Today is a boxing anniversary with a difference, a global holiday for all true fans of “The Sweet Science,” as we mark the anniversary of the birth of one Walker Smith Jr., aka the great Sugar Ray Robinson. All who love the brutal sport of boxing owe, at the very least, a tip of the hat and a raising of the glass on this day to the Sugarman, a warrior who was many things: a truly great champion, a born showman and entertainer, an amazing competitor, and a ring legend who was a fixture on the fight scene for over twenty glorious years.
In fact, it is almost a cliché in the sports world: Sugar Ray Robinson is, pound-for-pound, the greatest boxer of all-time. While some historians point to Harry Greb, or Henry Armstrong, or Sam Langford as legendary prizefighters whose accomplishments rival those of “The Prince Of Harlem,” the fact remains that Robinson’s standing as the finest pugilist of all-time is so widely accepted it is virtually unassailable.
The reasons for this are many, but let’s focus on the basic facts. Opposition: A dominant welterweight and middleweight champion, Ray defeated a long list of truly great prizefighters, including Kid Gavilan, Jake LaMotta, Tommy Bell, Gene Fullmer, Sammy Angott, Fritzie Zivic, Carmen Basilio, Rocky Graziano and Randy Turpin. Longevity: Robinson turned pro in 1940 and, while he took some breaks along the way, he did not end his career until 1965, an incredible feat unto itself. Over that time, he compiled an amazing 174 victories with 109 knockouts. Durability: The only time Ray lost inside the distance was when he collapsed from heat stroke during his challenge of Joey Maxim for the light heavyweight crown, a match he was clearly winning up to that point.
Add crippling power in both fists, astonishing hand and foot speed, not to mention excellent timing and lethal finishing instincts, and you have the complete package: a gifted athlete whose ring exploits will almost certainly never be matched in today’s watered-down version of professional prizefighting.
But that just gives you the basic information, not the insight to truly understand what made Robinson so great. For that, we turn to analyst Lee Wylie, who breaks down two of Robinson’s most memorable knockouts to show precisely how Sugar Ray was such a potent offensive force. Rocky Graziano and Gene Fullmer were tough, dangerous battlers and Robinson stretched them both. But punching power alone did not render “The Rock” and “The Utah Cyclone” helpless; instead it was the tool of power, like a hammer or chisel, manipulated with great artistry in tandem with strategy, timing and deception.
Because Ray Robinson was in fact much more than just a gifted athlete; he was a truly brilliant boxer, a genius. Let Lee Wylie help you understand that genius, help you see just how brilliant he really was. Check it out: