|Wednesday, December 8
Sugar Ray named century's best
NEW YORK -- Sugar Ray Robinson, poetry with a punch, is the Fighter of the Century.
He also was voted the greatest welterweight and middleweight boxer of the century by a five-member panel of experts assembled by The Associated Press.
Muhammad Ali, the century's top heavyweight, was the runner-up in the overall category. Ali and Robinson each received two first-place votes.
"I have always been a great fan of Sugar Ray Robinson," Ali said through his wife, Lonnie. "I looked up to him throughout my career. I know Sugar Ray's family will be especially proud that so many held him in such high regard and he was selected as the AP Fighter of the Century."
Robinson was a world welterweight champion and five-time middleweight champion, with a 175-19-6 record and 109 knockouts from 1940-65. Fourteen loses and four draws came after he turned 36. He held his last middleweight title at 38.
"He would have been ecstatic," Ray Robinson II said of his father being voted the century's top boxer. "I'm tired of hearing how great everybody else was and how they could have beaten Dad. No, they couldn't have."
Robinson never lost to a welterweight. When he gave up the 147-pound title to challenge Jake LaMotta for the middleweight championship in 1951, his record was 121-1-2, with the loss (to LaMotta) and both draws coming in non-title fights against middleweights.
Ali was selected the top heavyweight one point ahead of Joe Louis, who made 25 successful title defenses. Each of them received two first-place votes.
"When I consider I was selected out of a category that included boxing's greats -- Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, Jack Johnson and Gene Tunney, it really gives this honor a very special meaning," Ali said.
Henry Armstrong, the only boxer to hold three world titles simultaneously (featherweight, lightweight and welterweight), finished third as Fighter of the Century.
Rounding out the top 10 were: Louis, Willie Pep -- who got the other first-place vote and was selected as the No. 1 featherweight -- Dempsey, Roberto Duran, Benny Leonard, Billy Conn and Harry Greb.
Marciano was third among heavyweights and received one first-place vote in the category. Rounding out the top 10 heavyweights were: Dempsey, Johnson and Larry Holmes in a tie for fifth, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, and Sam Langford and Jersey Joe Walcott in a tie for ninth.
Ali (56-5, 37 knockouts) was the first man to win the heavyweight championship three times. He had three legendary fights with Frazier, two with Liston and one with George Foreman.
Although a heavyweight, Ali often was compared to Robinson because of his boxing ability and at his peak he had a middleweight's speed. He retired in 1981.
Robinson, who died in 1989 at age 68, was picked over Armstrong as the best welterweight. As top middleweight, he was chosen over Greb, a star of the 1920s.
Robinson almost won the light heavyweight championship in 1952. He was far ahead of Joey Maxim when he collapsed from the heat on a boiling New York night and could not come out for the 14th round.
It was as a welterweight that Robinson was at his best. He was champion from 1946-50 and was 5-1 against three other top 10 welterweights of the century.
He beat both Armstrong and Kid Gavilan (No. 9) twice and split two fights with Carmen Basilio (No. 6). The two matches with Basilio, however, were for the middleweight title, and both were decided on split decisions.
Robinson also is remembered for his six fights against LaMotta, the No.7-ranked middleweight. Robinson won five of them.
The top fighters in six other weight classes were Archie Moore, light heavyweight; Aaron Pryor, junior welterweight; Roberto Duran of Panama, lightweight; Alexis Arguello of Nicaragua, junior lightweight; Mexicans Ruben Olivares and Carlos Zarate, bantamweight, and Pancho Villa of Philippines and Miguel Canto of Mexico, flyweight.