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Carpenter with Sugar Ray Robinson
'How I got into boxing'
 real 14k

Friday, 13 July, 2001, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Sugar: Too sweet for Raging Bull
Duel: 1940s
Continuing his look at boxing duels that dominated a decade, BBC Sport Online's Alex Trickett revisits the 1940s and Sugar Ray Robinson versus Jake LaMotta.

It is fitting that the war-ravaged 1940s spawned more epic ring battles than any other decade in boxing history.

In one corner was the undisputed heavyweight champ, Joe Louis, whose tricky but successful defences against Irishman Billy Conn captured the public imagination.

Then there was the all-American match-up between Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano.

Sugar Ray Robinson in training before his fight with Randy Turpin
Sugar Ray: Packed a mean punch
The two boxers had very different experiences of World War II.

Zale served admirably while Graziano received a dishonourable discharge after punching an officer.

But they came together post-war for three fierce middleweight bouts.

In a third corner could be found the dynamic featherweight duo of Willie Pep and Sandy Saddler, whose explosive rivalry extended into the 1950s (see the next in this series).

And then there was Sugar Ray Robinson versus Jake LaMotta.

This pair, a contrast in styles and size, fought six times in total but only once for a world title, both falling victim to boxing's governing underworld at various stages of their careers.

Robinson, a slick boxer who simply refused to do business with the mob, was made to wait until 1946 before seizing his first belt - a ridiculously long delay for a fighter of his talent.


We fought so often, it's a wonder I don't have diabetes
  LaMotta on his rivalry with Robinson

By then, he had already won 73 pro fights and beaten LaMotta four times.

True to his monicker, LaMotta - the Raging Bull - relied more on grit than guile, countering Robinson's welterweight speed with his middleweight bulk.

Their differences made for some fascinating contests.

Having outpointed the Bull in their first contest in 1942, Robinson was a strong favourite going into the rematch in Detroit's Olympic Stadium the following year.

He was, after all, unbeaten in 169 bouts - 129 as an amateur and 40 as a pro.

But, 16 pounds lighter on the night, Robinson was guilty of allowing his opponent to bully his way inside.


I kept swinging and Jake kept standing.
  Sugar Ray Robinson

In round eight, LaMotta pounced, knocking his opponent through the ropes in what proved to be a defining moment of their fierce rivalry.

Although Robinson picked himself up and avenged the subsequent points defeat with wins in their next three bouts, he could never put the indomitable LaMotta on the canvas.

When the two men met for the final time in 1951, more was at stake than the unified middleweight title.

The first seven rounds were competitive and true to form, with Sugar boxing and the Bull brawling.

But in round eight, it became clear that LaMotta, who had struggled to make weight, was being overpowered.

Only pride kept him on his feet while he took a terrible beating in the latter rounds of a fight that came to be known as the 'St Valentine's Day Massacre'.

Sugar Ray Robinson on the massage table
Ray at rest: Time for a massage
Mercifully, the referee intervened in round 13 with LaMotta clutching the top rope and absorbing punch after punch without reply.

The manner of this loss was hugely important to the Bull, who was heard to mutter 'you couldn't put me down, Ray' as the end came.

Immortalised in 'Raging Bull', the film of his autobiography, LaMotta retired three years later.

Robinson, who is widely acknowledged as the best pound-for-pound boxer ever, fought on until 1965.

In a career full of highs and few lows, he had amassed an amazing 175 professional wins.

Few of those, however, were harder fought than his five victories over the Raging Bull.

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