By John F. McKenna (McJack): The confidence Robinson had in himself greatly contributed to his success as a fighter. He was far tougher than he appeared to be and had a great chin. In over 200 fights Ray was never knocked out, save when he collapsed from the heat at the end of the 13th round in the Joey Maxim fight.
Ray would travel to London for his next epic fight. In a sensational fight with England’s Randy Turpin, Sugar Ray lost a fifteen round decision on July 10, 1951. On September 12, 1951 Robinson recaptured the middleweight championship with a 10 round TKO of Turpin. Ray would win Ring Magazine’s “Fighter of the Year” award for the 2nd time. Following the fight there was dancing in the streets by the residents of Harlem.
In 1952 Robinson won a decision over Bobo Olson then scored a 3rd round KO over Rocky Graziano. Next Sugar Ray challenged Light Heavyweight Champion Joey Maxim on June 25, 1952. The fight was held at Yankee Stadium on an extremely hot, humid evening. The temperature at ringside was over 100 degrees and referee Ruby Goldstein was the 1st victim of the heat when he collapsed from heat and had to be replaced by Ray Miller.
Robinson had built up an insurmountable lead on all three scorecards, but he too suffered from the effects of the heat and collapsed on his stool after the 13th round. He was unable to answer the bell for the 14th round, suffering the only KO in a career of over 200 fights. Longtime friend Joe Louis visited Robinson in his dressing room after the fight and said Ray looked like a dead man and that the fight should have been stopped in the eleventh round. After the fight Sugar Ray announced his retirement with a 131-3-1-1 record.
Ray would make a comeback in 1955, but his greatest days as a fighter were over. Unfortunately boxing fans that grew up during the golden age of television, the Friday night fights, and then the Wednesday night fights did not witness the greatness of Sugar Ray Robinson. After several fights in which Ray struggled to regain some semblance of his former greatness, including a disappointing loss to Ralph “Tiger” Jones, Ray got his hoped for title shot against reigning champion Bobo Olson. Surprisingly Robinson scored one of his patented “delayed action” KO’s in the 2nd round and won the middleweight title for the 3rd time.
The KO was quite unexpected because Sugar Ray’s performances since his comeback were not the least bit impressive. Robinson hit Olson with a lightning quick devastating combination. Bobo appeared to momentarily freeze before collapsing to the canvas. Robinson again KO Olson in the rematch in 1956.
Over the next several years Ray would lose almost as many fights as he won. He lost the title to Gene Fullmer on January 2, 1957. Fullmer was a very tough and strong fighter and he possessed a chin of granite. On May 1, 1957 Sugar Ray again fought to regain the middleweight title. Robinson had noticed in his first bout with Fullmer that he had a tendency to lower his right hand when launching his body attack. Ray allowed Fullmer to land his body shots early in the fight so that he would feel comfortable and feel that he was getting away with it. In the 5th round Gene dropped his right hand for a split second and allowing Ray to throw what boxing historians refer to as “The Perfect Punch”.
It was a left hook thrown in a split second to Fullmer’s unprotected chin. Gene crumpled to the canvas and was counted out. When Fullmer came to, he saw Robinson celebrating across the ring and asked his handlers why the fight had been stopped. He was advised that “The count had reached eleven.” This was a brief flash of the glory days when Sugar Ray would routinely score sudden KO’s with either hand.
Robinson had accomplished what few people thought was possible. He had won the middleweight championship for the 4th time during a period of time when his skills had diminished from where they were during the 1940’s and early 1950’s.