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Original Issue


The face seemed the same, except for the marks and the blood, and so did the mop of wildly jumbled hair. Even on his great nights, Sugar Ray Robinson's slick pompadour always-stood on end as soon as the fighting began. But this was years away from the great nights. It was the 10th and last round of a bout in Honolulu last month (see cover) with a 31-year-old journeyman named Stan Harrington, who had beaten Robinson once before. Now in the rematch Sugar Ray had won only a round or two. There was little sign of the vicious punching or the brilliant combinations that had made him six times a world champion. His dream of getting one last crack at the middleweight title was dead, and perhaps he knew it—and perhaps he did not. A few weeks before Honolulu, after a dingy win over a nobody, he welcomed photographers to his hotel bedroom and smiled like a reigning champion (below). Ray Robinson is a very hard man to convince.

Millie Bruce perched on a high stool munching cheese crackers and sipping a soft drink, maybe ignoring and maybe savoring the smell of liniment and sweat that pervaded the undersized gym of Washington's Jewish Community Center. She said, "I die inside when he fights. It's hard to see a person you love in that ring. He's a wonderful fighter, a wonderful human being. I've never known a man like him. He's something else."

"He" is Sugar Ray Robinson—once welterweight king, five times middleweight champion. Robinson is 45 now, and there were those listening to Miss Bruce who believed that time has passed him by, along with Dick Nixon and shaving mugs. But Robinson was to fight the next night. Why? Was he broke? "Nobody," Robinson had told a reporter, "has ever been champion six times."

Nobody has ever been champion even once by losing back-to-back fights to unranked Stan Harrington and Memo Ayon—a double sin committed by Sugar Ray in the month before this fight. Yet he was preparing to meet another somebody of widespread obscurity, a chap from Bridgeton, N.J. named Young Joe Walcott (but no relation to Jersey Joe), in Washington's raunchy Coliseum. You knew that if he knocked Walcott from here to Casper, Wyo. it would not be big news anywhere except in Casper. You knew, too, that the once-fearsome Robinson had taken to beating fellows named Clarence Riley and Rocky Randell in places like Pittsfield, Mass. and Norfolk, Va., and that in Rome last year he earned no better than a draw pounding the soft underbelly of one Fabio Bettini. But, waiting for her fiancé to work out, Miss Bruce was all dimples and unshakable faith.

"Of course, Ray's in shape!" she gasped to a question, her dark eyes indignant. "He runs every morning in New York. Twice around the reservoir. I know, because I go with him. I don't run, but I go." Miss Bruce, a trim model who looks as though she could run with Sugar, was quiet for a moment, then apologized for their late arrival in Washington. "Ray's mother was operated on. He just wouldn't leave New York until he knew she was all right. She's a strong and wonderful woman. She's got needles and tubes in her neck, but this morning at the hospital she said, 'Don't forget, Mama told you how to win this fight. Jab him. Jab him, and follow through.' "

Upstairs a friendly little lady bustled about the center's main lobby in distress. Forty or 50 curious people milled about in low humor. Some had waited more than two hours for the workout promised by Promoter J. Edward Weaver, more to ballyhoo the fight with Walcott than to tone the ex-champ's muscles.

"Papers say the public invited," intoned a husky man in workman's clothes.

"We don't have any place to put you," the lady said. "Can't you see the newspapers had it all wrong?"

The lady went downstairs to tell Weaver. Weaver, in turn, edged up to George Gainford, Robinson's crusty trainer-manager, who, with proper solemnity, solved the problem: the public would be admitted to an adjacent basketball court for a few minutes of rope-skipping.

Millie Bruce said, "We didn't know this was to be a public workout. In fact, Ray hadn't planned on any workout. He ran this morning. You won't believe him! He looks—why, he's much more handsome than his pictures. He looks so young! A man said to him the other day, 'You can't be Ray Robinson!' And Ray said, 'I better be. I've thought I was for 45 years.' Forty-five and he's still walkin' and wantin'. "

At the moment Sugar Ray was walkin' circles in a dressing room the size of a small closet, wantin' to know when in hell the show got under way. In his good days Ray Robinson invaded Paris with special troops even Hitler hadn't thought to provide for himself: hair stylists, court jesters, manicurists, handgrips, favored cronies, golf pros and secretaries. His temperamental outbursts rivaled Maria Callas', and he was as independent as Charles de Gaulle. This was the Ray Robinson of the near-Kennedy pompadour, the long purple Cadillac and the $50 tips. He was a merry, mercurial king, who could laugh one minute and bless out the faithful Gainford the next. But when the time came and Robinson fought he was a thing of beauty, jabbing, crossing, dancing, a dangerous cobra striking, a mongoose skirting danger until time for the kill.

