SRR vs. PBF and Generational Prejudice
By Ted Sares: You always say 'I'll quit when I start to slide', and then one morning you wake up and realize you've done slid --Sugar Ray Robinson
if we compare either the fight itself or each of the two men [PBF and De La Hoya] involved with the glory days of pugilist masters like Ray Robinson and the almost unbelievable fights he had, we are going way too far with the hype… Look at the facts, Robinson had over two hundred fights as a pro - over twice as many as both Oscar and Floyd combined. And Ray was never once legitimately KO'd. Fighters were just tougher back in Robbie's day. It's that simple. --James Slater
I confess to being an unabashed Robinson fan. In my recently published book, I included a piece (Chapter 50) on the top 100 fighters since 1950 and had Ray a firm number one. Here is what I said about him:
“1. Sugar Ray Robinson’s final record was a gaudy 175-19-6-2 with 109 KOs. In a career that spanned three decades, Sugar Ray embodied the essence of the Sweet Science. He was a world welterweight champion and held the middleweight title five times. He never lost to a welterweight. When he gave up the 147- pound title to challenge Jake LaMotta for the middleweight championship in 1951, his record was 121-1-2. The lone loss was to LaMotta and both draws were against middleweights. Incredibly, he was so great for so long that he won his first Fighter of the Year award in 1942 and his second award in 1951. Talk about book ends! The fact that I don’t have to say much says it all. In 201 fights over an amazing twenty-five-year career, Robinson failed to finish a fight only once when he was felled by heat prostration against Joey Maxim in a fight he was winning handily.” (Boxing is my Sanctuary)
He is considered by the majority of boxing historians as the greatest of all time. He started his career at lightweight but could knock out middleweights with one punch from either hand. Completely dominant at welterweight, His peak record was 128-1-2. He had a 91 bout winning streak against first class competition. He could do it all. He had speed, power, fluid boxing skills, and could take a tremendous punch. He was never physically knocked out in over 200 fights. He was as close to perfection as it gets in boxing. Ray received 60% of the Boxing Historian’s first place votes. 27 of 30 placed him inside the top three, and he is the only fighter who did not receive a vote outside of the top 10.
Of course, looking through the prism of nostalgia makes everything seem better and I like to play out the old school memories just like other old timers. However, I also try to be thoughtful (if not objective) when making comparisons between the past and the present--and that’s where the issue of generational prejudice comes in (some thoughtful posters call it “era” prejudice). And, of course, that’s where comparisons between SRR and Floyd Mayweather Jr. come in.
Robinson vs. Mayweather Jr.
I’m not going to make skills comparison here except to state below how I see a mythical fight between the two playing out at a particular point in time.
“When PBF fights Sugar Ray, the PPV is the largest in boxing history. Mayweather comes in at 40-0 while Sugar is at 128-1-2. The fight, however, turns out to be less than sizzling; in fact, it’s a boring encounter. Once again, styles make fights and their two styles are too similar to make this one interesting. Nevertheless, Robinson does enough to win a close UD. Neither fighter was in any trouble during the fight. As they hugged, both seemed pleased with the result even though its Pretty Boy’s first career loss.”
Note that Sugar was 128-1-2 coming in. That was not the fictional ramblings of a nostalgic old timer who refuses to recognize the goodness of modern fighters. No, that was plain fact. PBF will probably retire with fewer than 45 fights under his belt and a frequency index (frequency of fights) that doesn’t even begin to compare with that of Ray’s. “Cherry picking” and PPV mega-purses were not in vogue back then. Maybe that’s why Oscar and PBF do what they do. Maybe that’s why Vargas retired with only 31 fights under his belt. Maybe that’s why Sugar Ray (and Willie Pep, for that matter) had to fight as long as they did.
At any rate. The lesson here is to engage the facts before nostalgia. The lesson is to do what fellow writer James Slater does and take into account all essential variables when making comparisons between old and modern. Variable such as number of fights, era (for example, the 70‘s were a great time for heavyweights), stamina, training techniques and methodology, records, style, chin, KO percentages, skill-sets, entire body of work, quality of opposition, management, etc. When this is done, myth is stripped away from facts. When this is done, you are not engaging generational prejudice.
Of course, when I do this, I can’t help but affirm that Sugar Ray was the greatest.
Article posted on 05.01.2008
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