If you ask most boxing historians who the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in boxing history is, many will tell you it’s Walker Smith Jr., aka Sugar Ray Robinson.
The name Ray Robinson occurred when he used a friend’s birth certificate to obtain an AAU membership card, which helped kick off his amateur boxing career. This allowed him to become a member at 15 instead of the legal age of 18.
He was told he was “sweet as sugar” by a lady in the audience at a fight in Watertown, New York. From that point on, he became known as “Sugar” Ray Robinson. Over the course of his amateur and professional career, Robinson would have that same impression on most boxing fans.
As an amateur, he amassed an 85-0 record that includes 69 knockouts, 40 of which came in the first round. His uncanny blend of speed and power was unlike anything the sport had ever seen, and he was a can’t-miss star.
He won back-to-back Golden Gloves featherweight championships in 1939-40. While he did most of his damage as an amateur at featherweight, he would become a standout welterweight and middleweight in the pro ranks. He had 40 straight fights without a loss.
In 1946, Robinson earned the Welterweight title, with a unanimous 15 round decision over Tommy Bell. He would hold the welterweight title until 1951.
In 1951 Robinson captured the Middleweight title by defeating Jake LaMotta. By 1958 he was the first boxer to win a divisional world championship five times.
Robinson’s ability to cross weight classes caused boxing fans and writers to dub him “pound for pound, the best,” a sentiment that has not faded over the years. He retired in 1965 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Robinson won a world title in both divisions. In fact, he was a six-time middleweight champion before retiring with an otherworldly record of 173-19-6 with 108 KOs.
Want to be like Sugar Ray Robinson? Let’s examine his skills.
Today, Evolve Daily shares five of Sugar Ray Robinson’s signature boxing techniques you can add to your game.
1) Hand Speed
Robinson was a pioneer in several ways. One area where he had massive influence is in the use of superior hand speed. Robinson’s jabs and power shots came at his opponents at breakneck speed.
The effectiveness of the shots was augmented by their accuracy and power. Few have had the athletic ability to emulate what Robinson brought to the ring in this area. If he was not one of a kind as it pertains to hand speed, Robinson was at least the first with these gifts.
In boxing, speed kills, and Robinson was a bonafide killer in the ring with his uncanny hand speed. Work on your own hand speed, so you can possess the tools Robinson had in his heyday.
2) Signature Jab to the Body
Emulated techniques will be a fairly common term in this piece because so many who followed Robinson used his style and skills as a foundation for their own games.
One tactic that both Sugar Ray Leonard and Floyd Mayweather Jr. implemented in their approach is the stiff jab to the midsection. Robinson used this stabbing punch for three reasons.
First, it was a range-finder that allowed Robinson to control the distance. Secondly, it changed levels and forced good opponents to worry about protecting more than just their heads. Lastly, the punch sapped the energy of good opponents over the course of a fight.
It was a setup Robinson used against Jake Lamotta and others.
3) Right Uppercut
Some of Robinson’s most devastating knockouts came after he landed one of his crushing uppercuts. With many of his foes doing their head as they approached to get into punching range, Robinson would time their movements and land an uppercut.
The thudding nature of the shot often dazed his opponent and led to a finish. Like most great fighters, all of Robinson’s gifts worked together.
Uppercuts in boxing are powerful punches. They are great to have in your arsenal. If used at the correct moment and in the proper way, it could spell instant victory.
It is, however, a very risky move, so plan wisely.
4) Combination Punching
If you wonder where Leonard and greats like Roy Jones Jr. got their influence with combination punching, look no further than Robinson. Though perhaps not quite as swift as Jones’ combos, Robinson’s series of punches were every bit as powerful and damaging as Leonard’s.
Robinson’s high knockout rate was powered by these combinations that helped put away some of Robinson’s stiffest competition. With Robinson’s signature processed hairstyle flopping, he’d deliver the kind of wicked punches designed to shorten his opponent’s night.
5) Foot Movement
Put a video of Robinson demonstrating his lateral movement up next to that of Muhammad Ali and Leonard, and you’ll see undeniable similarities.
Robinson was the originator of what became known as the Ali shuffle and the east-west movement that made it so difficult for opponents to land a clean shot on Robinson’s chin.
Robinson’s foot speed and ability to judge distance and space is what made the power punching and strike accuracy all the more impressive. The fact that he was capable of maintaining this style late into his career is a testament to his conditioning and pure athleticism.
Later in Robinson’s career, his movement is what suffered the most of the skills he had in the ring, but in his prime, no one moved like Sugar.