"He's a kind man," his Miss Bruce was saying. "In Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Stockholm—he goes to visit hospitals, shut-ins, all kinds of handicapped people. And he asks no credit for it. He does it even when he's not promoting a fight. He tells me, 'Gump, my luck's been good. I got enough to share.' "

The kind man appeared at the door. There was a stir as the invited and uninvited recognized him, the man who had chopped down Steve Belloise, Randy Turpin, Bobo Olson, Carmen Basilio, Gene Fullmer, Kid Gavilan. Robinson hit them and their eyes crossed.

Robinson drifted into the gym, wrapped in a white terry-cloth robe. He had a bemused grin on his face that said he knew the joke, and the joke was not on him. He did not, you noticed, walk on his heels. "Honey," Miss Bruce called, stretching her hand toward Robinson. But he was gone, carrying his cockeyed smile to the heavy bag a dozen paces to her left. When Robinson shucked the robe with one shrug of his shoulders he revealed a body even a young man would trade a dozen years for. On smooth, brown legs he shuffled in on the bag, his face carefully deadpan. There was a quick flash of fistic history before your eyes: left, left, left, right uppercut, left hook, jab.

"Punch it out to all cameras," Gainford called. "Right into the lens, Ray. That's it, baby. Both hands." Robinson's fleet grin beat his next tattoo of punches by a split second.

Happily, Promoter Weaver said, "Don't he boss that bag?"

"Yeah," said a newsman. "The bag can't punch back."

Gainford was saying, "Over to the light bag, Ray." Millie Bruce smiled. "I want you to see this. He can really do this." Sugar Ray really did it, all right. He made the small gym vibrate with rat-a-tats, now a blurred left, now a matching right, now a crescendo of moving fists and now a raised eyebrow at his manager, as if to inquire why all the overtime. Gainford said, "O.K. Let the crowd in. He'll skip rope. Wait a minute. Somebody cut those bandages off his hands."

Softly, Robinson said, "You cut 'em, George." Gainford produced a knife, and he cut 'em.

Pushing toward the basketball court, men with overgrown bicepses talked the fight game. One was Holly Minis, a so-so middleweight who still feels he could have been champion, if only he had gotten the breaks. He fought Robinson in 1951, thought he had won (" 'Man,' he say to me after the fight, 'where they been keepin' you?' ") and this week he was to be on the same card with Robinson, but not against him. "I could hit him with a right. I could hit him—but I couldn't put him down," Mims said. He yelled something indistinguishable to Gainford, only to be grandly ignored. The fans who had waited so long now milled in to stand on a balcony looking down on the court. They were still, serious, staring at the master.

Millie Bruce again was enthusiastic. "Wait till you see that man skip rope. They asked him to do it on television. Just come on television and skip rope." She beckoned Robinson over. The ex-champ was affable, smiling and extremely brief. His quick handshake and mumbled acknowledgment of the niceties smacked of old rituals. Though he looked tired, the only mark on him was a healing cut above the right eye. He seemed shy and withdrawn, but you realized his was artful shyness. Like a practiced politician, he gave a tidbit and with it the illusion of feast. The rule book said. "Smile and keep moving," and Sugar moved quickly to center court, smiling ever so slightly.

Millie's enthusiasm grew. "Look at this. See, music goes with this. Only they don't have any." Sugar Ray's rope made its own music on the hardwood floor: tappa, tappa, tappa, tappa. Abruptly, he stopped: "That's all." He rewarded the silent spectators with a lackadaisical wave, and for a moment he threatened to smile.

Promoter Weaver frowned his way over to Millie Bruce. "God, he looks tired."

"Sure, he's tired. He ran this morning. Two times around the reservoir."

Weaver looked doubtful. A tall man who once boxed lightweight in the intramural program at West Point, his chest has slipped and his hair thinned. He asked, "How far is that?"

"A long way," Miss Bruce said vaguely. "You know, Ray's been up four straight nights because of his mother's operation."

"That mother thing worries me," Weaver said. "That can mess him up." The promoter tapped his head. "Up here."

"Don't worry about Sugar. He just needs a good night's sleep."

