May: A Month That Gave Us So Many Great Fighters!

By James Slater - 05/03/2023 - Comments

It’s curious, you may or may not agree, how a certain month of the year can produce greatness. Plenty of greatness. Take our sport of boxing, for example. It’s entirely possible the fifth month of the year produced more truly great fighters than any other month ever did.

Check out the special ones who were born here in May:

Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Leonard, Rubin Carter, Sonny Liston, Marvin Hagler, Gene Tunney, Jerry Quarry, Iran Barkley, John Henry Lewis, Jose Torres, Tony Zale, Mark Breland, Harry Wills, Fritzie Zivic, Joe Brown, Carlos de Leon, George Benton, Rocky Castellani, Young Corbett III, Sam McVey, Harry Forbes….and of course, Sugar Ray Robinson.

Agree, I think you will, that the month we are now is produced so many great, great boxers. Sure, this may be trivia and nothing much more, but the month of May certainly gave us THE greatest fighter of them all.

Born 102 years ago today, in Alley, Georgia, Robinson came into the world as Walker Smith Jr. Fight fans know the story of how a teenage Smith Jr was given his new, soon to be globally celebrated name. Having got into boxing through his friend Joe Louis, for whom Walker would carry his gym bag, the 15 year old tried to fight in a boxing tournament but was turned down because he was too young. Smith Jr borrowed the I.D of a boxer named Ray Robinson and the rest is history – Smith Jr was now Ray Robinson.

The Sugar nickname came later, when a ringside observer told Ray and his manager how he was “one sweet fighter.”

Sugar Ray Robinson was in a class all by himself. As an amateur, he went an amazing 85-0, with 69 KO’s. Turning pro in 1940, Robinson was untouchable, winning his first 40 fights. The first loss came against middleweight Jake LaMotta, with welterweight Robinson dropping a decision he would go on to avenge no less than five times. Robinson met and defeated a number of great fighters, including Henry Armstrong (Robinson’s ring idol, along with Louis; Sugar Ray meeting a faded version of Armstrong), Fritzie Zivic, Tommy Bell, Rocky Graziano, Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilio and many more. But it is the savage and demanding rivalry Sugar Ray had with “The Bronx Bull” that fans seem to think of most when the majesty of Sugar Ray is discussed.

And for sure, Robinson showed everything in his formidable arsenal in the fights/wars with LaMotta: his speed, his power and accuracy, his great stamina, his fine chin, his heart and desire. Sugar Ray was a complete fighter. His status as The Greatest Of All Time isn’t going anywhere. Not ever.

201 pro fights – 174 wins, 19 defeats and six draws. Stopped just once, this when the 104-degree heat got the better of Robinson (and the referee). Welterweight king from 1946 to 1951, five-time middleweight ruler from 1951 to 1960. Robinson made the sport he excelled in look prettier, more attractive, and more super-special than any man, before or since.