Well, I don't think it's too late to give you all a Valentines treat even though I hear a lot of people saying that Valentine's Day is no big deal anymore. I guess times are changing. This is not about giving you all a Happy Valentine's Day wish, or any of that jazz. I'm gong to give you a piece of sporting history that happened on a particular Valentine's Day back in 1951.
This is a big day in boxing history. Two champions enter the ring. (This is also the very first time when two champions in different weight classes for the middleweight title. Sugar Ray Robinson, the welterweight champ who is challenging Jake LaMotta for his middleweight title. This is known as the SAINT VALENTINE'S MASSACRE.
For those who don't know, this is the sixth meeting between these two warriors. LaMotta has said jokingly "I fought Sugar Ray so many times that I'm surprise I don't have diabetes".
Here's how it went down leading up to final bout between these two combatants.
The first time was on 10/2/1942 at Madison Square Garden. Robinson was 35-0. LaMotta lost to a 10 round decision.
The second was on 2/5/1943 at the Olympia Stadium in Detroit, Michigan. Robinson was 40-0. Robinson was knocked through the ropes in the 8th round and was saved by the bell at the count of nine. LaMotta won the 10 round decision.
The third was on 2/26/1943 (about 3 weeks later) again at the Olympia Stadium. Robinson was now 41-0 and LaMotta was the first man to put a lose on his record. Robinson was floored for a nine count in round 7. After the fight Ray said "He really hurt me with a left in the 7 round. I was a little dazed and decided to stay on the deck.." LaMotta lost the 10 round decision. Jake said that they gave the fight to Robinson because he was going to army the next day.
The forth was on 2/23/1945 at Madison Square Garden. Robinson now 53-1. Lamotta lost the 10 round decision.
The fifth was on 9/26/1945 at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois. Robinson now 56-1-1. Robinson said "This was the toughest fight I've ever had with LaMotta." Jake lost the 12 round decision.
The sixth was on 2/14/1951 at Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois. Robinson with an impressive record of 120-1-2. The fight was scheduled for 15 rounds, but unfortunately it lasted to the 13 round. (The hard luck number.)
According to LaMotta, he should've won at least three of those fights.
LaMotta had trouble making the 160 pound weight limit up to the day of the fight. He made the weight but he was weak. The champ looked good from rounds 1 through 8 and he did begin to tire from rounds 10 through 13. The fight doctor checked out LaMotta during the rest period before the start of the 13 round and apparently he was ok to continue. The 13 round is very hard to watch because it is obvious that the champ ran out of gas and all he could do was throw a jab every once in awhile. It was pride that kept the champ on his feet. He wanted to keep his title for as long as he could. Finally, the ref stepped in to stop the fight and the picture that you see above was moments after the fight was stopped and Sugar Ray Robinson is declared the new middleweight champion of the world.
In Robinson’s autobiography it says in there that moments after winning the middleweight title Ray looks over in Jake's corner sitting on his stool. LaMotta was giving him this look as if to say "You didn't put me down". Even though he lost the fight, Jake went out like a champion. He stayed on his feet and took punishment just so he could keep his title. LaMotta claims that Robinson would eventually collapse from hitting him so much. He's right, because if you look at the footage Robinson was tired.
Every time when I see this fight I always want LaMotta to prevail against Robinson, and it always bothers me when I see the outcome. Don’t get me wrong Sugar Ray Robinson is pound for pound the greatest middleweight champion that ever lived. He had power in both hands and he could knock out his opponents going backwards. He was a very graceful fighter and one of my favorites. He finished his career with 173-19-6.
Years after their retirement Sugar Ray Robinson was Jake LaMotta's best man at his sixth wedding in 1986. Ray suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. He died in Culver City, California on April 12, 1989, at the age of 67.
Jake LaMotta pretty much out lived all of the old time fighters. He is still popular today as he ever was because of the film Raging Bull. He says that he’s champ all over again. Only once the champ was knocked off his feet and that was with Danny Nardico on 12/31/1952. (alot of people dont know about that.) The champ finished his career with 83-19-4.
I think Jake would have won this fight if he played possum more. Playing possum is a trick that Jake invented when he pretends to be hurt on the ropes and lets the other fighter do all the punching thinking that he's has the fight won. When the second that the other fighter is tired from punching, Jake would side-step and throws a barrage of combinations which is his last resort to winning a fight. A great example is when he fought Laurent Dauthuille in 1950. LaMotta was losing the fight and he needed a knockout to win. It was the 15 and final round, LaMotta fooled Dauthuille with his playing possum tactic and knocked him out with only 13 seconds left on the clock. It was fight of the year in 1950, and he kept his title.
Happy Valentine's Day.