bouts for troops overseas. When Robinsons boxing unit set sail, however, he did not show up. He was awarded an honorary discharge, and later claimed to have fallen down a flight of stairs and suffered amnesia, but some in the press held a grudge against Robinson long afterward.

Wins First World Title

Robinson resumed his busy fight schedule in the fall of 1944, and built another win streak, winning five fights before that year was out, nine in 1945 and 16 in 1946. It was in the last fight in 1946 in which Robinson won his first world title. He had run his record to 74-1 by the time the National Boxing Association (the forerunner of the present-day World Boxing Association) granted him a fight against Tommy Bell for the vacant world welterweight championship. Robinson won the fight on a 15-round decision and his days as a champion boxer had begun.

Robinson stayed fit with four non-title bouts early in 1947, then put his title on the line for the first time against Jimmy Doyle on June 24. In what sounds like legend but is actually fact, Robinson dreamed the night before the fight that he would kill Doyle with a left hook. Robinson was shaken by the dream and tried to pull out of the fight, but the promoters called in a Catholic priest to reassure him that his worries were unwarranted and that he must go through with the fight. In the eighth round, just as in the dream, Robinson hit Doyle with a devastating left hook. Doyle was carried from the ring on a stretcher and died the next day without ever regaining consciousness. At the coroners inquest Robinson was asked if he knew Doyle was hurt, and he replied, as quoted by Carpenter, Its my business to keep fighters in trouble when theyre hurt. Leila Smith later said she believed her son was traumatized throughout his life by the incident.

Robinson did not let the tragedy slow him down, however, and he won five more fights, all by knockout, before the year was over. One was a title defense against Chuck Taylor, and he won five more fights and one more title defense in 1948. He fought 13 times in 1949, gaining 12 wins and a drawthe draw coming in a non-title bout with Henry Brimmand won his only title defense that year against Kid Gavilán in Philadelphia. He stepped up the pace in 1950, fighting 19 bouts and winning them all, including a title defense against Charley Fusari.

In 1950 Robinson made another career move, moving up to middleweight and winning the Pennsylvania middleweight title. He defended that title twice, never going to the full middleweight limit of 160 pounds, but hovering around the mid-150s and fighting larger men, something Robinson was never afraid to do. In November and December he held his first tour of Europe, something that sounds odd today when fighters rarely box more than four or five times in a year. He won non-title fights in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany, before setting his sights on the world middleweight title.

To win that prize Robinson needed to reacquaint himself with an old rival. He had already beaten Jake LaMotta four times in five fights, but since they had last fought over five years earlier, LaMotta had gone on to win the NBA middleweight title. Their fight on Valentines Day, February 14, 1951, was their sixth meeting, but the first in which a crown was at stake. Robinson gradually took control over the first half of the fight, and over the last several rounds he pounded LaMotta with one of the most savage beatings in the history of the sport until the doctor at ringside called for the fight to be halted in the 13th round. Because the fight had been held in Chicago, the boxing writers who were there decreed the fight another Valentines Day Massacre. The fight was recreated in the 1980 Martin Scorcese film bio of LaMotta, Raging Bull, with Robert DeNiro as LaMotta, following Robinson around the ring after the fights conclusion taunting, You never got me down, Ray. You never got me down. The win marked the end of Robinsons reign as the welterweight champion, what some have called his prime period, but started a longer career in the middleweight ranks.

A Change of Weight Class

Robinsons career could not have come at a better time in history for him to be a big star. Before World War II and since Vietnam boxing was not widely popular, and widespread attention was usually only granted to contenders in the heavyweight division. But from the late 1940s until the mid 1960s boxing, an easy sport to televise, was a staple on prime-time television, sometimes being broadcast as many as four times a week. With so much boxing being televised, weight classes below heavyweight necessarily had to receive more exposure, and during the heyday of televised boxing Sugar Ray Robinson was one of the sports top stars.

Before defending his middleweight title in 1951, Robinson made another tour of Europe, and won all his bouts except for one in Germany. He almost started a riot by knocking out German hero Gerhard Hecht, allegedly with kidney punches, a punch that was legal in the United States but not in Europe. He was initially disqualified, and had to hide under the ring when angry fans began pelting him with bottles. It was later discovered that Hecht had a broken rib, though, and the decision was changed to a no-contest.