The boxing crowd clustered around Robinson, their professional eyes inspecting him for flaws. They thrust out hands, still wanting to shake with the "champ." Robinson endured their advances, then in response to some private signal he suddenly broke away, jig-danced over and pecked Millie on the cheek and followed this with a mock left uppercut to her chin. Robinson was acting. He is not talkative as he once was, and one gets the feeling around him that he would love to shuck the burdens of being a celebrity. But he is still not ready for the last hurrah.

Gainford spoke to the crowd. He said how Sugar Ray appreciated their coming by and would be grateful should they come out to back him Thursday night. Then he told how Ray's ol' mama was bad sick, and how Ray needed rest because he'd kept a faithful four-day vigil at her bedside. Everybody clapped, but Robinson wasn't around to hear. He had vanished to the private world of his dressing room, where no hands awaited the fraternal grip and you did not need to grin, even slightly, unless you felt like it.

George Gainford started in the amateurs with Ray Robinson back when hamburgers cost a nickel and only Wall Street lawyers had heard of Wendell Willkie. He was in his corner 25 years ago when Robinson launched his pro career by knocking out Joe Echeverria. This night he sat in his shirtsleeves in his small room at the Mayflower Hotel, mopping his brow and complaining about Washington's awful heat. He said, "I can't tell you one thing about that boy we fight tomorrow. I don't know his record, his manager—I don't even know how many arms he's got."

Can Sugar Ray Robinson win the title a sixth time?

"Feeling he can win is 50% of it for a fighter, you know? And Ray's convinced the champ can't beat him."

Maybe so. But the record book says Joey Giardello has beaten him.

Gainford nodded. "Sure," he said, "Ray lost to Giardello. But for the first time in his life Ray went in the ring thinking he'd lose. And maybe that was my fault. I told him not to take the match. But after it was over Ray said, 'Hey, that guy can't beat me! I go six rounds waiting for him to drop something on me. Time I woke up I could take him outa there, it was too late.' "

If and when the bell tolls again for Sugar Ray, how does he take the champion outa there?

"By wanting to. By thinking he can. By keeping mentally ready and in good physical shape. These fights I'm getting Ray—they help keep him ready."

Of late, it was pointed out, they also help keep him in the losers' column.

George Gainford waved a huge paw, as if to slap down an irritating gnat. "Aw, Ray dropped a couple. That Harrington in Honolulu bangs Ray's head with his head in the sixth. Ray's no bleeder, but an artery breaks. Only way I can stop it is by using a solution that—well, one drop in the man's eyes and he's blind. Hell, we don't need to win bad enough to go blind. Last four rounds my man sees so much blood he thinks the Red Cross is pumping it. But he goes into the 10th ahead—then the blood got him."

The way Gainford tells it, blood got in the way down in Mexico, too—Mexican blood in the veins of jingoist judges. "Ray beats this Memo Ayon person down in Tijuana like the United States whipped ol' Hitler. Even the Mexican newspapers say we win eight rounds." (The less generous judges said Robinson won only four.) Gainford is trying hard. Uncomfortably, one realizes this is the first time he has heard a person dredge up alibis for Robinson.

Though Giardello expressed doubts about Sugar Ray's worth as a challenger ("he's on a losing streak and is not rated among the contenders"), Gainford, like Robinson, still had hopes on this night. "Figure it out," he said. "Giardello fights anybody else, he's scuffling to pick up thirty, forty thousand dollars. He fights Ray, he's got to make a hundred thou—and don't expect to have a tough time of it." (Giardello figured it out a little differently later. He signed to fight Dick Tiger on October 21.)

Outside, in the muggy afternoon just turning to dusk, a ragged band of conventioneers stood on the sidewalk hoo-hawing. Somewhere inside Robinson slept. He had spent this day before the fight visiting television stations, hospitals and a children's home. Twice he had called New York to check on his mother. Assured she was doing fine, he had eaten a broiled steak, green salad and iced tea before retiring early. Robinson's telephone calls went to Gainford, a querulous sentry all evening turning away newsmen, strange voices who claimed old ties with Robinson and the frankly curious.

"Naw," he said into the telephone, "no way you can see him tonight. Her, either. Them people's asleep. Ray's tired. Maybe tomorrow...."

He hung up, shaking his head. "I spend half my time on that thing," he said. "But it proves people don't forget what Ray's been. They still want to see him, talk to him—just reach out and touch him.

