Here’s to you Mr. Robinson
November 14, 2006
Last week I wrote an article quoting promoter Dan Goossen and HBO unofficial fight judge Harold Lederman, who respectively said that it was not fair to compare welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather with other great fighters of the past and that he is the best fighter in the world today.
I agree that Mayweather, who defeated Carlos Baldomir for the world welterweight championship Nov. 4, is the pound-for-pound best boxer in the sport. I also think that Mayweather deserves to meet Oscar De La Hoya, another boxer regarded by many as great.
But great today and great yesteryear are two different things. Read this and ask yourself if either Mayweather or De La Hoya can compare to Sugar Ray Robinson, who fought from 1940-65.
Let’s start with records. The 29-year-old Mayweather is 37-0 with 24 knockouts, while the 33-year-old “Golden Boy” is 38-4 (30).
De La Hoya has fought only five more times than “Pretty Boy,” in spite of being a pro four years longer.
Robinson, who is said to have never lost in a 100-plus amateur bout career, was 22 by the time he had reeled off a record of 41-0 in the span of just over two years to start his career.
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Mayweather has been a pro for 10 years, De La Hoya 14.
After losing his first fight to Jake LaMotta in 1943, Robinson (who had already beaten the “Bronx Bull” once in 1942) went on to avenge his lone defeat to LaMotta 21 days later.
Seven days before that, Robinson beat Jackie Wilson in a 10-rounder.
Three fights after defeating LaMotta, Robinson beat his idol, Henry Armstrong.
Armstrong, also considered an all-time great, won titles at featherweight, lightweight and welterweight and was held to a disputed draw by Ceferino Garcia in attempt to win the middleweight title.
There was only world champion per division then and there were no junior lightweight, junior welterweight or junior middleweight belts when Armstrong, 150-21-9 (100), accomplished his feat in the span of 10 months beginning in 1937.
Robinson, then 26, didn’t receive his first title shot until his 76th fight, when he defeated Tommy Bell – they fought 15 rounds, not 12 back then – for the world welterweight championship.
De La Hoya received his first title shot in his 12th bout, defeating someone named Jimmi Bredahl for the WBO junior lightweight belt. Two fights later, De La Hoya beat Jorge Paez for the WBO lightweight strap.
Mayweather had to wait longer. In his 18th bout, Mayweather stopped Genaro Hernandez for the WBC super featherweight belt.
It should also be noted that another great fighter, Harry Greb, didn’t get a shot at the middleweight crown until his 245th pro bout. He was 29 when he defeated Johnny Wilson for the belt in 1923.
Greb died following surgery for his scar tissue when he was only 32 and by that time had fought 305 times.
While it’s true that Robinson, unlike Mayweather, had a loss on his record, he would soldier on, defending his welterweight crown five times before moving up to stop LaMotta in the 13th round to win the middleweight championship in 1951.
It was the first knockout loss for LaMotta, who had to take a dive against Billy Fox before he was allowed to receive a shot at the world championship.
Much is made today about how De La Hoya has fought Shane Mosley (both losses) and Fernando Vargas (both wins) two times each and how Mayweather fought Jose Luis Castillo twice. Robinson fought LaMotta six times, winning five. He had too many rematches to address here.
By the time he suffered his second career loss (to Randy Turpin), Robinson’s record was 132-1.
Robinson was 31 when he knocked out Turpin in the 1951 rematch, and had begun his career as a lightweight, where he won his first 24 bouts. In his 21st fight he defeated future hall of famer and former lightweight champion Sammy Angott, who would retire with a record of 97-27-8 (22).
Credit De La Hoya for beating some good fighters – John John Molina, Rafael Ruelas (who was 43-1), Hernandez (32-0-1) and Jesse James Leija before stopping faded legend Julio Cesar Chavez for the WBC junior welterweight crown.
The Golden Boy also defeated Miguel Angel Gonzalez (41-0), Pernell Whitaker (in a controversial decision), a faded Hector Camacho, Chavez again, and then won the WBC welterweight belt with another controversial decision over Ike Quartey.
Although losing only four times, De La Hoya added a junior middleweight crown and a WBO middleweight belt (in a gift decision over Felix Sturm).
Mayweather has also won titles at 135, 140 and now 147 pounds. The names on his resume speak for themselves: Angel Manfredy, Carlos Gerena, Diego Corrales, Carlos Hernandez, Castillo, DeMarcus Corley, Arturo Gatti, Sharmba Mitchell, Zab Judah and Baldomir.
For his part, Robinson retired for good at the age of 45. By that time he’d lost 19 bouts, drew six times and won 175 times, 109 by knockout, and was five-time middleweight champion.
De La Hoya doesn’t own a middleweight knockout, although he was stopped by a middleweight – former champion Bernard Hopkins. And Mayweather has only one knockout victory at 147 pounds and has never competed at 154 or 160.
Neither fighter can be blamed for never fighting at light heavyweight, as both started out their respective careers at 130 pounds.
Robinson, as already noted, began his career at 135 and owns perhaps the two most perfect knockouts in history at 160 pounds, spectacular one-punch KOs over Gene Fullmer (who’d never before been stopped) and Rocky Graziano.
And, in 1952, an exhausted and dehydrated Robinson (all 157 pounds of him) was winning his fight against world light heavyweight champion (there was no super middleweight division, no WBA, WBC, IBF, or WBO) Joey Maxim when he quit in the corner after the 13th round.
By that time the 104-degree heat at Yankee Stadium had already forced referee Ruby Goldstein to drop out in the 10th round and he was replaced by referee Ray Miller, who finished the bout in his stead.
There’s not enough space to write about all the arguably great fighters Robinson faced. You can look them up on boxrec.com, but unless you’re a historian, they may just look like names to you.
Bert Sugar is a historian and on Sunday had a little fun with former Democratic vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen’s 1988 remark to Republican vice-presidential candidate Dan Quayle (“I knew Jack Kennedy. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”).
When talking about greatness and Mayweather, Sugar said: “I knew Sugar Ray Robinson. Floyd, you’re no Sugar Ray Robinson.”
And neither is Oscar De La Hoya. Nor is anyone else for that matter.