Sugar Ray Robinson vs Floyd Mayweather Jr-Who Would Win?
Since the beginning of human existence we have engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Fighting is a universal language all cultures and nationalities understand. Boxing, in particular, has been an Olympic sport since 688 BC when it was performed in ancient Greece. About 300-500 years ago boxing evolved from its origins into prize fighting. After the creation of the London Prize Ring Rules, the sport evolved into the more popularly known Queensbury Rules system. Throughout the sport’s history there have been a plethora of greats in every decade of the sport’s existence.
A prevailing question throughout time as been, “Can fighter ‘X’ beat fighter ‘Y’ in each of their prime?” This is the seventh entry in the series. If you ask even knowledgeable boxing fans if they would like to see a bout between Walker Smith Jr and Floyd Sinclair, you will more than likely get a lot of sideways glares. This matchup though is arguably between the two greatest boxers of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson and Floyd Mayweather Jr. If you missed previous entries, you can click them below to see what you have missed so far.
First Entry in Series: Mike Tyson vs Deontay Wilder
Second Entry in Series: Ezzard Charles vs Roy Jones Jr
Third Entry in Series: Roberto Duran vs Vasyl Lomachenko
Fourth Entry in Series: Henry Armstrong vs Manny Pacquiao
Fifth Entry in Series: Jack Johnson vs Tyson Fury
Sixth Entry in Series: Marvin Hagler vs Canelo Alvarez
Sugar Ray Robinson (1940s-early 1950s) vs Floyd Mayweather Jr (late 1990s-mid 2010s)
Sugar Ray Robinson-Brief Glance
Sugar Ray Robinson (172-19-6,2NC) was born May 03, 1921 in Alley, Georgia. Born Walker Smith Jr, Robinson moved to Detroit at a very young age. Around the age of 12 he moved to Harlem with his mother when his parents went through a divorce. In order for Robinson to participate in an AAU boxing tournament he needed an AAU card. The only problem was Robinson was 16 at the time and you needed to be 18. In order to accomplish his goal of entering the tournament, Robinson borrowed a friend’s birth certificate. The name of the friend was, “Ray Robinson.” Robinson continued his impressive ways after this tournament eventually ending his amateur career with a record of 85-0 (69KOs) and 40 of those KOs in the first round.
Robinson’s professional career numbers were just as staggering competing in 200 professional bouts spanning from 1940 to 1965. His impressive record of 135-18-7 (2NCs) contained a winning streak spanning 91 bouts. After a tough loss in his second of six bouts with Jake LaMotta on February 26, 1943 he did not taste defeat again until a decision loss to Randolph Turpin on July 10, 1951. Along his career he also defeated 15 former, present, or current champions. Quite the number for a time in boxing history when there were not as many world titles as their are today. One of those names is another fighter considered in the top of conversations for greatest of all time, Henry Armstrong. Armstrong had a record of 135-18-7 at the time of their matchup and a bit past his best days.
Premonition of a Tough Day
The night before June 24, 1947 would be a rough night sleep for the then-current welterweight champion of the world. The next day he was set to battle Jimmy Doyle in Cleveland. Robinson had the nightmare of a dream picturing himself killing Doyle in their bout. Robinson stated about his dream, “I woke up in a cold sweat, yellin’ for Jimmy to get up – get up – get up! My yellin’ woke me up, I guess. And the sight of Jimmy lyin’ there on the canvas in the dream seemed so real that I had the jitters when I woke up. And I couldn’t go back to sleep. I just laid there, tossin’ around in bed.. And I felt lousy the next day. And in the back of my mind I felt scared every time I thought about the coming fight.”
Robinson told promoters and handlers he was not going to go through with the fight because of his dream. Promoters actually brought in a local Catholic priest to rest Robinson’s mind and assure him it was only a dream. Unfortunate for all parties involved, Robinson had an accurate glance into the future. In the eighth round, Robinson landing a thudding KO that floored Doyle. Doyle was rendered unconscious and never regained consciousness. This event truely troubled Robinson. He actually set up a trust account for Doyle’s mother to pay the amount of $50 a month for 10 years equally about $6,000. This is just a tad under $72,000 inflated for 2020. Robinson heard Doyle was going to take his earnings to buy his mother a house so Robinson provided her with money from his next four fights including the Doyle bout.
In a time when accolades were not as plentiful as they are now days, Robinson has quite the accolade resume posthumously. The Boxing Writer’s Association of America’s annual award given to the Fighter of the Year is actually named the “Sugar Ray Robinson Award.” It was previous the Edward J. Neil Award before the name change in 2009. Robinson himself actually won the award in 1950. The Ring presented Robinson and Carmen Basilio with Fight of the Year award in both 1957 and 1958. The two fighters each took a split decision over the other with Basilio winning in 1957. In addition, Robinson also earned The Ring Fighter of the Year in both 1942 and 1951. Associated Press named Robinson the fighter of the 20th century.
