It was, and is, THE biggest boxing upset ever scored by a British fighter. On July 10, 1951, in London, England, Randolph Turpin won a clear 15-round decision over the great Sugar Ray Robinson to take the world middleweight crown. Turpin stunned the world with his wide decision, with the way he manhandled the man many experts called (and still call) the pound-for-pound greatest fighter ever.
Turpin was not allowed to enjoy his great victory for long. Just 64 days. The hastily arranged return fight, set for the Polo Grounds in New York City, saw Turpin face a far more determined, in fact desperate, Sugar Ray. It was a fast start from Robinson this time. Hell-bent on regaining the title, Robinson had rested up after the loss to Turpin (he had “left his legs is Paris” prior to the July fight, Sugar Ray having fought, and partied hard, during his European tour) and he had trained hard this time.
23 year old Turpin, an incredibly strong middleweight who also had a good chin and, it was fair to say, an ‘awkward style,’ took the challenger’s early heat and then came on strong as Robinson began to feel the pace. Robinson had built up a lead but now Turpin was fighting his fight. Would there be a repeat of the first fight? Robinson instead showed his greatness.
Cut over the left eye in the first fight, Robinson felt the blood flow in round ten of the return, the cut having reopened. Sugar Ray knew it was now or never. Gambling, knowing he was on borrowed time, the 30 year old let loose with all of his power. A heavy right stunned Turpin, who was trying his best to hold on. Then a massive right slammed into the defending champion’s head and down he went. Turpin got up, but he was a wounded fighter. His legs weak and his survival instincts his sole remaining asset, Turpin was soon stuck on the ropes.
Robinson threw everything he had in an effort at closing the show. The shots were unanswered, with Turpin swaying on the ropes, and referee Ruby Goldstein had no real choice other than to dive in and stop the fight. There were just eight seconds left in the round. Turpin cried premature stoppage, insisting he had been “rolling with the punches,” but he had not been throwing back. Who knows what might have happened had Goldstein given the dazed Turpin the benefit of the doubt and risked letting him try and see out those final eight seconds?
As it is, Sugar Ray, after over 130 pro fights, was king of the world once again. There would be no third fight. Tragically, Randy Turpin would (allegedly) take his own life by way of shooting himself, this in 1966. Robinson would go on to become a five-time middleweight champion, fighting on for a further 14 years.