From the archive: Sugar Ray Robinson is king again, stops Randy Turpin in 10
This fight report originally appeared in the November 1951 issue of Ring Magazine.
By Nat Fleischer
SUGAR RAY ROBINSON, who prior to his loss of the middleweight title to Randy Turpin in London was long acclaimed as the greatest exponent of pugilism in many years, won back his crown and his admirers when he battered his erstwhile conqueror into a helpless mass in their return engagement in New York’s Polo Grounds. Referee Ruby Goldstein halted the contest with only eight seconds left of the 10th round.
It wasn’t “the gangsters” as many of the British scribes had predicted, who relieved Randy of his title, but the flaying fists of an infuriated challenger who “saw red” after a butt, similar to the one he suffered in London, caused the blood to spurt from a head wound.
Ray didn’t need any help from “dope peddlers, gangsters and other shady characters” as British sports writers had predicted would be the case if he failed to win. All he required was the fine physical condition in which he found himself, a condition that enabled him to overcome youth, determination and the powerful body and hefty wallops of the man who had brought about the biggest upset of the year by outclassing Ray on July 10 last.
This time things were different. Though Randy gave his opponent a tough battle as far as it went, the class of Sugar Ray was ever in evidence.
Before a gathering of 61,370 persons, a crowd that had paid a record $767,360 for a fight under the heavyweight class, Robinson brought back the crown to America with as savage an attack in the final round as had been seen in a New York ring in years.
At the time of referee Goldstein’s action, Turpin was an open target. He was defenseless. He couldn’t move away from the ropes where he was resting against the lower strand, nor could he toss even one punch while wilting under the vicious blazing drives of a relentless foe.
INFURIATED by the sight of gore brought on by the accidental butt, Ray was a killer. Despite the wailings of Randy’s camp followers, who protested bitterly in the dressing room that with only eight seconds to go, Goldstein shouldn’t have stopped the fight, it was the proper action to take.
Teddy Waltham, one of Britain’s greatest referees who now serves as secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, when asked to comment on the referee’s action replied: “It was proper. I would have done the same. Randy was defenseless. Too bad it had to be that way, but the referee did the correct thing.”
Not that Randy was severely hurt. He showed no effects of the beating he took in those final two minutes, but he was unable to protect himself against a bombardment that might have resulted in another fatality.
The referee was no timer. He didn’t know, nor did he have to think about the time remaining. His job was to protect a helpless man and he did it as it should have been done.
Randy had been dropped in the 10th with a vicious right to the jaw. When he got to his feet, Ray went berserk. It was the fury of a seasoned, veteran ring master.
Ray bombarded Turpin from all angles. He knew that he had to win then or take his chances on defeat.
Ray realized, as he remarked in his dressing room, that he was tiring and that the cut might become worse. He went after his man with fire in his eyes. His teeth clenched, his hair mussed and standing almost upright, his face tensed for action, he struck, and he won.
RAY beat Randy about the head. He crashed a barrage that had turned Turpin from a fighting champion who had been holding his opponent fairly even, into a defenseless titleholder who with hands on his sides, body resting against the ropes, permitted blow after blow to reach its objective.
Only once did Randy land a punch in retaliation during more than one minute of Ray’s bombardment. It was a right to the chin that crashed with lethal force and caused Robinson’s knees to buckle. He bent as if to fall. Ray followed with both arms swinging, and a right and left landed Turpin near the ropes.
Taking full advantage of the situation, Ray now unloosed an avalanche of punches that brought down Randy’s guard. But before that happened, Randy did get over one hefty left to the jaw that shook Ray.
The challenger quickly recovered. He crashed a right to the jaw and down went Turpin.
The champion dragged himself to one knee and took a count of nine. Then Randy got to his feet and became a target that showed the true Robinson – not the one I seen lose his crown in London, but the Robinson of yore.
