Dan Rafael: Rocky Graziano
June, 1, 2013
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com
Monitor Picture Library/Getty ImagesSugar Ray Robinson won the welterweight and middleweight championships while dominating both divisions.
Some fighters like to say they are the greatest of all time. And then there's Sugar Ray Robinson, who is widely revered as boxing's all-time greatest fighter.
SRR was so good that the term "pound-for-pound" was coined as a way to compare the relative talents of the smaller Robinson to heavyweight champion Joe Louis when their championship reigns overlapped briefly in the late 1940s, when Robinson was welterweight champion and Louis was at the tail end of his historic title run.
Robinson, who was given the nickname "Sugar" by a newspaper reporter who wrote that he was "sweet as sugar," fought 200 professional fights from 1940 to 1965. He was the welterweight champion from 1946 to 1951 and won the middleweight world championship five times (when there was only one world title in each division).
He had two-fisted power and speed and could fight effectively going forward or backward. And he has the résumé to back up his lofty standing.
As an amateur, he was 85-0 with 69 knockouts. As a professional, his record was 175-19-6 with two no-contests and 108 knockouts, and that's despite losing 15 months to military service in World War II. Robinson began is career 128-1-2 with a no contest. From 1943 to 1951, he was unbeaten in 91 consecutive fights. I guess you could say 91 tried and 91 failed.
The 19 losses might not look great, but consider that 16 of them happened after 1955, when Robinson was near the end, including five defeats in his final 15 fights. Anyone who would knock him for those losses just doesn't get it.
Robinson didn't just feast on nobodies and cherry-pick his opponents either. He fought the best fighters of his era -- often more than once -- including 18 world champions and matchups with 12 eventual Hall of Famers a total of 29 times. His record in those fights was 21-7-1, and one of those victories came against Henry Armstrong, the man many consider to be the second-greatest fighter in history. Robinson also beat HOFers Sammy Angott, Fritzie Zivic, Jake LaMotta, Kid Gavilan, Bobo Olson, Rocky Graziano, Carmen Basilio, Gene Fullmer and Randy Turpin, not to mention countless top contenders of the day.
The only Hall of Famers that Robinson faced and did not defeat at least once were Joey Maxim, whom Robinson moved up in weight to challenge for the light heavyweight title, and Joey Giardello in 1963, when Robinson was in his 40s and near the end.
In his 200 fights, the only time Robinson was ever stopped was against Maxim, a fight that Robinson dominated before succumbing to heat exhaustion when he couldn't answer the bell for the 14th round.
Granted, if Robinson were around today, he wouldn't have 200 fights. He wouldn't need to fight that often, because he'd be making bigger money. But the extraordinary talent in virtually every facet of boxing? Yeah, that would still be the same.