"I fought Sugar Ray so often, I almost got diabetes."
The above quote from “The Raging Bull” (and future star of the timeless film of the same name), came after the 6th and final fight of his classic rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson, widely regarded as the greatest fighter to have ever lived.
You’ll get no argument here.
LaMotta lost five times to Robinson, with the most famous being the last encounter which took place on February 14, 1951. The fight would become known as The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Robinson won the undisputed world middleweight title that night via 13th round TKO.
Sugar Ray basically outboxed the champion for the first 10 very intense rounds, then unleashed a series of savage combinations on LaMotta over the next three, finally stopping him for the first time in their legendary six-bout series—and dealing LaMotta his first legitimate knockout loss in 95 professional bouts.
But he never knocked him down.
June 16th 1983 was one of the greatest days of my life. I’d known for about a week that my uncle was taking me to see Roberto Duran face super welterweight champ Davey Moore on what was to be Duran’s 32nd birthday.
I used to go to the bowling alley with my aunt on Monday nights, and during one of those smoky nights where I’d come home smelling like a big cigarette in a microwave, I saw Duran get cleaned up by someone named Kirkland Lang. He looked terrible. So bad in fact, that it was easy to write him off against the powerful and arrogant Moore.
Big mistake. “HUGE “
A revitalized Panamanian menace, Duran took Moore to a place in Hell that maybe a few of the 20,000 or so spectators that night could describe later in life. Madison Square Garden was loaded with an assortment of gangsters, mobsters and women from all over the underworld, and my little ass loved every criminal minute of it. I’ll never forget Sugar Ray Leonard coming into the ring to congradulate Duran in the ring after he brutally stopped Moore in the 8th round.
But what if he had to face the ultimate in Sugar Ray Robinson that night?
SUGAR RAY ROBINSON VS. ROBERTO DURAN
When Robinson gave LaMotta a comprehensive beating on Valentine’s Day that night in Chicago to claim the middleweight title, he weighed approximately 155.5lbs; he was a few months short of age 30, and approaching his zenith.
He was majestic in every sense of the word.
How good was Robinson? He’d avenged the only loss on his record from LaMotta four times while winning about 90 fights in a row before stopping Jake.
By contrast, Duran was approximately 152.5lbs the night he mauled Moore and at his diabolical best. He was classic Roberto Duran, and turned in the most calculatingly nasty performance of his legendary career.
This is a very good match-up and a very difficult encounter for both warriors. In Robinson, Duran would be dealing with a more actively aggressive version of what he saw in Leonard during their 1st bout in Montreal.
He threw punches in violent torrents, was the ultimate narcissist, and would probably be dismissive of Duran in a way that would make “Hands of Stone” become a complete inferno inside.
I don’t think this Robinson would’ve beaten that Duran.
His overall game, which was replete with the highest ring IQ I’ve ever seen from a “pure” fighter, would’ve just been too much for the great Robinson to overcome on this night. He would be subjected to a ruthless body attack, a relentless display of will and tenacity, and an uncommon desire to win that he’s never seen before.
There are no knockdowns - but plenty of action and war over 12 rounds- as Roberto Duran beats Sugar Ray Robinson, in an epic saga via Unanimous Decision.