"Sugar" Ray Robinson: Good Enough To Have Beaten Both De La Hoya And Mayweather On The Same Night?

02.05.07 - By James Slater: How the fight game has changed over the years. Back in the heyday of the greatest fighter who ever lived, Walker Smith Junior - better known, of course, as "Sugar" Ray Robinson - there was nowhere near as much hype and hoopla given to a big fight. Certainly not as much as this Saturday's "The world Awaits" promotion has had, anyway. Nor was there anywhere near as much monetary reward for the men doing the fighting. Evan someone as phenomenally gifted as Ray Robinson could have only dreamed of earning the kind of cash Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather will pocket this weekend.

Consider: throughout his entire career, Ray Robinson made roughly four million dollars. Nowadays a fighter the calibre of a Floyd Mayweather would not even box a non-title bout for that kind of dough. Hell, Oscar is getting nearly five times that amount for his defence against "Pretty Boy!" Oh, how the sport has changed. And how unfair it all is.

You tell me, are today's gladiators worth the kind of scratch they are getting? Couldn't the original "Sugar Ray" have beaten each of the two men who will enter the ring at The MGM Grand on Saturday with relative ease? Couldn't he have even beaten the pair in the same evening? Without trying to be disrespectful to either man, I believe he could have.

Ray boxed his sublimely brilliant peak years as a welterweight. So, for the sake of fairness, as both Oscar and Floyd now fight at light-middleweight, I will compare the later Ray Robinson with them. Ray fought "The Bronx Bull," Jake LaMotta, at middleweight in 1951. Even then, however, he tipped in at only 155 . No-one is going to argue then, that "Sugar" was either too big as a middleweight, or too small as a welterweight, to have boxed Floyd or Oscar. Losing that pound and-a-half would have been no problem for Robinson.

Now at the exact same weight as his two "dream fight" opponents, what would have happened had they fought?

The 1951 version of Ray Robinson was still a superbly equipped fighting machine. He had neither the brittle hands that so plague Mayweather, nor did he succumb to the stamina shortcomings that Oscar has in the past. Able to fight hard, and punch very hard, for a full fifteen rounds, Robinson would have made mincemeat out of practically any of today's light middleweights - Oscar and Floyd included. Look at the tape of his great fight with the never-say-die LaMotta.

How fast was Robinson? How hard did he hit Jake, and how many times? Could the Oscar De La Hoya that was beaten by today's "Sugar Man," in Shane Mosley, have stood up to what LaMotta had to take when he was in there with Robinson? I don't think so. Picture a similar, but quicker, version of the Hopkins fight, and you will get an idea of what would have happened to "The Golden Boy" had the two men boxed.

As for Floyd's chances with the man he himself says he could have beaten, it's a little more tricky. Seeing as how the fantasy match-up is being held at a weight Floyd has not yet boxed at, we don't know how efficient he will be at 154. Still, it's hard to imagine him improving that much on the recognised talent he has shown in his other bouts. He may even be slower and easier to hit at 154 - let's face it, that's what Oscar's fans are hoping on for Saturday. But even a Floyd Mayweather that is a touch faster at 154 than he has been in previous weight classes would not have been able to master Ray Robinson.

After his easy mid-rounds KO over Oscar, Ray would have been as fresh as a daisy still. With more than enough stamina left in the tank to go today's limit of twelve rounds, Robinson would have pushed little Floyd all over the ring. The Mayweather shoulder roll would have been a nowhere near adequate move with which to avoid the torrent of non-stop blows coming at him from Ray, and the KO would have definitely come. In the early rounds the quickness of "Pretty Boy" would have kept him in there, but by the ninth Robbie's power and perfectly thrown and placed punches would have caught up with him. Never having been hit as hard before in his life, Mayweather would indeed have looked and felt like 'little Floyd,' overwhelmed, beaten up and demoralised as he would have been. Remember, Ray stood five feet, eleven, while Floyd stands only five feet, eight. Robinson had a reach advantage, too. Add these factors to his superior punch power - punch power that was as formidable when retreating as it was when coming forward, don't forget - speed, proven chin and stamina over fifteen rounds, and it's clear there would have been only one winner.

Saturday's fight is a great fight for today, without a doubt. But if we compare either the fight itself or each of the two men involved with the glory days of pugilist masters like Ray Robinson and the almost unbelievable fights he had, we are going way too far with the hype. Look at the facts, Robinson had over two hundred fights as a pro - over twice as many as both Oscar and Floyd combined. And Ray was never once legitimately KO'd. Fighters were just tougher back in Robbie's day. It's that simple.

Article posted on 02.05.2007

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