If you ever wanted to see how vastly, how greatly, how severely the sport of boxing has changed over the years, you could do far worse than to go back 80 years – to 1942, and look at what the hottest contender/upcoming superstar/guaranteed future world champion was doing. Ray Robinson, soon to be celebrated the world over by the nickname – no, the NAME of Sugar – was special and everyone knew it.
If he was fighting today, Sugar Ray, THE contender for the welterweight crown, would fight, what – twice a year? Maybe three times?
But Robinson in 1942? He boxed no less than 14 times. This after a 1941 that saw Robbie box an astonishing 20 times! Yeah, boxing was a whole different sport, indeed a different way of life, back in the 1940s. And Ray Robinson was way different than any fighter from today’s era you could care to mention.
After having sent 20 world class guys home with a loss in 1941 – 15 of them being knocked out or stopped – Sugar Ray got busy all over again in 1942. Fritzie Zivic was beaten, in a rematch, this Robinson’s first fight of ’42, and then Maxie Berger was taken care of, and then Marty Servo, and then Sammy Angott, and then, in October of 1942, Jake LaMotta was outpointed in the first of six wars Sugar Ray and The Bronx Bull would engage in. To cap off ’42, Robinson beat Izzy Janazzo twice, with a win over Vic Dellicurti sandwiched in there.
Talk about a hectic schedule.
And to think, by the time he was 23 years old, Ray Robinson (who had, we must never forget, 85 amateur fights, all wins) was an amazing 44-1 – the sole loss coming against Jake. And after all that, Sugar Ray’s biggest wins, his finest performances, his world title glory; it all lay ahead of him. Today, the finest fighters, the world champions, they have, what, one fight a year, maybe two? The up-and-coming contenders have, what, three fights a year, maybe four?
It was so, so different in Sugar Ray’s day. He was special. The sport was special. There was only one world champion at each weight. There were just eight weights. The best fought the best on a regular basis; the paying fans would settle for nothing less.
And though the Mob controlled far too much in the 1950s and 1960s, the king of kings, Ray Robinson bowed to no man. Nor did Sugar take much of a break between tough fight after a tough fight.
And to think, some people dare to suggest guys like Mayweather, Leonard, Pacquiao, Crawford, and others deserve to be ranked in the same class as Robinson.
Sugar Ray’s accomplishments, compiled during the toughest of roughest times for any pro boxer: world welterweight king, five-time middleweight boss; a final record of 174-19-6-2(109) – more than prove he was and is in a class all of his own.
Don’t ever be fooled into thinking anything different.