The Way It Was – When Living Legends Sugar Ray Robinson And Jake LaMotta Recalled Their Final, Brutal Battle

By James Slater - 02/14/2024 - Comments

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most famous and also most brutal and punishing world title fights of them all: “The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre,” between long-time rivals Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta. Never have two totally different fighters, different of fighting style, of approach, and of personality, been so evenly matched.

Six times, these two greats fought each other, and six times the leather, along with the blood, sweat and tears, flew. Over the course of the first five fights, all of them non-title bouts, neither man was ever really able to assert his dominance, with all five fights/wars/battles of attrition going the distance, often with the loser left feeling as though he had actually won.

It was only when Robinson and LaMotta met for the world middleweight crown, this in the sixth and final showdown, that one man walked away with zero questions about the legitimacy of his win. The final instalment of this savage rivalry saw 29 year old Robinson, 122-1-2, stop 28 year old LaMotta, 78-14-3, with defending middleweight champ LaMotta shipping a terrible, blood-curdling hammering in that fateful 13th round.

Years later, with both men having fought on but with each having differing fortunes, the two former kings of the ring, living legends as they truly were at the time, met up on the TV show ‘The Way It Was.’ And what a fascinating piece of classic TV this really is (as you can see for yourself via YouTube).

The two men, both now middle aged, show nothing but respect for one another, while host Curt Gowdy and special guest, former ace commentator Don Dunphy, ask good questions. Both legends of the ring knew each other well, their fighting strengths and weaknesses (if either man actually had any, that is), and there is no need for tough-talk or for any boasting. Simply put, Sugar Ray and “The Bronx Bull” tell it like it is. Or how it was. It really is quite something, watching both immortals as they watch footage of themselves doing their level best to hurt one another.

LaMotta speaks of the way he had to lose an amazing six pounds in weight the night before the fight. Dunphy asks Jake if this was actually true.

“I went to the steam-bath, and it was so tough. I kept going into the steam-bath but I finally made it [weight]. I knew I was going to have some trouble,” Jake says. “I made a stipulation in our contract that we would weigh-in early, so it would give me some time to get some liquids back in my body. I think it was 10 AM that morning.”

Dunphy chimes in:

“You know, Jake, this is pretty hard to swallow,” Dunphy says. “Here you are fighting a great fighter, who had beaten you four times out of five, and you’re telling us that the day before the fight you were six-and-a-half pounds overweight? What kind of training did you do?”

Jake responds, calmly.

“Well, I always had trouble making 160 pounds,” he says. “I wrote a book, and in the book I state how I lost over 4,000 pounds in my lifetime. This is true, because after I fought, I always put on 30 to 40 pounds.”

Robinson was aware before the fight of LaMotta’s difficulty in making weight.

“We figured he had trouble making weight. My battle-plan was to be able to stick and move,” the greatest to ever do it says. “He out-jabbed me……I drank soup for quite a while that night (laughs). Everybody that fought Jake LaMotta took some damage. If you fight him you can bet your bottom dollar you’re going to get your share of the licks.”

The two greats then speak about the hardest punchers they ever faced.

“Sugar Ray’s one of the hardest punchers I ever fought,” LaMotta says. “I fought punchers who were harder than him. I fought a light heavyweight by the name of Bob Satterfield, who knocked out heavyweights. I guess God gifted me with a hard head, because I really couldn’t feel punches.”

Sugar Ray speaks about Jake’s power.

“I wouldn’t say he was one of hardest punchers. He’s definitely the toughest guy I ever fought. There were a few guys I fought who punched harder than Jake, but never, nobody was more aggressive or rougher than he.”

“Up to this point, you’d fought over 100 fights, Jake LaMotta, and you’d never been knocked off your feet. Is that true,” Gowdy asks at this point in the brilliant show.

“That’s true,” Jake responds.

Robinson speaks about how he managed to get the win.

“At that time (later in the fight) we wanted him to expend himself as much as he could, because we had felt that he had had trouble making the weight,” Sugar Ray says. “And we thought, the latter part of the fight, I would be able to be more effective. And thank God it proved to be true.”

“You’re a bad boy,” LaMotta says to Sugar Ray, either jokingly or perhaps not so much.

It was a great time to be a fight fan, this in the 1940’s and 1950’s when these two gladiators were bringing the greatness out of each other. And in the 1970s, when shows like this one were in existence.

73 years ago today, the world may have seen the greatest middleweight battle of them all.