Last time out, we narrowed our search of the greatest-ever Welterweight down to five, with both Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Ray Robinson making the cut. So as we move into the next round of fights, being ranked No. 1 grants Sugar Ray Robinson a bye.
That means Henry Armstrong puts on the gloves to battle the early-century Tommy Ryan. One thing about boxing is that unlike other sports, not much changes with technology or equipment. It’s just mano a mano.
While you would think conditioning or nutrition may have improved for boxers, think again. Because in the late 19th/early 20th century, fighters used to box upwards of 75 rounds. And sometimes, they went without gloves. With that said, Henry Armstrong was just an amazing fighter. And I don’t believe Tommy Ryan would be prepared for the multi-skilled Hammerin one. Armstrong by KO.
With all due respect to Charley Burley, Sugar Ray Leonard was not just a finesse boxer, he could take punishment. Find the highlights or the entire Leonard/Thomas Hearns fight and you will see just how much heart Sugar Ray Leonard has. (Credit to Hearns for the same, by the way). I can’t fully speak to how great Charley Burley was, but in my best effort to gauge an outcome, I believe and predict that Leonard would win a decision here.
And then there were three. So with Sugar Ray Robinson taking the back seat last round, I award the bye to Henry Armstrong to get down to two fighters. It becomes a�?Sugar versus Sugar,a�?and as great a boxer as Leonard was, he would be in just a bit over his head against Robinson. He might try to out box Sugar Ray Robinson, but Sugar Ray Leonard would not be able to do that in a 15-round fight. Sugar Ray Robinson would find a way to wear down Leonard and eventually catch him. I like the greatest middleweight of all time to take out our fifth-ranked welterweight by a TKO.
Which means we’ve reached our final two in the welterweight division. Plus, these two actually fought one another. Sugar Ray Robinson and Henry Armstrong fought a non-title bout on August 8, 1943a��in the twilight of the Hammerin’s career. If these two would have met in the squared circle when they were each at the top of their respective careers, what would have happened? I believe it would have been another decision and again, in favor of the great Sugar Ray Robinson.
Ray Robinson lost his share of fights, just as every fighter hasa��with the exception of a few who spent their entire professional career without a loss (Rocky Marciano, 49-0, serves as one example). It can hardly be argued that not only is Sugar Ray Robinson the greatest of the middle weight champions, but also of the welterweights. So great was Robinson that he also had fights in the featherweight, lightweight, and light heavyweight divisions. For the record, Ray Robinson’s birth name was Walker Smith Jr. If you are curious how he became known as a�?Sugar Raya�? Robinson, the story is quite intriguing. Upon the age of 15, Robinson wanted to fight in an amateur boxing tournament but needed an AAU membership card.
Only issued to those 18 and older, Robinson borrowed a birth certificate from his friend Ray Robinson. During his amateur carrier, while fighting in Watertown, New York, a female fan spoke to him, saying he was a�?sweet as sugar.a�? The nickname and borrowed name stuck with him the remainder of his lifea��one that ended on April 12, 1989 at just 67 years of age.
There is one story worth mentioning on the great Ray Robinson. If you believe the story, it goes like thisa��
In 1947, Sugar Ray Robinson was champion of the world and had fought four non-title bouts. In the fifth bout following, next in line was one Jimmy Doyle. Sugar refused to take the fight for the reason he said that he experienced a dream in which he killed Doyle. After speaking with a priest and a minister, both clergymen changed Robinson’s mind.
On June 25, 1947, Doyle and Robinson met in the ring and Sugar Ray ended the bout with a devastating knockout of Doyle in the eighth round that left the challenger unconscious. That same evening Jimmy Doyle passed away.
It affected Sugar Ray Robinson and in the city of Cleveland, there were rumors of criminal charges against Robinson due to the death but they never came to be. Jimmy Doyle took the fight in part to purchase his mother a house with his winnings. With his passing, Ray Robinson made the decision to use his paydays from his next four fights to buy Jimmy Doyle’s mother a house.
There was to be a final chapter in this series, one determining the greatest lightweight boxer of all-time. But when taking a closer look at the rankings by The Boxing Record, there is no need to analyze and forecast such a thing:
1. Roberto DurA?n
2. Benny Leonard
3. Pernell Whitaker
4. Joe Gans
5. Ike Williams
6. Joe Brown
7. Carlos Ortiz
8. Tony Canzoneri
9. Bob Montgomery
10. Beau Jack
It’s a rather simple argument. Roberto DurA?n was head and shoulders above all others mentioned abovea��with perhaps Benny Leonard being the only legitimate challenger. DurA?n was the king of the lightweights and he dominated the division during his era. With a 28-0 record in 1972, DurA?n TKO’d Ken Buchanan to win the world lightweight title.
He lost his title on November 17, 1972 to Esteban de JesA?sa��only to win it back two months later from Jimmy Robertson. He would remain champion until he surrendered his belt to move to welterweight in 1980, having posted an amazing 71-1 record along the way. That’s a 40-fight winning streak until he won the next division title from Sugar Ray Leonarda��only to lose a few months later. DurA?n would continue to fight, moving up from welterweight and spending time in the middleweight and super middleweight divisions. He fought way past his prime until he finally had enough on July 14, 2001a��losing a unanimous decision to the late Hector a�?Machoa�? Camacho.
Incredibly, Roberto DurA?n was 51 years of age on the night of his final fight. His first pro fight was in 1968a��a decision win over Carlos Mendozaa��and when he quit in 2001, he compiled a 119-fight career over 33 years, finishing with 103 wins against 16 losses with 71 knockouts. DurA?n had been knocked out just four times, including that devastating Hitman Hearns KO.
Do you agree that Sugar Ray Robinson is the greatest-ever Welterweight boxer? And for more from Harv Aronson, check out his website!