The Ring as well as boxing historian Bert Sugar both named Robinson as their greatest fighter of all time in their respective lists. As far as hall of fames go, Robinson was inducted into The Ring and International Boxing Hall of Fames plus the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. The term “pound for pound” was invented for Robinson, according to many.
This portion alone could be it’s own article. There is a reason many consider Robinson the greatest of all time and it’s because of his fighting style. Not a surprise, his stance is similar to that of Joe Louis, being Robinson trained with Louis a bit in Detroit at the Brewster Rec Center. He typically stood with his head off center-line and his orthodox lead hand about chest level. Having his lead hand at this level made it hard to tell if a jab or an uppercut was coming your way. With his great hand-speed, it only complicated the issue for his opponents. Robinson was never a point fighter. He had a killer instinct in the ring always looking for the knockout victory. One of Robinson’s most popular knockouts was the right hand that dropped Rocky Graziano at Chicago Stadium in April 1952.
The Rocky Graziano Knockout
“Boy the guy can belt! A great fighter,” Graziano told the Toledo Blade the day after their fight. Graziano threw a big right hand that dropped Robinson in the third round but Robinson was back to his feet with literally no count from the referee. This is before the mandatory eight count went into effect. In less than a minute Robinson had Graziano on the roped and threw two huge left hooks followed by a right hand straight down the pipe on the jaw. Graziano was counted out and Robinson retained his title.
The double left hooks were fired in such rapid succession, you almost have to slow down the video footage to see the second hook. Robinson was highly skilled at the double hook combo from the same side then lacing in another strike for a deadly multi punch combo. He very rarely used a left, right, left etc combo. Robinson mixed up the hand of his strikes, making it almost impossible to predict where the next strike was coming from.
Robinson stood at 5’11.5″ and had a reach of 73 inches. Really making his name at welterweight, that is quite the reach even for today’s standards. WBC welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr has a reach of 72 inches while WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford has a 74 inch reach. So for being an athlete 60 plus years ago, that is quite a physical trait. Even for middleweight it’s still an impressive reach. Both WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo and WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade have 73 1/2 inch reaches.
Even when Robinson fought late in his career up in weight for the light heavyweight title against Joey Maxim, Robinson dominated the bigger fighter. Maxim had 16 pounds and about two inches in height advantage over the smaller Robinson. Robinson was forced to retire after the 13th round due to heat exhaustion. The temperature reached 103 degrees on that evening. According to the scorecards before the stoppage, Robinson was up 10-3, 9-3-1 and 7-3-3.
The man many consider the greatest heavyweight of all-time, Muhammad Ali, is quoted as saying of Robinson, “the king, the master, my idol.” Former heavyweight champion and rival to Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, stated of Robinson, “He was the greatest. A distance fighter. A half-distance fighter. An in-fighter. Scientific. He was wonderful to see.”
Floyd Mayweather Jr-Brief Glance
The man many consider the greatest boxer of this generation of fighter, Floyd Mayweather Jr (born Floyd Sinclair) was born February 24, 1977 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mayweather took his mother’s maiden name of Sinclair at birth but later changed to his father’s surname of Mayweather. He comes from a fighting family with his father Floyd Sr, and uncles Jeff and Roger were all successful professional boxers. Though not undefeated in his amateur career as he was in his amazing professional career, Mayweather finished with an amateur record of 84-8. This included Golden Gloves championships in 1993, 1994, and 1996.
In addition, Mayweather also owns a 1996 Olympic bronze medals from the Atlanta games in the featherweight division. Feeling an injustice was committed in the judging, USA boxing filed an appeal but it was rejected. One of the four USA judges representing the International Amateur Boxing Federation, Bill Waeckerle, actually resigned after the ruling feeling Mayweather had been served an injustice. This would be the last time Mayweather would ever taste defeat.
Early Days of an Amazing Professional Run
The first victory in Mayweather’s run to 50-0 upon retirement came on October 11, 1996 when he defeated Roberto Apodaca via second round TKO. Continuing to rack up the TKO/KO victories, Mayweather earned his first world title shot less than two years later on October 03, 1998 when he defeated Genaro Hernandez for the lineal and WBC super featherweight championship. This improved Mayweather’s record to 18-0 (14KOs.) Eight of his next nine bouts were successful defenses of the super featherweight title. The one bout in the middle, against “The Drunken Master” Emanuel Augustus. Mayweather has actually stated in an interview back in 2012 that Augustus was his toughest opponent due to his absolute unorthodox style.
Overcoming His First Tough Hurdle
On April 20, 2002, Mayweather moved up to lightweight to meet the WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo. After an extremely close bout Mayweather walked away as the champion but not without controversy. HBO’s Harold Lederman had the bout unofficially at 115-111 for Castillo. USA Today’s Dan Rafael actually had the bout 114-114. In the post fight interview Mayweather stated her hurt his rotator cuff in his left arm during the final day of training. He also said this greatly effected his ability to use his jab. According to CompuBox Castillo scored more power strikes (173-66) and landed more total punches (203-157.) Mayweather did score more jabs tripling Castillo’s total 30-91. Promoter Bob Arum even stated the margin of victory was, “ludicrous.”