His last fight on the tour was a title defense against Randy Turpin in London, and an unprepared Robinson lost his title on a 15-round decision. Carpenter remembered Robinson explaining, I was never hit with so many jabs in my life and I couldnt do a thing about it. I was sold out because of the travelling. My eyes were tired and couldnt focus properly. Two months later a better-prepared Robinson fought a rematch against Turpin, and he regained the title before 60,000 fans at New Yorks Polo Grounds when he knocked Turpin out with one of his classic left hooks.

Robinson took a year off from non-title fights in 1952, fighting only three times and defending his title against two strong challengers, Bobo Olson and Rocky Graziano. Then, on June 25, he fought what many fans consider to be one of his best fights, a fight he actually lost, for Joey Maxims light-heavyweight title. Robinson made no attempt to bulk up to the light-heavyweight limit of 175 pounds, fighting instead at his natural weight of 157 and giving away almost 20 pounds. The fight was held on the hottest night of the year in New York City. It was 104 degrees at ringside, and about 140 degrees under the ring lights. Spectators were passing out in the crowd. Robinson outboxed the bigger, stronger man every step of the way, and was far ahead on all the scorecards, needing only to finish the fight to become the third man in boxing history (along with Henry Armstrong and Bob Fitzsimmons) to win the title in three weight classes.

The heat took its toll, though, and Maxim wore Robinson down by leaning on him with his greater weight throughout the fight. Even referee Ruby Goldstein suffered heat exhaustion and had to be replaced after the 10th round, but Robinson stayed stronguntil the 13th round. Then he tired visibly and at one point in the round, when Maxim stepped back away from a Robinson hook, Robinson fell right to the canvas on his follow-through. At the end of the round Robinson was almost delirious and had to be helped back to his corner by his handlers, who tried frantically to revive him for the last two rounds. When the bell sounded for the start of the 14th, however, Robinson could not stand up, and his only fight for the light-heavyweight title went down in history as a near-miss. It was also the only fight of his career in which he failed to complete the match.

A Fighter in His Prime

Winning his third title was the last real goal Robinson had left. Carpenter quoted him as saying prior to the Maxim fight, The papers say I do everything for Ray Robinson first. That could be. I see a lot of bad in boxing. I see a lot of fighters finished and broke. I dont want that for me. I want to come out with money. I dont want to keep fighting like Joe Louis. After losing to Maxim, Robinson said goodbye to boxing, and started a career as a song-and-dance man. Some say Robinsons reputation would be even greater than it is today if he had stayed retired, but between bad business investments, tax problems and extravagant spending habits, he was faced with no other choice by 1955 than to return to boxing.

After his return to boxing, Robinson was never again the unbeatable force he had been during his prime, but he still had some of his most memorable fights during this period. After winning five of six fights during the early part of 1955, Robinson was given a shot against the middleweight champ, whom he had beaten for the title in 1952. This time he knocked Bobo Olson out in the second round, and again in a rematch early in 1956. Robinson now held the middleweight title for the third time.

Robinson was often resented by his contemporaries for defending his interests at the bargaining table as determinedly as he defended his titles in the ring. Since early in his career he had earned a reputation as a ruthless businessman, and many fighters whose careers would have been well-served by a fight with Robinson were frustrated that he refused to sign to fight anyone who would not agree to terms that were heavily lopsided in Robinsons favor.

It was not only fighters who found Robinson a formidable opponent in money disputes. Even the rule that allows federal income taxes to be computed based on average earnings over a number of years sprang from a confrontation between Robinson and the Internal Revenue Service. But as champion Robinson was especially aggressive in pursuing his own financial interests. A typical Robinson fight contract dictated that Robinson got the much larger portion of the gate and most or all of the money from television. It also dictated that if the challenger won, he had to give Robinson a rematch with his next fight and Robinson would get most of the money from that fight, too. It was that contractually mandated rematch which would serve him the best in the late 1950s.