Ray cut loose while Randy was sitting on the lower strand, arms at his sides, body swaying in an effort to avoid contact with the blows of his adversary, but unable to offer any defense.
His back against the ropes, Turpin could do nothing but take it. He sought to bob and weave but he couldn’t escape the fire of his opponent. Then he tried to duck to get under the barrage, but his legs were gone, and he could not move out of range.
ONCE, for only a fleeting moment, Ray halted the bombardment to get an appraisal of the situation, but even then Randy couldn’t move to get up from his awkward position. Then Robbie quickly resumed the attack. A right to the jaw and Turpin’s knees buckled as his body leaned forward toward the canvas. Goldstein, sensing danger, remembered the recent death of George Flores, stepped in and halted the fight.
The action of Goldstein was proper. Had Randy has his full fighting senses while under the attack, he would have gone down and taken a count. Then the bell might have come to his rescue. Since Ray displayed signs of fatigue in the previous three rounds and had spent his strength in that terrific barrage, Turpin might have rallied sufficiently to come through with a victory.
Especially so since Goldstein had tabbed the fight up to the fatal 10 as even, four rounds to each and five points apiece, and the margin for Ray on the judges’ cards was not big. Judge Agnello had it 5 to 4 for Ray with the points 7 to 4 and Judge Barnes scored it for Ray 5 to 3 and one even with points 9 to 5. My tally showed Ray leading 5 to 3 and one even, with the points 7 to. 4.
It seemed that Robinson might punch himself out but he was so well conditioned as compared to the tired Robinson whom I had seen in the London fight, that he kept up an incessant fire until the stoppage. Thus Turpin’s record will show his first knockout in 45 engagements , though in England the bout will be recorded as “stopped by referee.”
Under the New York and American rules of boxing, a referee is empowered to start to count over a fighter who is holding the ropes or resting helpless against them. Referee Arthur Donovan did that when Max Schmeling fought Joe Louis the second time. He counted one and Max left the ropes to resume fighting.
Goldstein could have done the same in Turpin’s case in which event Randy would have had a chance to get back into the fight or would have been counted out. But the referee chose to let the affair go on, and that was his prerogative. He did a swell job, no matter what Turpin’s followers thought.
ROBINSON was magnificent in the final stand. He knew that his goose was cooked unless he could halt his opponent, and never in his long career did he shoot for his goal in better fashion. He was far from the master of even a year ago, but he had enough to gain his objective and that’s what counts.
When Goldstein went to Turpin’s aid to put an end to a bout that had attracted more international attention than any since the Dempsey-Charpentier fight, and the second Schmeling-Louis bout, he took a firm grasp on the helpless fighter, holding him up tightly as Turpin’s handler’s rushed into the ring to lead the beaten British warrior to his corner. It was a dramatic finish to an otherwise not too exciting battle.
In his dressing quarters Randy declared that the referee shouldn’t have stopped the fight since he was rolling with Ray’s punches. And in this he was supported by Jack Solomons, who shouted, “He had no right to stop it. They’ve had a few deaths here in America and everyone is scared. Turpin wasn’t even hurt.”
Perhaps Turpin wasn’t hurt. At least he didn’t show any signs of injury in his dressing room, but a helpless fighter such as Turpin undoubtedly was, should not be submitted to dangerous punishment and Randy most assuredly was taking plenty in the 10th. Jack apparently didn’t feel the punches.
The fight was so hot from an international angle that for the first time in more than two decades the Polo Grounds was a sellout. They came from England, Australia, Canada, Mexico and Central America to see whether Randy really had the goods. They hadn’t believed that the Leamington Spa boy was good enough to whip a conditioned Sugar Ray and they left the arena convinced that he wasn’t. I thought that when I attended their first fight in London.
SO many fans had thought that Ray still had what he displayed when he relieved Jake LaMotta of the title that they made him a 5-11 shot almost from the day that the contracts were signed. The way Ray won back the crown vindicated those odds.