"He's lost some leg—speed—stamina. Even some punch. No use kidding ourselves. He's lost some of all of it. But he won't get hurt in the ring, because I'm pretty choosy about who I put Ray in there with. I match him with what he's equal to today, not what he could have handled a few years ago. This boy Walcott—why, 10 years ago the commission wouldn't have permitted the match. Ray would have beat him on his lunch hour." Gainford grinned: "I don't know much about Kid Walcott. But I know he can't hurt Ray Robinson."

Rocky Randell couldn't hurt Ray Robinson either. A few months before, in Norfolk, Randell swooned quickly in Sugar's presence, so fast, in fact, that when Weaver, who made that match, offered to give Randell another shot at Robinson in Washington, D.C. the boxing commission refused to license the bout.

"We figure to fight the champ in September," Gainford went on. "Whether we get him or not—I'm gonna give you a little scoop—this is Ray's last year in the ring. He wins the title, fine—he goes out on top. He loses it, or don't get a shot at it—well, Ray's gonna put a show troupe together and tour the Orient and Europe. Those cats crazy about Ray. So, either way, we fight this kid tomorrow and then we tune up maybe three, four more times before Giardello. And that's all, brother. That's all."

The refrain was familiar: just one more, and then one too many and an obscure end. Would Ray Robinson spend his last days grubbing nickels?

"Shoot, man! You better wish you had some of what Ray's got. After we fight Basilio in '57 the government holds up $352,140 for back taxes. Two months ago we finally win a court decision. Ray's gonna get a lot of long green back with compounded interest and all that jazz. And he's got show-biz money coming down the road. He's also gonna invest in closed-circuit television fight promotions. Man, that's where the bread is today—capital gains and everything."

Fight day brought a slow, weeping rain. Robinson stayed in bed while Gainford battled with the telephone. One man invited the former champion to visit a nightclub in which he owned, expected to own or only dreamed of owning a minority interest.

"You offering him money?" Gainford asked.

Well, not exactly...

"Don't do us no favors," Gainford said, hanging up.

Another man volunteered to permit Robinson to loan him $300 to finance his son's hernia operation. Sugar Ray snored on, blissfully unaware of the twin opportunities.

At 10:40 a.m., barefoot and in a white robe, Robinson sat down to a breakfast of steak, dry toast and hot tea. Millie Bruce, who had lunched the previous day on Capitol Hill with old friend Pegga Hawkins, wife of a California Congressman, gave him a report on her sightseeing expedition. She regretted not having visited John F. Kennedy's grave on this first Washington trip. Sugar Ray listened, chewing methodically. "We'll be back, Gump," he consoled her.

Finishing breakfast, Robinson thumbed through a deck of cards while giving stock answers to reporters who had come in. How does it feel to be 45? "I hadn't thought about it until you asked me." (He had given the same answer a week earlier on TV.) Did he think he still had enough stuff to win the championship? "Yes, I truly do. If I didn't I would quit." Somebody commented on an expensively woven linen coat he had worn the previous day. It was "a little somethin' I had made up on the Riviera." Once, talking of his loss to Ayon in Mexico, he permitted himself an open grin: "In Tijuana you got to read the last rites over 'em to win." Then he went back into his shell. He appeared relieved when time came to excuse himself to dress for the weigh-in.

Shortly before noon three men got out of a taxi and scuttled under the marquee of the Washington Coliseum to avoid the rain. One of them was Young Joe Walcott, who did not carry about him the fine flush of youth. With a ducktail haircut, dark glasses, padded-shoulder sports coat and tight, black pants, Young Joe might have been an aging rock 'n' roll singer. He chewed on a toothpick, turning his lumpy face up to sneak a look at the blue-letter marquee. If he expected to see his name he was disappointed, TONIGHT, it read, giving him no hint of fame, SUGAR RAY ROBINSON. HOLLY MIMS IN COFEATURE.

Walcott's advisers, a fat man in a gold coat and a fatter one whose suit looked fresh from an ashcan, trooped into the office to inquire about the weigh-in. A myopic lady in a print dress knew nothing. At the arena's main gate a lone ticket attendant told them to go around to the stage door at the rear of the building. They walked rapidly through the rain, the man in the gold coat holding a protective newspaper over his head. Rain dripped down Young Joe's seamed face, but he did not mind. Just one more indignity to bear in a life of cheeseburgers and long bus rides. After much door-banging a crotchety old man with a red face appeared to disclaim knowledge of any fight, whereupon he slammed the door. The trio made the long trek back to the front of the arena, Young Joe volunteering his only spontaneous remark of the day: "Man, I'm gonna walk all my weight off."

