"Pound for pound, the best." The claim has been used to describe many boxers, but it was invented for Sugar Ray Robinson.
Never mind the weight class. When it came to boxing, Robinson was as good as it got.
Muhammad Ali called Sugar Ray "the king, the master, my idol."
"Robinson could deliver a knockout blow going backward," boxing historian Bert Sugar said.
Robinson held the world welterweight title from 1946 to 1951, then was the middleweight champion five times between 1951 and 1960. At his peak, his record was 128-1-2 with 84 knockouts. And he never took a 10-count in his 200 fights, though he once suffered a TKO.
His one early loss was to Jake LaMotta, his career-long rival. They fought six times, and Robinson won five.
As recently as 1997, Robinson was renamed the best of all time -- "pound for pound" -- when The Ring magazine chose him the best boxer in its 75 years of publication.
But Robinson's legacy was not made on boxing alone. He was one of the first African-American athletes to become a major star outside of sports. With his flashy pink Cadillac convertible and his Harlem nightclub, Sugar Ray was as much a part of the New York scene in the forties and fifties as the Copa and Sinatra.
He was the pioneer of boxing's bigger-than-life entourages, including a secretary, barber, masseur, voice coach, a coterie of trainers, beautiful women, a dwarf mascot and lifelong manager George Gainford.
After making an estimated $4 million in the ring, Robinson spent himself into destitution by the mid-sixties. Then he reinvented himself by getting into show business -- acting and even singing. But he would al...
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...ight five times in 36 days for as little as $1,100 a night. Soon after losing a 10-round decision to Joey Archer, the 44-year-old Robinson announced his retirement -- this time for good. He finished with a record of 175-19-6 with two no-decisions, according to The Ring.
In his later years, Robinson resumed a show-business career that enabled him to rally his finances. He moved to Southern California with his third wife, Millie. By 1986, he made one of his last public appearances as the best man at a wedding. The groom: Jake LaMotta.
Robinson, suffering from Alzheimer's disease and diabetes, died at age 67 on April 12, 1989, in Culver City, Calif.
Sugar Ray Leonard, who took Robinson's name, said, "Someone once said there was a comparison between Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Ray Robinson. Believe me, there's no comparison. Sugar Ray Robinson was the greatest."
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