“They say I haven’t trained hard enough for this fight. Who is to be the judge of how hard I work? I have worked all right, harder than most people think.” That’s Randy Turpin before his fight with Carl “Bobo” Olson. He only spars 30 rounds leading up to it, and does this with his featherweight-size brother Jackie. Beats the hell out of Jackie, sure, but it ain’t a real workout. Does he not take Olson seriously? Or is he distracted, something on his mind …
A woman. Adele Daniels. The light-skinned beauty from Harlem who Turpin met on his first trip outside of England, in ’51 when he gave the middleweight title back to Sugar Ray Robinson in a thriller at the Polo Grounds in New York City, the belt he’d taken just months before in a massive upset.
Now Turpin’s in New York again and Adele is hanging around. Getting crazy at his hotel, making a scene. George Middleton, Turpin’s manager, had warned Randy about Adele when they first met. Randy’s sure getting the message now, and he’s trying to hide out, staying at the camp, laying low. He won’t train in public, won’t talk to the press, even telling folks he may just fly back to England, forget the whole thing.
“Bobo” Olson doesn’t believe all the talk, thinks Turpin is in great shape. Thinks his opponent’s camp is trying to mess with his head, get him to let his guard down. So he trains twice as hard.
A few weeks before the match, Adele Daniels accuses Randy Turpin of assault.
The fight is held at Madison Square Garden, in front of some nineteen thousand. With Sugar Ray retired, the world middleweight title is vacant and the winner will take it.
So they get to it. Turpin owns the first three rounds, despite his head being elsewhere. In the fourth, Olson opens up Randy’s cheek with a jab. They go back and forth a bit, but it’s Olson’s round. By the sixth, “Bobo” is taking control, leading the fight.
Ninth round, Turpin gets a couple good shots in, regains confidence. He throws the big left hook, but Olson slips it. Turpin comes at him with a right, but gets caught with a left hook of Olson’s. Back against the ropes, four, five, six big punches from Olson, no answer from Turpin. Randy gets off the ropes, throws his right but can’t land it. Back to the ropes and it’s left, right, left, right from Olson and Turpin goes down. He beats the count and the round is over.
Turpin’s caught on the ropes with another left hook in the tenth and is down for the second time. Round eleven, bang-bang, double-jab from “Bobo,” puts Turpin on the ropes again. He gets away, only to be caught with a brutal belly shot, and he’s leaning, leaning. It goes on like this, Turpin being held up, Olson moving in, working it. Randy does get a good round off in the thirteenth, avoids punishment and dishes out some of his own, but it’s late.
In the final round, a desperate Turpin goes for the knockout, but he just can’t land the big shot he needs. He takes the round, and there’s some pride in that, but the night is Olson’s.
“If I had been in my natural mental state, I could have stopped him about the eighth round. But I’ve had so many personal troubles recently, I wasn’t myself.” That’s Turpin after the fight. He says Olson is no Sugar Ray.
Daniels drops the assault charges a couple weeks after the fight. She does end up suing Turpin for $100, 000 in damages, but gets only $3500, out of court, in the winter of ’55.
Turpin just fades after that, losing the bouts he needs to stay relevant. When he wins he’s putting down nobodies in nothing-fights. He finally retires in the early sixties. Short on cash, he turns to professional wrestling, but he was never a showman and even those crowds tire of him. In 1966, he’s bankrupt. He shoots himself, and he’s gone.
But if you go to Market Square in Warwick, England, you’ll find a statue of Randy Turpin. You look at that fighting pose, and you can flash way back to July 1951, when he took the belt from Sugar Ray in London. Way back when he got his taste, when the fans were chanting his name and everything shone so bright. — David Como