Nineteen Years Ago Today - The Great Sugar Ray Robinson Passes Away
by James Slater: It is fitting that today, April 12th, there is a huge amount of boxing action taking place. For today marks the 19th anniversary of the death of THE single most gifted and consistently brilliant boxer in the history of the sport. Nineteen years ago today, the man born Walker Smith Junior, passed away at the age of 67..
Article posted on 13.04.2008
It seems only right that on this anniversary of his passing the boxing world is treating its fans to no less than four big world title fights - two of them at welterweight. Maybe Sugar Ray will be looking down as four fighters from this series of bouts will be locking horns to contest for his old world title at welterweight. Indeed, what would Robinson have made of boxers like Miguel Cotto and Kermit Cintron, to name just two of today's champions at 147 pounds?
A lot has changed along the boxing landscape since the glittering days of the original "Sugar Man's" peak. For one thing, there are more world titles up for grabs. Look at tonight, for example - four men will be fighting for two versions of what used to belong to just one man, the welterweight championship of the world. The prize money too, has vastly increased. Sure, inflation has a lot to do with it, but nowadays a world champion fighter can earn a great living by fighting just once or twice a year - an unheard of thing back in Robinson's day.
Just how great was Ray Robinson? One quick look at his pro record gives you a big clue. 200 fights and never legitimately KO'd! Yes, that's greatness all right. Then there's the number of world title fights Ray engaged in, and against such awesome competition. You know the names - men like La Motta, Graziano, Fullmer, Basilio, Olsen, Maxim, Turpin, Gavilan, Bell and on and on and on - but take another look at the numbers. Ray Robinson, over a period of fourteen years, fought in over 20 world title fights. No, that's not such a huge amount, but when one considers not only the amount of non-title bouts Robbie engaged in during this period, and against what good type of opposition, but also the fact that Sugar had a layoff of two-and-a-half years during this time also, you see how harder a fighter had to fight back in the 1940's and '50's.
Does this make a fighter greater than his modern day equivalents? You're damn right it does! If only due to the fact that when you fight more often you run the risk of losing more often. And the peak Ray Robinson hardly ever lost. No, there was no playing it safe and handpicking your opponents back then, certainly not like there is today anyway. Ask yourself, could a Floyd Mayweather Junior, for example, have survived in Robinson's fight-a-good-four-or-five-times-a-year schedule? I doubt it.
This is not having a go at Mayweather or any modern day fighter, the game has changed to the extent that they couldn't fight that often nowadays even if they wanted to. It's just stating how great yesteryear's fighters, the majority of them, anyway, were. This is no truer than in the case of the once-in-a-lifetime pugilistic master who passed away exactly 19 years ago today.
Rest in Peace, Sugar Ray.
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