It’s been called “the perfect punch,” and, “a punch for the ages.” It was thrown and landed, perfectly, by the one and only Sugar Ray Robinson, back on this day, May 1st, in 1957. Robinson’s flashing left hook to the granite jaw of defending middleweight world champion Gene Fullmer left seasoned experts with open mouths. The punch and its devastating effects still send a jolt, a buzz, down the spine.
Some historians point to Rocky Marciano’s “Suzy Q” and the nerve shredding impact it had on Jersey Joe Walcott in the 13th round of their heavyweight title fight, others say the crunching left uppercut KO blow landed by Walcott on Ezzard Charles in the seventh round of their third fight is the finest punch ever thrown. But most experts say the lethal left Sugar Ray ruined the teak-tough Fullmer with is the cream of cream, the best of the best – textbook stuff. Robinson, behind on points in the return fight with Fullmer, later said he had “shown him the right all night,” and that he then stunned Gene with a left hand bomb he was not expecting. Fullmer said he never even saw the punch, that he had no memory of being hit. But then it was, the perfect punch.
Going backwards a little at the time, Robinson, with great speed and beautiful timing, managed to load his left hook with every pound of pressure and sheer force he could muster. Fullmer was out the split second the blow made impact with his chin. This wasn’t just the greatest knockout ever captured on film, it was also Sugar Ray’s sweetest KO, his sweetest win. Robinson took out a good many great fighters during his astonishing 25 year pro career, yet the Fullmer master punch was and is something truly special. Who among boxing fans hasn’t seen it? And once you have seen it, you rewind and watch with awe, again and again and again.
Robinson, fully deserving the crown of pound-for-pound best ever, was for many the perfect fighter. Fast, possessing superb balance, having amazing stamina, blessed with a great chin and of course, having crippling punching power in both hands, Sugar Ray was all that is great about boxing, all that is great about a fighter. Born Walker Smith Jr, Robinson was born 100 years ago this month – May 3rd, 1921. I both hope and expect to see many tribute pieces coming out. In short, nobody did it better. Not ever. This will not change no matter how long this wonderful sport we so love endures.
Consider some of Sugar Ray’s achievements:
An amateur record of 85-0 with 69 KO’s
Five-time middleweight ruler
Astonishing numbers that saw him at one point boast a 40-0 record; this before Robinson had had a single title fight.
Numbers that once saw him boast a 89-1-1 record, with the loss and the draw both subsequently avenged.
Wins over: Jake LaMotta, Tommy Bell, Henry Armstrong, Fritzie Zivic, Sammy Angott, Kid Gavilan, Bobo Olsen, Randy Turpin, Rocky Graziano, Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilio.
A final ring record that reads 173-19-6 – no contest (109 KO).
Is Sugar Ray Robinson the greatest fighter who ever lived? You bet he is.