By John F. McKenna: When Sugar Ray Robinson signed to fight Great Britain’s Randy Turpin on July 10, 1951 boxing fans, writers and historians already knew that Sugar Ray was something special and that he was going to go down in boxing history as an all time great. He was a fighter who it was said, could outbox the boxers and outpunch the punchers. Robinson had won all 85 of his amateur fights, 69 coming via the knockout route. 40 of those KO’s came in the first round.
Sugar Ray went on to win his first forty fights after turning professional in 1940. He lost a decision to the “Bronx Bull” Jake La Motta in 1943. He avenged the loss to La Motta just three weeks later and proceeded to win his next ninety fights in a row. During that amazing streak Sugar Ray won the world welterweight title in 1946, a title he would hold for five years before stepping up to the middleweight division.
On February 14 1951 Robinson won the middleweight title when he stopped Jake La Motta in the 13th round in the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. After taking the middleweight crown from La Motta, Sugar Ray embarked on his “European Tour.”
Robinson was wildly popular on the continent particularly in Paris.
Finally Robinson went to London to fight the remarkably good Randy Turpin. The fight turned out to be sensational with Turpin giving Sugar Ray far more than he bargained for.
Robinson was supposed to breeze through his British opposition and when he arrived at Earl’s Court in London to face Turpin even the Brits gave Turpin very little chance to upset the talented Robinson who seemed to be invincible.
Turpin, to his credit was not in awe of Sugar Ray and did not fear him. Randy had come off a series of knockouts in the lead up to his encounter with Robinson and was well prepared for the task in ahead of him.
When the bell sounded for the first round and the combatants approached each other there was a sense that things were not going to go as Sugar Ray had planned. Randy confidently approached Sugar Ray and from the first round on, out boxed and out fought his famous adversary. As the rounds progressed the fans in attendance kept waiting for Robinson to turn things around and take control of the fight. Try as he did though, Sugar Ray could not pull the trigger and Randy continued to pile up points.
Randy’s fans began to hope and think the unthinkable as the fight wore on into the ninth and 10th rounds. Was it possible that Turpin could pull off what was thought to be an impossible victory against the living legend Sugar Ray Robinson?
As it turned out Turpin outfought Robinson for the duration of the fight. Sugar Ray showed his true class in defeat, his first loss in ninety fights. He made no excuses and acknowledged that he had been beaten by a better man.
Randy became an instant British hero and was mobbed by his adoring fans. He was paraded through his hometown of Leamington in an open top car to enjoy his moment in the sunshine.
April 4, 2012