“To be a champ, you have to believe in yourself when no one else will.” – Sugar Ray Robinson
When considering your options for boxing training and what is necessary to succeed, it is always useful to study the champions who came before us. There is plenty to learn from the fighters who thrived when boxing was at its peak as a mainstream sport. During such times, there were more fighters, more bouts, and often more talent. Perhaps the greatest example comes from the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson.
Robinson is considered by many to be the greatest boxer who ever lived. He had 200 professional fights in an era where it was common to fight one world class opponent one week, and then another the next. The hand picking of opponents and inactivity that is prevalent today was nonexistent during Robinson’s reign.
Three Fights In One Month
On February 5th, 1943, Ray Robinson lost a hard fought 10-round battle to middleweight Jake LaMotta. Robinson stepped back into the ring on February 19th, earning a 10-round decision over California Jackie Wilson (a 50+ fight veteran). A week later (February 26th), Robinson fought LaMotta again, this time winning a 10-round decision. In less than a month, Robinson had fought three 10-round fights, two with a middleweight who had 15 pounds on him.
In today’s world, we would be lucky to have one fight negotiated and agreed upon in that same time period. It takes longer to make a fight than it did for Robinson to fight three 10-round battles. It is safe to say that we will never see another fighter of his caliber.
Sugar Ray Robinson’s Training
Considering Robinson’s success, it is not surprising that so many people are interested in his training. I am regularly asked about his routine. Many of the inquiries come from young fighters who expect elaborate answers that detail a sophisticated style. These individuals have been misled to believe that successful training must be complex. The reality however is that many of the best fighters of all time followed relatively basic routines. Their success was rooted in hard work and activity, not fancy gadgets or complexity.
As evident in the video below, Sugar Ray Robinson focused the bulk of his time and attention towards actual boxing training. In many ways, you could say that his approach was quite similar to what was recommended by Jack Dempsey (see here).
In summary, not everyone will possess Ray Robinson’s talent, but all fighters can learn from his example. Never stray too far from the actual sport. Ray Robinson became a great boxer by boxing. Stepping into the ring is not only an excellent conditioner, but also the best way to truly learn and master the intricacies of the sweet science. The most important part of a boxer’s training will always take place with the gloves on. Everything else is secondary.