Forget Lloyd Honeyghan’s huge upset win over Don Curry. Forget Ricky Hatton’s enormous win over Kostya Tszyu. Forget Tyson Fury’s upset win over Wladimir Klitschko. You can even knock off Nigel Benn’s heroic (yet ultimately tragic) upset win over Gerald McClellan. When it comes to THE biggest, most stunning, most awe-inspiring win ever scored by a British boxer, it was and is the unforgettable win Randolph Turpin scored over the one and only Sugar Ray Robinson.
What Turpin did 70 long years ago today made an entire nation sing its heart out. It was truly incredible what Turpin accomplished at Earls Court in London. Turpin really did shock the world with his fifteen-round points win over the pound-for-pound greatest there has ever been.
Sugar Ray may have “left his legs in Paris” (Sugar having partied hard during his recent European tour), but nothing can ever be taken away from Turpin’s brilliance on the night.
Robinson, as great as he was, could not get to grips with Turpin’s style and approach, the pound-for-pound best, who was an amazing 128-1-2 upon entering the ring, falling behind on points and not being able to catch up.
Turpin won a clear 15 round decision, as the vanquished Robinson was man enough to admit after the fight. “I have no alibis,” Robinson said. “I was beaten by the better man.” At the time, the experts wondered if perhaps Robinson was a faded fighter.
While at the same time, fans as well as experts felt Turpin would have a long reign as middleweight king. Instead, Robinson had a whole lot left (more than a couple of career’s worth of fights, if not more by today’s standards), while Randy had scored a win that would never come close to be topped or equalled.
Turpin, 41-2-1, lost the return fight just 64 days later and the 23-year-old saw his career go downhill not too long after. Sadly, Turpin’s demise proved to be far more shocking and disturbing than any of his ring achievements.
One of three boxing siblings – his brothers Dick and Jackie Turpin also having fine pugilistic ability – Randy, like so many other pro fighters, ran into money troubles.
The fight, the win over Robinson, along with the return (Turpin again giving Robinson all he could handle, opening a nasty cut over Sugar’s eye only to be stopped, somewhat controversially, in the tenth-round of the return that took place in the U.S just 64 days after Randy’s Earls Court triumph) should have set Turpin up for life. Instead, he went broke.
Terribly generous and also lax with his tax payment requirements, Turpin was declared bankrupt in 1962. This forced a 34-year-old Turpin to make a comeback, having been retired, he hoped for good, for four years. Two wins followed, over fighters who were both making their pro debut. Turpin would be dead less than two years after his final boxing bout.
To this day many have real trouble accepting the senseless, horrifying actions a 37-year-old Turpin is reported (officially) to have taken on the day of May 17th, 1966.
Owning a cafe, Turpin was found dead in the flat above. Self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head were responsible for his death, ruled a suicide, yet Turpin’s 17-month old daughter had also been shot, twice. Miraculously the infant survived, having been rushed to hospital.
But many people do have problems with the official, attempted murder/suicide tale. Turpin was depressed due to his financial woes, yes (even having to take up wrestling in an attempt to earn money), worse still, doctors declared him punch-drunk due to the blows he had taken during his 75 fight pro career.
Yet you will find a number of people who simply refuse to accept the notion that Turpin would have tried to kill his own daughter, whom he was said to have “doted over.”
There are claims, none proven, that Turpin was in fact murdered. Either way, it was a sad, disturbing ending to the life of a fine man; a fine fighter.
Those who were there that July day in 1951 will never forget “jolly good fellow” Randolph Turpin.