1. SUGAR RAY ROBINSON – or Ray “Sugar” Robinson as the International News Service called him at time – was a 3-1 favourite to repeat his victory over Jake LaMotta inside Detroit’s Olympia Stadium on February 5, 1943. The pair had fought in October the previous year, with welterweight Robinson using his substantial skill to deservedly outscore the bullish LaMotta over 10 rounds.
2. THE rematch was hosted by promoter Nick Londes at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium. The show was a sell-out with 18,930 fans attending to set a new record for the venue and Detroit’s biggest fight night since world heavyweight champion Joe Louis defeated Abe Simon two years before.
3. ROBINSON, based in New York, had never tasted defeat going into this contest, although the length of his win streak differs depending on the source. Ring Magazine had his run as high as 169 bouts (including 129 amateur bouts), although newspapers of the time recorded Robinson’s amateur record as 89-0 – making this bout his 130th.
4. LAMOTTA was naturally the bigger man and came in 16 pounds heavier than his rival at 160 1/2lbs. As well as being heavier, the underdog had won five since the loss to Robinson – including wins over California Jackie Wilson and Jimmy Edgar – that made some believe he could upset the odds in the return.
5. BUT former Detroit newsboy Robinson – who headed east to find fistic fame – was favourite for good reason. As an amateur and pro he had scored at least, depending on which source you believe, 56 wins in the opening round. At this point Robinson, chasing the welterweight title, was revered as much for his punching power as he was his exceptional boxing ability.
6. LIKE the first fight, the slick Robinson boxed well and at the halfway mark of the 10-rounder appeared on course to repeat his success.
7. BUT LaMotta refused to be denied and worked his way inside. At the end of the eighth, Jake broke through and knocked his opponent out of the ring. “Robinson lay sprawling out of the ring from a hard right to the body and a left to the head and the count was nine when the bell rang, saving the negro lad from a knockout,” The Miami Times reported.
8. ROBINSON fought back bravely in rounds nine and 10, going toe-to-toe with LaMotta over the final six minutes. But he ran into trouble again in the last seconds only for the bell to come to his rescue again.
9. LAMOTTA was rightfully adjudged the victor at the final bell with scores 52-47 (from referee Sam Hennessy), 57-49 and 55-45 all going in his favour. The Miami Times blamed Robinson’s machismo for the first loss in his career, writing: “He tried to slug it out with the bundle of dynamite from the Bronx and consequently had one of the most sensational winning streaks in the history of boxing rudely interrupted.”
10. ROBINSON would regain supremacy in their feud just three weeks later when he decisioned LaMotta (again over 10) at the same venue. The pair would clash six times in all, with Sugar losing only one. In fact, it would be eight years before Robinson would lose again when Britain’s Randolph Turpin stunned the world in July 1951 via 15-round decision. By then, Robinson had won and relinquished the world welterweight title before winning the middleweight championship (from LaMotta in their final meeting) in February 1951.
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