The rematch occurred later that year on December 07, 2002. Mayweather, this time, walked away with a much more dominant win but to little fan fair. “I told you it would be easy this time,” Mayweather stated post fight. “My plan was to box more, no power shots, be smart.” Castillo himself even admitted he could not figure out the puzzle that is Floyd Mayweather. “I never figured him out and I think he fought a more intelligent fight this time. I never felt I did anything this time,” Castillo stated post fight.
Continued March Toward Greatness
On June 25, 2005, Mayweather entered the ring at 33-0 and took the WBC super lightweight title from then-champion, Arturo Gatti. Mayweather continued to defeat the a “who’s who” of boxing over the next five years to end the 2000s. He defeated such names as Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Juan Manuel Marquez. Starting off the 2010’s with his last decade of boxing, Mayweather won the historic lineal welterweight championship against Shane Mosely via unanimous decision.
The frequency of boxing drastically slowed down with Mayweather only competing ten times in to 2010’s. Notably, Mayweather defeated The Ring’s current number one pound for pound fighter Canelo Alvarez via majority decision and finally met Manny Pacquiao in May 2015 where Mayweather walked away with the unanimous decision. The fight was the most lucrative in boxing history, garnering over 4.5 million pay-per-view buys. Both fighters walked away with easily well over a nine figure payout.
Final Bout to Break Marciano’s Record
In order to break Rocky Marciano’s record of 49-0, Mayweather needed one more bout after his Andre Berto decision win in September 2015. The “winner” of the sweepstakes for a nice payday and the last shot to derail Mayweather’s undefeated career was UFC star and boxing debuter, Conor McGregor. McGregor, the UFC’s first same-time multi division champion, is considered one of combat sports’ greatest trash talkers. Though with an 0-0 boxing record, McGregor was known in the MMA world for a deadly left hand that could drop a fighter at a moment’s notice. There was always that “what if” when McGregor stepped in the ring with Mayweather.
On August 26, 2017 the two stepped in the ring with Mayweather eventually pulling off the 10th round TKO victory. The WBC announced the winner would receive the “Money Belt.” It was made from Italian-made alligator leather and encrusted with 3.3 pounds of 24-karat gold, 3,360 diamonds, 600 sapphires, and 300 emeralds.
Fighting in an era where their are multiple outlets covering the sport and all have their own awards, Mayweather was won practically every award possible. He has actually collected The Ring Fighter of the Year award in two different decades, winning in 1998 and 2007. In addition to those The Ring Magazine awards, Mayweather has also collected their Fighter of the Decade Award for the 2010’s. The BWAA agreed with The Ring and also awarded Mayweather their Fighter of the Decade Award for the 2010’s as well. Practically any list you find of the “greatest boxers of all time” will contain Mayweather in the upper tier. Six times Mayweather has also earned an ESPY for Fighter of the Year. On top of annual awards he’s also earned 15 major world titles spanning five weight classes along with lineal championships in four different weight classes.
The biggest aspect of Mayweather’s style is his defense. Arguably no one in the history of boxing has a defense better. Not only does he cover the defensive aspect better than almost anyone in history, but according to CompuBox he is the most accurate striker in history since they have began compiling data. The first use of CompuBox was in 1985 under the name “FightStat.” Mayweather is known for using the “Philly Shell” technique. This technique is great and built mainly for counter-punchers. In order for the style to be a success, the boxer needs to be very active in the stance and roll with every punch.
Current IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr told ESPN about Mayweather’s right hand, “He throws it as a jab, in a way. It comes so fast. A lot of fighters telegraph their punches. He doesn’t at all. It’s really something that he’s just mastered, throwing the straight right and catching guys over and over.” Also known for his outstanding conditioning, former champion and opponent of Mayweather, Zab Judiah stated to ESPN in the same article, “When he trains, he lines up like 15 to 20 sparring partners at a time. I’ve known him since we were amateurs. He’s always done over and beyond what the job consists of. You can’t beat someone who’s not going to get tired.”
Talk about a fantasy matchup for the ages! Two of arguably the fastest boxers in history regardless of weight class. One of the most prolific defensive fighters in history with Mayweather and one of the deadliest punchers and most unorthodox combo-throwers in history in Robinson. Willie Pep, a boxer many will argue along next to Mayweather is the best defensive boxer in history, actually competed against Robinson as an amateur. Robinson pulled out the victory erasing the “0” in Pep’s loss column. I fall in the group of boxing fans that consider Robinson the greatest of all time. It may take a handful of rounds for Robinson to figure out Mayweather’s defense and break through but the power Robinson possesses and the deadly multiple left hook combo he could reel off has a possibility of connecting to Mayweather.
I am a life-long MMA fan who has been a fan since UFC 1. I was born in Illinois but raised in South Louisiana, home of many great mixed martial artists. I started martial arts at the age of 4 and continued into my adult years where I served nearly 10 years in law enforcement. I feel my job is to convey the stories of the MMA fighters we enjoy to watch and share their stories with the world.
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