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Manny Pacquiao and fighters who transcend boxing – Pt 3

Manny Pacquiao Sugar Ray RobinsonBy John F. McKenna (McJack): It is ironic that another fighter who transcended boxing was Joe Louis’s close friend Sugar Ray Robinson, who is generally acknowledged by boxing historians and those who actually saw him fight as the greatest “Pound for Pound” fighter who ever lived. As a matter of fact the term “Pound for Pound” was a term boxing writers came up with when they were attempting to figure out where to place him among the all time greats.

In the late 1940’s boxing historians and fans already knew that Sugar Ray was one of the all time greats, but there was no mechanism to compare him with the great fighters of the past such as lightweight Benny Leonard and middleweight Harry Greb. Robinson had an extraordinary amateur and professional career amassing a record of 128-1-2 before losing his 2nd professional fight to Randy Turpin in 1951. Robinson had an unbeaten record of 85-0, 69 KO’s as an amateur.

But fistic ability alone is not what makes fighters transcend the sport. Robinson personified the word class. He had charisma back in 1951 before people even know what the word meant. It’s hard to explain in words what charisma is, but Sugar Ray had it. He knew it and everyone around him knew it. He was the focal point of attention and he did it without being obnoxious and without putting other fighters down.

Sugar Ray moved up from welterweight to take Jake LaMotta’s middleweight title on February 14, 1951. The fight would forever be known as “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”. After defeating “The Bronx Bull” with a 13 round TKO at Chicago Stadium, Robinson went on his heralded “European Tour”. It was obvious to all by that point that Sugar Ray had transcended boxing. Always flamboyant traveling with his flamingo pink Cadillac and his “Entourage” of hangers on, he drew huge crows wherever he went and was especially loved in Paris where he was treated as Royalty. The unique thing about Robinson was that when it came to him people became color blind.

When he retired for good in 1965 Sugar Ray was given a commemorative party to honor him at Madison Square Garden. All the ex champions he had fought were there including Bobo Olson, Gene Fullmer, Randy Turpin and Carmen Basilio. During the ceremony Sugar Ray was hoisted on the shoulders of the fighters he had once competed against.

Ironically missing was the fighter who wanted to be there the most, his long time arch rival Jake Lamotta. Jake was banned from appearing by the boxing commission because he had acknowledged during a U.S. Congressional investigation of boxing that he had thrown a fight against “BlackJack” Billy Fox on November 15, 1947. LaMotta alleged that throwing the fight was the price had to pay to the Mob for obtaining a title shot down the road.

Robinson had everything as a fighter with no apparent weaknesses. He was also blessed with extraordinarily good looks and intelligence. He could also sing and dance a bit, but as his son once noted, he was no Fred Astaire.

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