The Perfect Punch – and the boxing immortal who threw it

62 years ago today, the great, the incomparable, the immortal Sugar Ray Robinson knocked out the rock-chinned Gene Fullmer with one blisteringly superb punch at the Chicago Stadium. In doing so, Robinson did far more than merely regain the world middleweight title from the man he’d lost it to four months earlier. What Sugar Ray did was give us a punch and a KO for the ages. The perfect punch? If there is such a thing, Ray Robinson threw and landed it on the rock of chin that belonged to Fullmer on May 1st 1957.

Former 160 pound champion and now challenger Robinson, under pressure from the first bell as the much younger Fullmer advanced in his usual rough handed manner, was past his best at age 37, so said the majority of experts; yet Sugar Ray had one helluva trick up his left sleeve. The first four rounds saw the reigning middleweight king working at a very active rate, while the ageing Sugar Ray bided his time and looked for openings. What happened when he found one was something no-one had been expecting.

With Fullmer right on top of him, Robinson took a half-step back and then flashed out a stunning left hook. The crunching blow landed flush on Fullmer’s exposed jaw and he went down as though shot with a gun. Never has a more exquisite one-punch knockout been captured on film. The soon to be ex-champion hit the canvas hard, and though instinctively he tried to rise, he was totally gone.

It was a sight to behold, as Fullmer, with the sheer instinct all the great fighters have guiding him, was unable to lift his right glove from the canvas. It looked to all the world as though there was a two-hundred pound weight in Fullmer’s glove, such was the dazed fighter’s inability to lift his glove from the canvas. After an agonising-looking struggle, Fullmer crashed face-first back to the canvas. The fight was over in round number five.

Ray Robinson, a man who scored a vast number of KO’s throughout his long career, had never before, and never would again, land a punch so exquisite. “Did you see that punch!” ringsiders screamed collectively, as Dave Anderson, Robinson’s biographer, recalled years after the fight. Fullmer certainly never saw it, he had no recollection whatsoever of the left hook that had knocked him out, this being the first time he had ever been KO’d (and the first of just two occasions when the warrior from Utah was ever stopped).

The punch and the knockout it caused remains the most impressive and remarkable over sixty years later. Sugar Ray Robinson truly was The Greatest.