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Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Randolph Turpin (1951)

Footage of the 1951 World Middleweight Boxing Championship bout between titleholder Sugar Ray Robinson and British challenger Randolph Turpin, which resulted in a stunning upset when the little-known Turpin defeated Robinson for the title.
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Jimmy Powers ...
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Sugar Ray Robinson ...
Himself
Randolph Turpin ...
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Footage of the 1951 World Middleweight Boxing Championship bout between titleholder Sugar Ray Robinson and British challenger Randolph Turpin, which resulted in a stunning upset when the little-known Turpin defeated Robinson for the title.

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Documentary | Sport

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21 July 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Verdensmesterskabet i mellemvægt  »

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The forgotten man of British boxing
26 November 2003 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Recently on UK television, there was a poll for the 100 greatest sporting moments.

It's a terrible shame that the greatest ever moment in British boxing did not appear anywhere in the top 100.

Some people may think that I'm referring to Henry Cooper knocking down Cassius Clay (Cooper lost in the following round). But the greatest moment in British boxing without a shadow of a doubt was when Randolph Turpin defeated Sugar Ray Robinson, probably the greatest fighter ever, to become middleweight champion of the world.

This is a forgotten event where a forgotten man reached a peak that few sportsmen could even dream of climbing.

I have had the pleasure of watching this fight that took place more than 25 years before I was born and I have only read about the effect its result had on an entire country. It happened after the Second World War at a time of low national morale and the joy that greeted Turpin's triumph was compared to the VE celebrations.

In addition, this was not a case of the home judges favouring 'their boy', the referee was the only judge that night and his decision was fully justified. Turpin completely dominated this fight from start to finish and looked every inch a world-class fighter.

Maybe the reason why this occasion has been so sadly forgotten is the events that happened after it.

The infamous return clause ensured that Turpin had to do it all over again just 64 days later in New York.

The rematch was closer but Turpin proved that the first fight was no fluke. Robinson had a badly cut eye that meant the fight was likely to be stopped at any moment. In the 10th round he went after Turpin in desperation.

Turpin was an unorthodox fighter, instead of retaliating when under fire; he would concentrate his efforts on making his opponent miss. This could be misconstrued as his helplessness and inability to fight back. Alas this is what happened and the fight was stopped and Turpin had the unusual distinction of having what remains to this day the shortest reign in boxing history.

This marked a dramatic decline in Turpin's fortunes, he lost a fight for the vacant middleweight championship two years later (after Robinson's retirement) and never had another shot at the title.

A poorly educated, barely literate and financially naive man, Turpin struggled to come to terms with the anticlimax of his brief stay at the top. His financial problems worsened after his retirement in 1962 and he turned to wrestling and unlicensed boxing as well as driving a truck through the streets of his hometown, Leamington Spa.

With no apparent way out, Turpin committed suicide in 1966 just fifteen years after he had stunned the boxing world. He was 37.

Perhaps some see Turpin's story as an embarrassment and chose to forget about it or maybe it happened so long ago that it has faded from memory. However, there's no doubt that England's 1966 World Cup triumph will be talked about in great detail long after all its participants and those who experienced it are gone.

Its ironic that people are now talking about Chris Eubank being Britain's greatest ever middleweight when he never came close to the form that Turpin produced against Robinson.

Turpin vs. Eubank would have been an embarrassing mismatch.

The fact that Robinson never fought Turpin again says it all. There are very few fighters who dared to fight Robinson twice, fewer still could claim to coming out even at the end.

A couple of years ago, a statue was unveiled in Warwick just a few miles from Leamington Spa, marking the fiftieth anniversary of Turpin's triumph.

I went to see it earlier this year and it's comforting to know that the forgotten man of British boxing will not be erased completely from the memory.


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