Celebrating Black History Month: Sugar Ray Robinson

Often considered the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson ruled over the 147- and 155-pound divisions for two decades and fought six career-defining fights against Jake LaMotta, later immortalized in the Martin Scorsese feature Raging Bull.

Sugar Ray Robinson

Sugar Ray Robinson ducks under a left from Rocky Graziano at Chicago Stadium in 1952.

Robinson, who was born Walker Smith, adopted his new moniker when he borrowed another fighter’s Amateur Athletic Union card for his first fight. He reeled off 40 straight wins to start his career.

LaMotta handed Robinson his first loss in 1943, though it would take nearly another four years for Robinson to earn his first title shot because he wouldn’t cooperate with the Mafia.

After the loss to LaMotta, Robinson went 91 straight fights over nine years without being beaten, the third-longest streak in boxing history, to run his record to 128-1-2. Robinson beat LaMotta five times during that stretch.

He finally lost again in London in July 1951, when he was defeated in 15 rounds by Englishman Randy Turpin. Robinson won a rematch in New York, though, two months later.

It was because of Robinson’s ability to move around weight classes (he even challenged Joey Maxim for the 178-pound title) that boxing writers invented pound-for-pound comparisons.

Because of financial difficulties, Robinson fought long past his time. He retired in 1965 with a record of 173-19-6.

After boxing, Robinson tried his hand at show business, doing some acting in television and film. He died at the age of 67 in Los Angeles on April 12, 1989.

In 1999, the Associated Press named Robinson the Fighter of the Century.

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