This time the entourage was admitted, after more confusion, to a gloomy, battleship-gray room in the depths of the Coliseum. A young, officious man took Walcott's pulse, poked him in the ribs and asked an embarrassing question: "The papers say you have a 6-10-2 record. That right?"

The pugilist looked uncertainly at his two handlers. The gold coat shrugged in the manner of a lawyer whose client is caught with hot goods. With a laconic "uh-huh" Walcott pleaded guilty. He was guided into an adjoining room to be fingerprinted. They are not very trusting in Washington. Half a dozen prelim fighters were going through the same ritual. None of them bothered to look up at Walcott.

Sugar Ray arrived a good half hour late. He walked in easily, wearing dark slacks and a paisley-print sport shirt, his eyes harboring the cloudy look of a man just aroused from deep slumber. Gainford bellied a path through 40-odd gawkers clogging up the narrow hall. Everybody hi-Sugared and howdy-Rayed as Robinson sidestepped an old-fashioned set of scales on rollers, shucked his shirt and dropped onto a straight-back chair.

Young Walcott either fell or was pushed from the fingerprint room. Little rivers of sweat ran down his body, and you wondered if maybe the fingerprint expert had overexercised his thumbs. He seemed uncertain whether he should speak to Robinson or ignore him, as Sugar was ignoring him. Young Walcott weighed 156 but looked smaller. When the ex-champ mounted the scales—in shorts, undershirt and sneakers—there was a moment of consternation. Sugar Ray muttered under his breath, stripped to the skin and still came in 10 ounces over the 160-pound limit. More mumbles. Gainford said, "Lemme see, Ray." His thumb performed a certain magic on the scales. "Hunnert and sixty on the nose," he proclaimed. Nobody disputed him.

Standing at ringside in the empty arena, Ed Weaver said, "This is my first promotion here, but I've promoted five cards down in Virginia. Tell you anything you want to know."

All right, what was he guaranteeing Robinson for the fight?

Weaver's eyes flicked around the empty seats. "Around five thousand. If I take in 10 I can break even. No way to know on a fight like this. But all I want to do is bring good, clean boxing attractions to Washington. I think the game's worth saving. Good, clean, honest cards will bring the public back in droves."

Why didn't this good, clean, honest card match Holly Mims against Robinson?

"Off the record?" Weaver asked.


Weaver hesitated. "Come on, pal. Don't put me on the spot."

It was suggested that Gainford didn't want Mims for his aging tiger.

"Don't quote me saying that," Weaver protested. "All I know is Sugar Ray Robinson has been a real gentleman. He's done everything he said he would do."

Had Gainford picked Young Joe Walcott for Sugar Ray?

"No. I did."

How young was Young Joe?

"Uh—26, 27, maybe." A young man assisting Weaver said, "Twenty-nine. He's 29." The promoter glared at his buddy.

What was Walcott's won-lost record?

Weaver hesitated before he said, "Eight wins, 10 losses, one draw." Then he made West Point mathematics suspect for all time, adding, "Walcott's batting .500."

Walcott, he was told, had admitted to a 6-10-2 record and to being 30. The promoter looked abashed. "Well," he said, "you can't ever tell what one of these young punks will do in that ring. It just takes one punch..."

They hadn't been in action two minutes before you knew Walcott did not have the one punch. Sugar Ray could have beaten him in snowshoes.

The surprisingly good crowd—nearly 4,000 paying from $2 to $7 per seat-had rocked the arena when Robinson appeared 15 minutes late following Mims's easy win over a half-bald Baltimore fireman. Robinson, bobbing and dancing in the white robe with "Sugar Ray" etched on it in apricot hues, ignored the cheers. By contrast, Walcott had paused on the ring apron to stare in disbelief at a tiny knot of fans applauding him. His next act was to misstep into the rosin box, turning it over.

At the bell Walcott seemed confused. Before he could get himself untracked Sugar Ray had hammered several quick lefts on his nose. Robinson rocked Walcott with a right uppercut and a moment later nailed him with a straight right that had Young Joe retreating. Robinson returned to his corner untouched by human hands.

In the second and third rounds Robinson jabbed and followed through, just as his mother had told him to do. The crowd applauded Robinson's showmanship, and it was easy to feel you were watching the Sugar Ray of old.

