Sugar Ray Robinson is considered by many to be the best boxer ever to lace up the gloves and enter the ring. A true showman who was a larger than life character outside the ring. Born Walker Smith Jr. on May 3, 1921 in Ailey Georgia, he had a huge impact on the sport of boxing. The legendary American boxer was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Robinson had a fairly turbulent childhood, he grew up in Detroit but moved to Harlem New York with his mother and two sisters when he was 11 years old as she was tired of her husband never being around. A man named George Gainford from the local church had started a boxing club and took the young Walker Smith Jr under his wing. In 1936 he fought for the first time, he was too young to box in the competition but he cunningly borrowed the Amateur Athletic Union card of another boxer, whose name was Ray Robinson, to enter the ring. He kept the name Ray Robinson for the rest of his career with Gainford giving him the nickname "Sugar" who described the young hotshot as "sweet as sugar".
Robinson had a stellar amateur career winning 85 bout without a single loss, 69 of those came by way of knockout. He turned professional in 1940 at the age of 19 and went on to produce an incredible record winning 173 fights with 6 draws and 19 losses. Sometimes he would fight multiple times in the same week! Sugar became the first boxer ever to win a divisional world championship five times by defeating Carmen Basilio in 1958 creating history and regaining the middleweight championship. He was chosen "fighter of the year" two times: first for his performances in 1942, then nine years and over 90 fights later, for his efforts in 1951.
For all his brilliance in the ring and flamboyant personality sadly Robinson was not very good with his money and ended up stating in1965 that he was broke, having spent all of the $4 million in earnings he made inside and out of the ring in his career. He had some acting roles later on in his life but generally faded into obscurity, such was the way it went for professional sports stars. He died in Los Angeles at the age of 67 after being diagnosed with Alzheimers disease.