On the second day of 1957 Robinson lost his title on a decision to Gene Fullmer, a Mormon from Utah. On the first day of May that year, however, the two met again, and Robinson regained his title with a fifth-round knockout on which many boxing historians consider his best-ever punch. A left hook that came from nowhere landed flush on Fullmers jaw and sent him staggering backwards toward the canvas, then left him futilely trying to drag himself back to his feet. Fullmer said in an interview years later that he did not even know hed been knocked out until his cornermen told him as he sat on his stool some minutes later. Robinson now held the title for the fourth time.

In September of that year, Robinson lost his title on a decision to the great fighter Carmen Basilio. Basilio harbored a great deal of dislike for Robinson, and the two had a true rivalry by the time they met in their rematch on March 25, 1958. Many observers of the fight game thought this was the night when Robinson would truly look his age, and Basilio would finish off the old champs career as a viable contender once and for all. But Basilio was troubled from about the sixth round on with a badly swollen eye, and Robinson won a brutal fight with a 15-round decision. He had to be carried from the ring to the dressing room, from the dressing room to his Cadillac, and from the car to his hotel room, but he had won the middleweight championship for a fifth time.

Retirement Stopped by Money Problems

Robinson was nearing 40 now, but he still could not afford to retire from boxing. Part of it was because of his back taxes. But Robinson had also become accustomed to a fairly extravagant lifestyle, which had also become a defining aspect of his image. He had bought for himself over the years a bar, three Harlem apartment buildings, a cleaning and dyeing shop, and a lingerie shop (the latter for his wifethe former Edna Mae Holly, to whom he was married from 1943-60; he had been married briefly to another woman as a teenager, but details are sketchy). The traveling entourage for Robinson consisted of his wife; Gainford, his manager; a male secretary; three trainers; a golf pro; a personal barber; an odd-job man; a chauffeur; and a midget court jester. They carried 100 pieces of luggage among them, and it cost about $3,000 a week to support the lot of them.

Robinson had tried to protect his public image early in his career, donating portions of, and sometimes whole purses, to charity, including Jimmy Doyles widow, but as his career progressed he became increasingly unconcerned about his reputation where money was involved. The New York Times Book of Sports Legends recalled Robinson saying, I went through $4 million, but I have no regrets. If I had the chance to do it over again, Id do it the same way. I didnt gamble away my money. I used it to help people live. I took my family and my friends on trips with me. I loaned it to strangers to pay their bills, and sometimes I didnt get it back.

Robinson went into a period of inactivity in 1959, fighting only one tune-up fight in December. The NBA stripped Robinson of his title for not defending it, but other jurisdictions continued to recognize him as the champion until he lost that distinction to Paul Pender in Boston in January 1960. He had, of course, written a rematch clause into his contract for the fight, but in June he lost that fight as well. In December he fought for the NBA title, but Fullmer retained that title on a draw. There was one last attempt at Fullmers championship the following year, but the champ kept his title on a decision, and Robinson, despite fighting 46 more times over the next five years, never again fought for the world championship. He finally retired in 1965 with a career record of 175 wins, 19 defeats, six draws and two no-contests.

That same year Robinson married his third wife, the former Millie Wiggins Bruce, who was several years older than he was. They lived in Los Angeles, where Ray established the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation, an organization that funded and organized recreational activities for young people. Ray continued to work out until the mid 1970s, when his age began to take its toll. In the late 1970s a young fighter named Ray Leonard began using the old Sugar Ray nickname; some close to Robinson speculated that he must have resented the young fighter usurping his moniker, but for the record, at least, Robinson gave Leonard his blessing.

In the 1980s, as Alzheimers Disease, a common malady among boxers with long careers, took hold of Robinson, Millies side of the family took control of the youth foundation. Family members, such as Rays mother and son (Ray Jr., whom he had with Edna Mae), expressed distrust of Millie and resentment at her refusal to let anyone, even them, see Ray. For her part, she insisted that the two of them were proud people and that as his wife it was her responsibility to protect him and keep anyone from seeing him in his compromised and vulnerable condition. Ray died on April 12, 1989.

