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The Legend of Sugar Ray Robinson: Boxing Show Business and Adversity

Sugar Ray Robinson’s Early Life and Boxing Career

Sugar Ray Robinson is a name synonymous with boxing. He is considered one of the greatest boxers of all time and rightfully so.

Robinson was born on May 3, 1921, in Detroit, Michigan. However, there is a lot of confusion regarding his birth name and place.

Robinson was born Walker Smith Jr., but as a youngster, he used the name Ray Robinson. The confusion around his birthplace is because his family moved around a lot during his childhood.

Some sources say he was born in Ailey, Georgia, while others suggest that he was born in Detroit. Despite the confusion around his name and birthplace, Robinson’s brilliance in the ring is undeniable.

Robinson’s early life was anything but smooth sailing. His parents split when he was young, and his mother moved to New York City with her children.

Living in poverty, Robinson turned to boxing to make a living. He fought in amateur bouts, but because of his age and the fact that he had a record in boxing, he was unable to secure a boxing license.

However, this did not deter Robinson. He continued to fight under his pseudonym, Ray Robinson, and went on to win the featherweight and lightweight Golden Gloves championships.

Robinson started his professional boxing career in 1940 when he was just 19 years old. He had previously fought over 80 amateur fights without recording a single loss.

In his professional debut, Robinson defeated Joe Echevarria. He went on to win his first 40 professional fights, with 25 of them being knockouts.

Robinson quickly made a name for himself in the welterweight division. Robinson was a fierce competitor, and he moved up to the middleweight division in 1951.

He defeated Jake LaMotta in a fight that is considered to be one of the greatest fights in boxing history. Robinson was known for his speed, power, and agility in the ring, and he was able to out-box his opponents with ease.

He won the middleweight championship five times and the welterweight championship once during his career. Robinson’s boxing career spanned over three decades, and he had a record of 173 wins, 19 losses, 6 draws, and 2 no-contests.

He retired in 1952 to pursue a career in entertainment but returned to boxing in 1955. He won the middleweight championship for the final time in 1958.

Robinson retired from boxing for good in 1965, but he will always be remembered as one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Titles and Awards

Robinson’s incredible talent and success in boxing led to numerous awards and recognition. Early in his career, Robinson won the featherweight and lightweight Golden Gloves championships in New York City.

He also won other awards and accolades for his performances in the amateur boxing circuit. He had a record of 85 wins and no losses in amateur fights.

Robinson’s professional career was equally impressive and earned him numerous championship titles and awards. He won the welterweight championship once and the middleweight championship five times.

Robinson was the first boxer to win the middleweight championship five times. In addition to his championship titles, Robinson received numerous awards and recognition for his contribution to boxing.

He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1967, just two years after his final retirement. In 1997, he was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in recognition of his achievements both inside and outside the ring.

Robinson was a true trailblazer, breaking barriers in boxing as a black athlete in a predominantly white sport.


Sugar Ray Robinson’s impact on boxing cannot be overstated. He was an incredible athlete, a fierce competitor, and a true trailblazer.

Despite facing numerous challenges in his personal life, Robinson’s talent and dedication to boxing earned him numerous titles and awards. His name will always be synonymous with boxing, and his legacy will continue to inspire generations of boxers to come.

Robinson truly deserves his place among the greatest boxers of all time. Sugar Ray Robinson had a personal life that was as fascinating as his boxing career.

He experienced highs and lows in his personal relationships, his post-boxing career involved a lot of show business, and he battled illnesses in his final years.

Relationships and Family

Robinson married Edna Mae Holly in 1943, and they had three sons together. However, the couple went through a bitter divorce in 1960, which led to Robinson’s financial troubles.

He lost a lot of his wealth in the settlement and struggled to maintain his lifestyle. Robinson later married Millie Wiggins in 1965, but the couple also faced problems in their relationship, and they separated in 1967.

Robinson had two sons from outside of his marriage, Ronnie and Edgar. Ronnie was born in 1949 to Lorraine Smith, who was Robinson’s girlfriend.

Edgar was born in 1966 to Jo Ann Williams, who was Robinson’s longtime companion. Despite the unconventional family dynamic, Robinson had a close relationship with his sons and was devoted to them.

Post-Boxing Career and Involvement in Show Business

After retiring from boxing, Robinson turned his attention to show business. He appeared in several movies, including The Detective and The Comeback.

Robinson also had a singing career and recorded an album titled “Sugar Ray Robinson Sings.” He even performed at the famed Apollo Theatre in New York City. However, Robinson’s involvement in show business did not always go smoothly.

He experienced racism and discrimination in the industry and faced challenges in establishing himself as a serious actor and musician.

Legacy and Final Years

Robinson’s final years were marred by health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. He passed away on April 12, 1989, at the age of 67.

Despite his illnesses, Robinson continued to make public appearances and inspire others with his legacy. His contributions to the sport of boxing and his impact on society as a black athlete cannot be overstated.

Fun Facts

Sugar Ray Robinson was not just known for his boxing skills but also his flamboyant personality. He was a well-known figure in New York City and was often seen wearing fancy clothes and driving expensive cars.

Robinson had a rivalry with Jake LaMotta, another legendary boxer. The two fought six times, with Robinson winning five of the matches.

In addition to his boxing career, Robinson had several notable events and accomplishments. He served in the US Army during World War II.

He was a mentor to Muhammad Ali, who called him “The king, the master, my idol.” He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1993, in recognition of his contributions to sports and society.


Sugar Ray Robinson lived an extraordinary life. He was a legendary boxer, a talented actor, and a celebrated musician.

He faced challenges in his personal life but remained devoted to his family and sons. Robinson’s health problems did not deter him from making public appearances and inspiring others with his legacy.

Despite passing away over thirty years ago, Sugar Ray Robinson’s name remains etched in the annals of boxing history, and his contributions to the sport are still celebrated today. Sugar Ray Robinson was an exceptional boxer and an icon of the sport.

He faced many challenges in his personal life, including divorce, financial struggles, and health issues in his final years, but he remained devoted to his passion for boxing and show business. Robinson won numerous championships and awards for his boxing skills, and his impact on the sport as a black athlete is still celebrated today.

Robinson’s flamboyant personality and rivalry with Jake LaMotta are just some of the fun facts that make his life story so captivating. Reading about Robinson’s legacy is not only informative but also inspiring, showcasing how a person can overcome adversity to achieve greatness in their life.


Q: What is Sugar Ray Robinson’s real name? A: Sugar Ray Robinson’s birth name was Walker Smith Jr. but he used the name Ray Robinson as a youngster.

Q: How many times did Robinson win the middleweight championship? A: Robinson won the middleweight championship five times during his career, becoming the first boxer to do so.

Q: What illnesses did Robinson battle in his final years? A: Robinson battled Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes in his final years.

Q: In addition to boxing, what other career did Robinson pursue? A: Robinson pursued a career in show business after retiring from boxing.

He appeared in movies and recorded music. Q: What is Robinson’s legacy in the sport of boxing?

A: Robinson is considered one of the greatest boxers of all time and was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1967. He broke barriers as a black athlete in a predominantly white sport and his legacy continues to inspire generations of boxers.

Q: What was Robinson’s relationship with Muhammad Ali? A: Robinson was a mentor to Muhammad Ali, who looked up to Robinson as his idol and master.

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