When many think of one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time, the name Sugar Ray Robinson comes to mind. Considered the original Floyd Mayweather Jr. for his flashiness, he fought to an astonishing 171-19-6 record during the era of the 15-round fight.
Who Is Sugar Ray Robinson?
Hailing from rural Ailey, Georgia, but later becoming a staple in Harlem, New York, Robinson is one of the most dominant amateur boxers, with a murky amateur record of 85-0. However, many believe he lost under his real name, Walker Smith Jr.
Still, after turning pro at 19 in 1940, Robinson amassed a record of 40-0 by 1942 with 28 TKO/KOs until he met Jake LaMotta. Known as The Raging Bull, LaMotta began fighting a year after Robinson, and the New York City native quickly made a name for his stalking, bully-type style, and the amount of damage he could inflict and take.
So when Robinson and LaMotta met for the first time in Madison Square Garden and fought to a unanimous decision victory for Robinson in the 10-round affair, it would stick in LaMotta’s head and begin a rivalry of the ages.
Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Jake LaMotta Rivalry
Twenty-one days later, they would fight again in Detroit, Michigan, where LaMotta would even the score with a unanimous decision of his own, setting the table for even more battles. They would fight four more times over a decade, with Robinson getting the best of LaMotta 5-1 out of their six matchups, but their last pairing was their bloodiest.
I fought Sugar Ray so often I almost got diabetes,” LaMotta said to ESPN in 2016 about the fight on Feb. 14, 1951, at the Chicago Stadium.
Robinson stopped LaMotta in the 13th round to win the undisputed world middleweight title in a fight forever dubbed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
“If the referee had held up another 30 more seconds, Sugar Ray would have collapsed from hitting me,” LaMotta continued.
LaMotta’s world middleweight title was on the line, and he struggled to make weight, coming in six pounds over the limit the day before for his third title defense. Robinson allowed LaMotta to work on him in the early rounds and, much like Ali’s rope-a-dope strategy, waited for “The Bronx Bull” to tire before unloading on him. The plan was risky, as after eight rounds two of the judges had LaMotta ahead.
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Although LaMotta was fading fast, he found some glimpses of glory in the 11th round before Robinson began to control the fight with his slick yet crisp style. The 12th round was all Robinson as he pounded LaMotta’s ribs. The 13th round saw more of the same and the fight was eventually stopped at 2:04 of that round.
“You can’t put me down,” LaMotta recounted to ESPN as he was stopped on his feet from Robinson’s brutal uppercuts that LaMotta stood and took with impunity.
“He’s the toughest guy I ever fought, I never knew anyone who was more aggressive and rough as he,” Robinson said years later, per reports.
Sugar Ray Robinson is one of the fiercest fighters ever to live, and, in part from Jake LaMotta, Robinson showed the world he is Black History.