In 1997, as part of its 75th anniversary, Ring magazine picked the best fighter pound-for-pound of the last 75 years. The three finalists were Robinson, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. Robinson was picked as the winner, which came as no surprise to anyone. Louis had said decades earlier that he thought Robinson was the greatest fighter in the world, and Ali had said in 1975, as quoted in African-American Sports Greats, I believe I am the greatest heavyweight of all time, but Ray Robinson was the greatest fighter of all time. Nearly sixty years after he first put on the gloves, Sugar Ray Robinson was still the sweetest.

Sources

Books

African-American Sports Greats: A Biographical Dictionary, edited by David L. Porter, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995, p. 286.

The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book, by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, Ithaca, NY: McBooks Press, 1997, p. 358.

The Encyclopedia of Boxing, compiled by Maurice Goldsworthy, p. 171.

Masters of Boxing, by Harry Carpenter, p. 51.

The New York Times Book of Sports Legends, edited by Joseph J. Vecchione, New York: Random House, 1991, p. 264.

Periodicals

Sports Illustrated, July 13, 1987, p. 70; April 24, 1989, p. 96.

Mike Eggert

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Sugar Ray Robinson

Sugar Ray Robinson

Sugar Ray Robinson (1921-1989) was one of the first African American athletes who became well-known outside the boxing arena. He was the world welterweight champion from 1946 to 1951, won the middleweight title five times between 1951 and 1960, and has been universally acclaimed as one of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport.

Born Walker Smith, Jr., in Detroit, Michigan on May 3, 1921, Robinson became interested in boxing as a teenager, when he moved to New York City with his parents. When he was 13, he fought in the Police Athletic League competition, and by the time he was 15 he was fighting unlicensed amateurs. At the beginning of his career, he used his real name and was known as "Smitty" to his friends. One night he showed up for an amateur fight, but did not have the official identity card he needed to fight. He borrowed the boxing card from a friend named Ray Robinson. From then on, he used that name.

According to Ron Borges in HBO World Championship Boxing sportswriter Jack Case, who saw a young Robinson fight at the Salem Crescent Gym in New York in 1939, told Robinson's manager, George Gainford, "That's a sweet fighter you've got there." "Sweet as sugar," answered Gainford. The nickname "Sugar Ray," like manager Gainford, would be with Robinson for the rest of his career.

Robinson was married three times. His first marriage, when Robinson was still a teenager, produced one son, Ronnie Smith. The marriage was later annulled. He then married Edna Mae Holly and they had one son, Ray Jr., in 1949. Robinson married Millie Bruce in 1965, and the two would remain together for the rest of his life.

Early Professional Career

Robinson became a professional boxer in 1940. His first fight, against Joe Echevarria, ended with Robinson's victory in the second round.

Robinson served in the U.S. Army during World War II, but his major battles during that time were with a boxing rival named Jake LaMotta. Robinson had been unbeaten in his first 40 fights. The 41st was against LaMotta. Robinson had easily beaten LaMotta in a 10-round match in New York City, but at a rematch in Detroit, LaMotta won. This was the first defeat of his career. Three weeks later, Robinson avenged himself by beating LaMotta again. This would be a pattern that repeated itself throughout his career; when another boxer beat him (and it happened rarely), Robinson came back in a rematch and pounded the other boxer into defeat.

"That was the thing about Robinson," boxing trainer and historian Teddy Atlas told writer Borges. "He not only won his rematches, he stopped the guy.… He was magnificent after a loss. … He corrected his mistakes and took his opponent apart if they fought again." Atlas also told Borges, "If I had a guy who beat Ray Robinson I'd be sure to do one thing. Don't give him a rematch. Ray had more than talent. He had genius."

After defeating LaMotta in the rematch, Robinson would continue to win for the next eight years. In 1945, Robinson beat LaMotta twice more, prompting LaMotta to say, according to Ron Flatter of ESPN.com,"I fought Sugar Ray so often, I almost got diabetes." LaMotta also said, "No one else wanted to fight him. And no one else wanted to fight me, so thank God he was around so we fought each other."

