In a career that spanned three decades, Sugar
Ray Robinson embodied the essence of the sweet science. He
was a world welterweight champion and held the middleweight
title five times. Robinson combined an athlete's grace and
excellent power and was nearly unbeatable in his prime. He
is considered by many to be the best fighter in history, pound-for-pound.
He earned the nickname Sugar Ray when a newspaper reporter
described him as "sweet as sugar."
Among the fellow Hall-of-Famers Robinson beat are Henry Armstrong, Kid Gavilan,
Carmen Basilio, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Graziano, Gene Fullmer and Fritzie Zivic.
Robinson was so efficient for so long that he won his first Fighter of the Year
award in 1942 and his second in 1951.
Robinson, whose real name was Walker Smith, turned pro in 1940 and won his first
40 fights before losing to LaMotta. After that defeat, Robinson wouldn't lose
for another eight years. In 1942, he decisioned former champion Zivic and future
champion Marty Servo. Then in 1946, in his 76th fight, he decisioned Tommy Bell
for the vacant welterweight.
During his reign as a welterweight, Robinson defended his crown with wins over
Jimmy Doyle, Chuck Taylor, Bernard Docusen, Gavilan, and Charlie Fusari. In 1951,
he challenged LaMotta for the middleweight title in a fight that is remebered
as the St. Valentine Day Massacre. Robinson overwhelmed LaMotta with a speed
and power and finally stopped him in the 13th round. It was the sixth and final
time the Hall of Famers met. Robinson won five of those contests.
In 1951, he was upset by British champion Randy Turpin. In the rematch two months
later, Robinson knocked Turpin out in the 10th round. He followed with successful
defenses against Graziano and Carl "Bobo" Olson before challenging
light heavyweight king Joey Maxim.
Robinson and Maxim met at Yankee Stadium in the summer of 1952. The temperature
in the ring that night was estimated at 100 degrees. It was the heat, and not
Maxim, that overcame Sugar Ray. After the 13th round, he led on all three scorecards
but remained on his stool when the bell sounded to begin the 14th.
Robinson retired after the Maxim fight only to return in 1955. He would win and
lose the middleweight title three more times in a series of bouts with Olson,
Fullmer and Basillio. He finally retired for good in 1965 at the age of 44. Of
Robinson's 19 career defeats, 16 occurred after 1955. Five of them came in his
final 15 fights. He fought 18 world champions during his career.