Sugar Ray Robinson Bio And Facts

Sugar Ray Robinson

Sugar Ray Robinson is an American boxer who fought during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. During his bright, 25 year long career, Robinson was known as one of the best boxers of all time, a title that persists to this day.

Sugar Ray Robinson was born in 1921. There is confusion about his birth place; while he claims to have been born in Detroit, Michigan, his birth certificate states that Robinson was in fact born in Georgia. His original name was Walker Smith Jr; which may seem odd given that it has nothing to do with the name he is known by. To be able to box in his first amateur bout, he borrowed the ID from another boxer whose name was Ray Robinson. From that point on, he became Ray Robinon in the boxing world. The "Sugar" was added in 1939, when he was described as being "sweet as sugar."

  • Birthday: May 3, 1921 (03-05-1921)
  • Died: April 12, 1989 (12-04-1989)
  • Occupation: Professional Boxer
  • Height: 5’11” (1.80 m)
  • Weight: 161 lbs (73 kg)
  • Years Active: 25 (1940-1965)
  • Career Wins: 175
  • Career Losses: 19
  • Career Draws: 6
  • Nicknames: "Sugar"

Boxing Career

Sugar Ray Robinson's history in boxing began when he was 15 years old. Young Walker Smith Jr. had dropped out of high school, and turned his attention to boxing. To take part in boxing matches, boxers had to have a license; Walker was 3 years too young to get one. He then borrowed another boxer's license, and made his debut.

While Sugar Ray only became a pro in 1940, he was already a very successful athlete by that time. He went undefeated in amateur fights, winning all 89 of his bouts. In 1939, he won the featherweight Golden Gloves, and the same honor as a lightweight the following year.

Robinson kept his success going in the pros. He won his first 40 professional boxing matches. However, he would only be able to fight for a title in 1946, when he became welterweight title winner. He kept his belt for six years, when in 1951 he won the belt for the middleweight category. He'd be middleweight champion 5 times in the next nine years, which included a brief retirement in 1952, followed by a comeback two years later.

He retired at 45 years of age in 1965, with an overall record of 175 wins, 6 draws, and 19 losses.

Titles and Awards

Sugar Ray Robinson had collected wins and awards even before turning pro. His first award in boxing came in 1939, when he was awarded the Golden Gloves for the featherweight category. He'd win it again before turning pro, but for the lightweight category.

It took Sugar Ray 6 years to win his first title as a professional boxer, which earned him the nickname of "uncrowned champion," for being one of the best boxers, but not having a title yet. He had his first shot at a title in 1946, against Tommy Bell, whom he beat in an unanimous decision. Sugar Ray became lightweight champion, and only let go of that title to become middleweight champion for the first time in 1951. He'd win it four more times, and retire with a total of 6 professional boxing championships. 

In 1990, he got inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame. In addition, Sugar Ray is often at the top of "Best Boxer in History" rankings, either at the number one spot or not much behind.

Personal Life

Just like he began his boxing career early, Sugar Ray Robinson also got married very early. He was still a teenager when he got engaged to his first wife, and was less than 20 years old by the time he got divorced. He'd be married twice more, and have two sons.

Robinson was as well-known outside of the boxing ring as he was inside it. Besides being a boxer, he was also a celebrity in New York City. He was known to have an entourage that included trainers, models, secretaries, a barber, and even a masseur.

After his boxing career, Sugar Ray got involved with show business, doing some acting and singing. He died in 1989, while facing Alzheimer's and diabetes.

Fun Facts

  • Sugar Ray Robinson was the idol of another boxing great. Muhammad Ali called him "the king," and really idolized Sugar Ray.
  • Robinson had a flashy, pink convertible Cadillac for which he was well-known in New York. He also owned a club in Harlem. All that added up to his reputation as a "flamboyant" guy.  
  • Sugar Ray's career long rival was boxer Jake LaMotta. They fought each other a total of 6 times, with Robinson only being defeated once.
  • Robinson served in the US Army during World War II.
  • One of Sugar Ray's last public appearances was in 1986, at the wedding of his long time boxing rival Jake LaMotta. Robinson was the best man at the wedding.
  • Robinson was born in Detroit, grew up in New York City and lived there during his career. After retirement he moved to Southern California with his wife, where he passed away.


How much did Sugar Ray Robinson earn during his career?

It is estimated that Sugar Ray Robinson won a total of $4 million dollars throughout his career. It may not seem much for today's standards, but at the time it was a lot of money. However, after retirement, Ray spent most of his money and had financial trouble. He was able to get some of his fortune back by getting involved with show business. 

What were Sugar Ray Robinson's fighting skills?

Being one of the best of all time definitely requires some advanced skills. Sugar Ray Robinson had several skills that made him simply better than the rest. To begin with, he was the pioneer of several useful techniques that we see in boxing today. He had a focus on hand speed that was not common at the time, and footwork that made it very difficult for opponents to land good punches on him. His speed also allowed him to do combination punches, which worked well. Lastly, his signature uppercuts and body jabs were important skills that Robinson mastered.

Who was able to beat Sugar Ray Robinson?

Throughout his 25 year long career Sugar Ray only lost 19 out of 202 matches. His first defeat came in his 41st match, against his career rival, Jake LaMotta. It would be Robinson's first and last defeat by LaMotta. However, most of his losses came when he was past the age of 40, way after his prime. Some of the boxers who were able to beat him, in addition to LaMotta, were Randy Turpin, Joey Maxim, Gene Fullmer, and Paul Pender.

Did Sugar Ray Robinson win the Golden Gloves award?

Sugar Ray Robinson won two Golden Gloves awards, in 1939 and 1940. That was even before he officially turned pro, which might be confusing. The Golden Gloves is an award given to the best amateur boxers in a city that started in the 1920s. Many boxing legends besides Sugar Ray Robinson won it, like Muhammad Ali, and Sugar Ray Leonard.