World Welterweight Champ

In December 1946, Robinson beat Tommy Bell after 15 rounds, earning the welterweight championship. In defending his title in 1947, Robinson knocked out Tommy Doyle in eight rounds. Doyle, who had sustained brain injuries in a previous match, never woke up. Ron Flatter, in ESPN.com, reported that when the police investigated the death and asked Robinson if he had meant to get Doyle "in trouble," Robinson replied, "Mister, it's my business to get him in trouble." Some people said that Robinson had dreamed, the night before this match, that he would kill his opponent, and that when Doyle did die, Robinson lost his "killer instinct." Even so, Robinson remained an incredible fighter.

A Flamboyant Style

Robinson lived in larger-than-life style, with a pink Cadillac convertible, fur coat, and flashy diamond jewelry. He was the owner of a Harlem nightclub where jazz legends like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis played. Robinson was surrounded by an entourage of assistants, including a barber, secretary, voice coach, masseur, trainers, women, and his manager, George Gainford. He was an entrepreneur when that was an unheard-of thing for African Americans to do and at a time when many African Americans were not even allowed to vote. Robinson was a shrewd businessman and hard bargainer. Ron Flatter noted that he was "as much a part of the New York scene in the forties and fifties as the Copa and Sinatra." Fan Tallulah Dancier recalled in Colored Reflections, "I remember seeing pictures of him in Ebony magazine and Jetmagazine with flashy diamonds, a huge fur coat, sitting on a Rolls Royce. But everybody liked him."

"St. Valentine's Day Massacre"

In 1951, Robinson went up against Jake LaMotta again, in a match known as the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre." The referee stopped the fight in the 13th round, when LaMotta could barely stand and no longer had the strength to punch back.

Boxing had its shady side, and Robinson refused to give in to the Mob. He failed to obey the directives of what writer Ron Borges described as "a group of characters to whom legitimate business was only a figure of speech," and "carry" LaMotta through more rounds in that fight. As a result, Robinson was forced to leave the United States for a while because Jim Norris, a Mob-connected character who ran boxing in those days, froze him out of U.S. fighting. He headed to Europe, where his streak of 91 fights without a defeat ended when British boxer Randy Turpin took the welterweight title by winning a 15-round decision in London. Two months later, however, Robinson regained the title by beating Turpin in a 10-round technical knock out (TKO).

In 1952, Robinson went up for the light-heavyweight championship against Joey Maxim in Yankee Stadium. It was a hot night and the temperature in the ring was over 100 degrees. The heat, more than his opponent, wore Robinson down. By the 14th round, he couldn't get up to fight when the bell rang. Six months later, he announced that he was retiring from the sport.

Returned to Boxing

For a short time, Robinson entertained audiences by tap dancing in a nightclub act and undertook various business ventures. But two years later, he was back in the ring, regaining the middleweight championship by beating Carl "Bobo" Olsen three times. He lost the title in 1957 in a bout against Gene Fullmer, but won it back four months later in a rematch. Robinson knocked Fullmer out in the fifth round with a left hook; it was the first time Fullmer had ever been knocked out.

Later that year, Robinson lost the title again, and won it back in a bloody battle against Carmen Basilio. Robinson gained an early advantage in the first fight, cutting open Basilio's eye and nose. An angered Basilio fought back furiously, leading to a split decision in Basilio's favor. Like many other boxers Robinson had beaten, Basilio hated Robinson and claimed that he wouldn never admit how hard he had been punched. "Robinson wouldn't tell the truth to God," Basilio said, according to Ron Flatter.

Robinson hated losing, and followed his classic pattern In a rematch six months later, even though he was sick with a virus, Robinson hit Basilio so hard he couldn't use his left eye and won a split decision, winning the middleweight championship for the fifth and last time.

Career Declined

Robinson didn't fight for two more years. When he finally reentered the ring, he lost the title for good. On January 22, 1960, in a 15-round split decision against Paul Pender, the referee decided in favor of Pender. Ron Flatter reported that when Robinson's manager, George Gainford, complained, Robinson told him, "No beefs, George. Sometimes we got the best of it in the past."

