Arguably cursed with the worst nickname in the long history of pro boxing, Britain’s Randolph Turpin suffered far worse demons after his boxing career had met its end. Turpin, a fantastically talented middleweight with a style that proved too tricky for even the masterful Sugar Ray Robinson to be able to deal with, went from hero to zero in utterly ghastly fashion.
It was on this day in 1951 when Turpin shocked the world with a fifteen-round points win over the pound-for-pound greatest there has ever been. Yet Turpin’s time at the top proved to be painfully short-lived. To this day, many boxing historians point to Turpin W15 Robinson as THE biggest boxing upset there ever was (Sugar Ray was the greatest ever, therefore the sight of him losing his (second) world title, whilst boxing in his prime, was all the more stunning). However, Turpin’s demise proved to be far more shocking, 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 gunshots 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.