Pound for Pound: A Biography of Sugar Ray Robinson

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9780060188764: Pound for Pound: A Biography of Sugar Ray Robinson

Hailed by Muhammad Ali as "the king, the master, my idol," Sugar Ray Robinson was the greatest boxer America had seen since Joe Louis and is considered by many today to be, pound for pound, the best boxer the sport has ever known. A world welterweight and five-time middleweight champion, he had a career that spanned three decades. With his graceful yet powerful style and Hollywood looks -- which he would use to his advantage upon his final retirement from boxing -- he embodied the very essence of the "sweet science." Before he finally hung up his boxing gloves in 1965, at the age of forty-four, Sugar Ray Robinson won 125 consecutive fights, including victories over Henry Armstrong, Kid Gavilan, Carmen Basilio, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Graziano, Gene Fullmer, and Randy Turpin. His successes were not his alone, however. They belonged to his family as well, though those relationships would be marked by neglect and abuse.

At a time still characterized by discrimination, his victories, like those of Jackie Robinson, represented victories for all black America. And they were all the more symbolic because of the place he chose to call home -- Harlem. Co-written with Robinson's son, Ray Robinson II, and thoroughly researched by Amsterdam News reporter Herb Boyd, Pound for Pound is not only a definitive portrait of an emotionally complex man and his family, it is also a portrait of Harlem at the apex of its creativity, a time when Miles Davis was playing at Minton's, Langston Hughes was writing his divine poetry, and a boy from Georgia originally named Walker Smith Jr. would take on the moniker "Sugar."

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About the Author:

Herb Boyd is a journalist, activist, teacher, and author or editor of twenty-three books, including his latest, The Diary of Malcolm X, edited with Ilyasah Al-Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter. His articles have been published in the Black Scholar, Final Call, the Amsterdam News, Cineaste, Downbeat, the Network Journal, and the Daily Beast. A scholar for more than forty years, he teaches African American history and culture at the City College of New York in Harlem, where he lives.



Ray Robinson II is an independent producer who is currently in the process of establishing a museum in honor of his mother and father.

From Publishers Weekly:

In hands as skilled at the keyboard as Sugar Ray Robinson's were in the ring, this athlete would've been a great biography subject. His charisma and winning technique made him the prince of Harlem in the WWII era (though he's primarily known to modern audiences as Jake LaMotta's opponent in Raging Bull). His friendship with Joe Louis helped eradicate color barriers. His fighting skills may have been equaled since then, but they've never been surpassed—he was so powerful he killed a man in the ring. And his excesses of libido, temper, spousal abuse and bling-bling were, Boyd points out, tragic precursors of the behavior of many modern black athletes. Regrettably, the book is minimally competent and, at worst, painful. The journalist rarely devotes more than a few sentences to any of Robinson's matches, some of which, like the LaMotta battles, are the most talked about in boxing history. Instead, readers get puns ("The nation may have been experiencing a rationing of sugar, but the other Sugar was on a rampage") and ostentatious metaphors ("There were many fights when Sugar was a virtuoso pianist with gloves on, a soloist in a pugilist recital, delivering a rapid arpeggio of stiff left jabs"). Robinson is a worthy subject awaiting a more worthy treatment.
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