Robinson made about $4 million during his career, but by the mid-1960s his lavish lifestyle had reduced his finances to nothing. In 1965, Robinson, broke and 44 years old-ancient in the grueling, youth-oriented sport of boxing-had to fight five times in 35 days, receiving as little as $1,100 per fight. After losing ten rounds to Joey Archer, he announced his retirement and this time he meant it.

Robinson turned from boxing to show business, and recouped his financial losses, through acting and singing. He appeared on television and in movies and also started a youth foundation in 1969. Robinson moved to California with his third wife, Millie. In one of his last public appearances, Robinson was the best man at the 1986 wedding of his old rival, Jake LaMotta.

Robinson suffered from Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. He died in Culver City, California, on April 12, 1989, at the age of 67.

An Enduring Legacy

Robinson's lifetime record was 175 wins, 19 losses, 6 draws, 2 no-contests, and 109 knockouts. That record has not been forgotten, nor has his incredible grace, speed, and flamboyant style, both in and out of the ring.

Ron Borges quoted trainer and historian Teddy Atlas, who said, "The great ones are pioneers in some way. That's what Ray was. He took speed and combination punching and a certain smoothness when it wasn't all connected and he connected it. Everything he did, he did with more meaning and more accuracy. He didn't just throw flurries, he threw tighter, harder combinations that were all meaningful." Trainer Eddie Futch told Borges, "He had marvelous balance and speed and superb reflexes. He was just as dangerous with either hand when going backwards and he knew almost everything there was to know about how to box."

The Ring magazine chose Robinson as the best boxer in its entire 75 years of publication, and said that "pound for pound" he was the best boxer in the history of the sport.

Further Reading

"The Sugar in the Sweet Science," ESPN.com, http://204.202.129.27/sportscentury/features/00947963.html (March 1, 1999).

"All-Time Greatest Fighters: Sugar Ray Robinson," HBO World Championship Boxing, http://hbo.com/boxing/columnsfeatures/greats/cmp/greats-robinson.shtml (March 1, 1999).

"Sugar Ray Robinson," Colored Reflections, http://www.net4tv.com/color/50/Srobinson.htm (March 1, 1999).

"Sugar Ray Robinson," International Boxing Hall of Fame, http://www.ibhof.com/robinson.htm (March 1, 1999).

"Sugar Ray Robinson: God's Fighter,"HBO World Championship Boxing, http://hbo.com/boxing/columnsfeatures/cmp/robinsonarticle.shtml (March 1, 1999).

"Sugar Ray Robinson: Perspective," Colored Reflections, http://www.net4tv.com/color/50/SrobinsonPer.htm (March 1, 1999).

"Sugar Ray Robinson: The Bright Lights and Dark Shadows of a Champion," HBO World Championship Boxing, http://hbo.com/boxing/columnsfeatures/cmp/robinsondocu.shtml (March 1, 1999). □

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Robinson, Sugar Ray

Sugar Ray Robinson, 1920–89, American boxer, b. Detroit as Walker Smith, Jr. He began boxing after three years of high school in New York City. Having won all his amateur fights (about 90), including the Golden Gloves featherweight title, Robinson turned professional in 1940. He won the welterweight championship in 1946 by defeating Tommy Bell and the middleweight championship for the first time in 1951 by knocking out Jake La Motta. When Robinson retired from boxing as middleweight champion in 1952 he had lost only three times in 137 bouts. Returning to boxing in 1955, he was the first boxer ever to regain a title after retiring. Robinson became the first man in boxing history to win a divisional (weight class) world championship five times when he regained the middleweight title in 1958 by defeating Carmen Basilio; he lost the title in 1960 to Paul Pender. In his prime, the swift, hard-punching Robinson was rated the best boxer, pound for pound, of his time.

See his autobiography (1970); biography by W. Haygood (2009).

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"Robinson, Sugar Ray." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/robinson-sugar-ray

Robinson, Sugar Ray

Robinson, Sugar Ray (1920–89) US boxer, b. Walker Smith. Undefeated world welterweight champion from 1946 to 1950, he won the middleweight title five times in the 1950s. He fought the last of his 21 world title bouts in 1961.

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"Robinson, Sugar Ray." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Robinson, Sugar Ray." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/robinson-sugar-ray