Round four brought Walcott a painful lesson in the art of infighting. Sugar's hands worked at his opponent's torso and under the chin. At ringside, in a white sequined dress, Millie Bruce came out of her chair, yelling: "Come on, baby. Come on, love." When Robinson paused to pull up his trunks Young Joe thought he saw his chance. He tried a long, looping right and immediately got tangled in his own shoelaces. Exposed, vulnerable, he struggled frantically for balance. Sugar Ray feinted a punch that could have sent everybody home to early supper, but he did not throw it. He dropped his arms, laughed aloud and tugged again at his shorts.

It was more of the same in the fifth. Robinson boxed Walcott off-balance three times and reprieved him three times. Once, when Walcott moved forward, Robinson chortled aloud, embraced him in the middle of the ring, then wheeled and mashed poor Walcott's sore nose with a stinging left.

But maybe Sugar hadn't been all that sweet. The exertion was taking something out of him. Suddenly, between the fifth and sixth rounds, he looked old.

At first the crowd thought he was resting for the final big push. There were cries of "O.K., Ray, now's the time," "Put 'im away, Sugar Boy." But the old combination one-two-three now misfired. So did some long right hands. Punches that earlier rocked against Young Joe's chin now slipped harmlessly over his shoulders. Fanning herself with a copy of the official program, Millie Bruce grimaced.

It was hot under the ring lights. Sugar Ray grasped through the seventh, sweating buckets. Walcott hit him in the face a number of times, his first meaningful blows of the fight. In the eighth he did it again, and now Young Joe was looking tough. Robinson wasn't grinning anymore. There were scattered boos at the bell.

In the ninth Walcott pounded Robinson in the body, and though Sugar had chopped home a few blows of his own they lacked power. When the two pawed and clutched a moment later in the center of the ring a voice from the $2 seats yelled, "Waltz me around again, Sugar," and too many people laughed.

Many in the crowd were already heading for the exits before the end of the 10th, in which nothing happened except that Young Joe sent in a few more futile body blows. At the finish there was a roll of boos. In Robinson's corner, awaiting the decision, Gainford reproachfully eyed the crowd. Sugar Ray, tarnished but the obvious winner, accepted the victory calmly. All three judges favored him heavily. But the cheers were mostly for Walcott as he swaggered from the ring, proud, apparently, that he had not been knocked out.

Sucking a soft-drink bottle in his dressing room, Robinson thanked the writers who came by to see him. The old conceit, the old lip, the old arrogance were there, if his reflexes and the punch were not. No, he hadn't been hurt—but that boy was tough, no doubt about it. No, the heat hadn't bothered him too much. No, he hadn't really been looking for a knockout. He would be sharper for Giardello if he went the distance a few more times. Nobody was counting, but Robinson had gone the distance three of his last four times out.

Gainford was saying, "I tol' Ray after the third it was too hot up there to go for a KO. I tol' him box easy."

Somebody questioned Gainford's logic. How was it better to pant through 10 rounds than end it early?

Gainford looked pained. "Aw, man." He walked away.

Promoter Weaver bobbed around, flushed in the face, talking of getting Giardello in the same ring come September. He had made $3,000. No telling what a title fight would do.

Soft-voiced, Robinson chased the dream. "I'd like it here in Washington. Outdoors in that big ball park, maybe. It ain't too cold here in September, is it?"

Gainford was ecstatic over young Herbie Lee, an AAU champion on the card, who had just made his pro debut with a three-knockdown TKO. "He's got good moves. And he's still in high school. The right man handling that boy—shu, he could go all the way! He could be another..."

The newsmen rushed off to meet their deadlines. The last curious fans faded away in the halls. Houselights dimmed over the empty arena. Gainford gathered up Robinson's fight paraphernalia, methodically stuffing a small bag.

From the shower, standing under a sting of spray, Sugar Ray called, "Hey, George! What was that cat's name I fought tonight?"




THE SIX TIMES ROBINSON WON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: Sugar Ray beat Tommy Bell for Marty Servo's vacated welterweight throne, held it four years and then, to find opponents, stepped up in class. He won the middleweight title five times, retired once, successfully came back (against Olson) and three times regained the title from men who had taken it from him: Turpin, Fullmer and Carmen Basilio.

New York, 1946: Bell, decision.


[See caption above.]

Chicago, 1951: Jake LaMotta, KO in 13.


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New York, 1951: Randy Turpin, KO in 10.


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Chicago, 1955: Bobo Olson, KO in 2.


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Chicago, 1957: Gene Fullmer, KO in 5.


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Chicago, 1958: Basilio, decision.