Sugar Ray Robinson
The twenty five year career of Sugar Ray Robinson marks him as one of the greatest boxers of all time. His talent and skills are only part of the package which also included indomitable strength, lightning fast agility and remarkable endurance and stamina. He stands among the ranks of greats like Joe Louis or Muhammed Ali and differentiates himself with his quiet persona that did not seek out the limelight throughout his outstanding time in the profession. Other contenders certainly pursued much more time in the spotlight, ensuring that there legacy was recognized and lauded while Robinson garnered attention from his good looks and engaging personality.
Robinson was born as Walker Smith in 1921 in Detroit, the youngest child with two sisters, to a hard-working family struggling to make it away from the south. His father worked tireless rarely taking a day off, taking a toll on the family and the marriage broke up prior to Robinson’s adolescence. His mother moved the family to Harlem where Robinson dropped out of school to pursue a boxing career. He borrowed identification under the name of Robinson thus acquiring his professional moniker. Robinson had a trouble youth, associating with street gangs and marrying for a short time as a teenager with a son.
Robinson began his professional career at the age of 19 and fought a solid 11 years with only a single loss to Jake LaMotta, the Raging Bull, in his birthplace, Detroit. Robinson met LaMotta time and time again, beating him 5 times out of 6 and eventually taking the middleweight championship title from him a match that went on to be coined the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. After 13 rounds of savage battling, the fight ended in a knockout. He would go on to win it a total of five times in his career.
Robinson enjoyed the spoils of his labours, traveling with an entourage and opening Sugar Ray’s in Harlem, a famous hot spot that hosted stars like Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and Nat King Cole. He loved to perform outside of the ring as well and would never turn down an occasion to sing or dance. His charisma and flamboyance were truly a huge part of his charm. After his first marriage, he married again a few years afterward and remained with his second wife, Edna May, for 17 years before they divorced. His last marriage was to Millie Bruce in 1965 and after he retired, they moved to L.A. until the time of his death.
Beyond his many additional talents and ventures, Robinson clearly shone in the ring and his fan base included people like Ali himself along with numerous other Hall of Fame fighters. He had a unique blend of every aspect required to make him unique in the fighting world.
Ironically, his fast life style easily blew through his millions in earnings that he accrued both inside and out of the ring and once he retired in 1965 at age 44, continued to work to survive as an actor in television in film. He started a charity foundation for underprivileged youth in the Los Angeles area. Robinson was diagnosed with late onset diabetes and he declined in his later years as he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and died at the age of 67.
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