The fight recalls the action of referee George Blake, one of the world’s greatest when with only 15 seconds to go, he stopped the Max Schmeling-Young Stribling bout and awarded the honors to Max. At the time Stribling, like Turpin, was taking punches but couldn’t toss one and was defenseless.
Not only did Robinson avenge the defeat he suffered in London two months previous, he received his greatest payday. The man whose pride had been injured had regained his title and the prestige that goes with a fine victory.
In that savage, searing, deadly attack in the 10th we saw for the first time in the bout the masterly performance of a truly great fighter, one who will go down in ring history as one of the greatest of all time and the best all-around fighter of his era. This despite the many flaws we found in both his Turpin bouts. Especially in his timing.
But one must expect that when a fighter reaches Ray’s age and has been fighting for as long. Robinson missed so many punches in the eighth and ninth rounds of the second fight that his most ardent supporters realized he no longer is the invincible scrapper of two years ago. The Sugar Ray of then would have found the target every time he tossed a punch.
Stripped of his skill by the moving years and harried by an awkwardly effective style of Randy, this fight to me seemed one of Ray’s best. It took more than mere fighting skill to come across with that furious rally that turned what might have been a certain defeat due to the deep cut he suffered into a great triumph. In the second round, the only one which I gave to Ray by a margin of more than one round, Sugar staggered Randy with a right that almost floored him but instead of moving in for the “kill,” he stepped back and missed a KO chance.
WITH the exception of the final round, almost all the thrilling action, what little there was, took place before the seventh. Randy and Ray heard crowds’ boos in the eighth and ninth rounds. Towards the end of the latter session, Ray, riled by the hand clapping, wound up with a flurry of punches that had Randy backing away.
The fourth and fifth rounds were hard fought. In the former Randy took a powerful, stinging right that caused a slight swelling over the Britisher’s left cheek and in the fifth, a series of right crosses landed with effectiveness.
Then came Ray’s best round other than the last. In the sixth he put on all he had for an excellent show, chasing Randy around the ring with his attack. Turpin often rushed into a clinch when he wasn’t back-tracking.
Occasionally in that round and the eighth Randy landed stiff, straight lefts to the face, but he was not displaying the excellent punching power he did in their previous battle.
When Ray lost his crown and was interviewed by the press, he laughingly remarked to a query, “I just loaned him the title.” He must have been in earnest, but he had to do a lot of punching to get it back.
TURPIN was not a disappointment in ruggedness, in stolid indifference to punishment, and in heart.
But for those who had been accustomed to seeing British boxers demonstrate cleverness, science and strict adherence to the rules of ring technique, Turpin was a disappointment.
Turpin was the most unorthodox middleweight since the awkward southpaw Al McCoy, who knocked out George Chip, Frank Klaus’ conqueror, in Brooklyn, in April 1914.
Those who had seen fighters like Jim Driscoll, Owen Moran, even Bombardier Wells and, in more recent years, Tommy Farr, found in Turpin a marked deviation from the British pattern. Randy contributed nothing to the fund of American boxing skills.
BEFORE and after the London fight, there were no acerbities and acrimonies. Robinson was the favorite, Robinson got a shellacking, and in the USA the sports pages were loaded with the high accolade for Randy.
After having been out of the middleweight picture for 60 years, since the Bob Fitzsimmons tenure, Merry England again had the title, and Uncle Sam was rightly glad to see the change and to welcome the salutary event.
The New York fight, on the other hand, had some bad developments in advance, and certainly an acrimonious aftermath.
Several London writers sent back to their papers a lot of silly gush about gangsters and gunmen in New York dominating the city life and the boxing situation.
In London this may have been taken seriously by the readers of the authors’ popular newspapers. In New York, the gangsters and gunmen thugs got a lot of laughs. The World-Telegram and Sun had a funny piece about this gush and treated it with all the ridicule it deserved.