April 16, 1952: Robinson vs Graziano

So usually match-ups that seem as apparent, can’t-miss points of interest simply fail to materialize and such was the case with Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Graziano. Sure, Robinson was a welterweight for many of his profession whereas Rocky plied his commerce at 160 kilos, however nonetheless, each have been primarily based in New York Metropolis and each have been massive attracts, but it didn’t come collectively till one of the best years of each males have been within the document books. In 1951 Sugar Ray moved as much as middleweight and stopped Jake LaMotta within the well-known “St. Valentine’s Day Bloodbath” to win his second world title. That was the identical title Graziano had held for a yr within the midst of an extremely violent trilogy with Tony Zale, a sequence of vicious brawls concluded in 1948 when “The Man Of Metal” knocked Rocky kicking for a second time.

Earlier than dealing with Rocky, Sugar Ray beat Bobo in San Fran.

However Graziano had regrouped since that defeat and put collectively a formidable run, together with massive wins over Charley Fusari and Tony Janiro. In the meantime, Robinson, whose Corridor of Fame credentials have been already effectively established, had suffered a large upset defeat to Randy Turpin the in July of 1951, earlier than regaining the title from the Briton in extremely memorable vogue on the Polo Grounds. Ray then journeyed to San Francisco to win a 15 spherical determination over  Carl “Bobo” Olson in March. By that point the Graziano duel had already been booked for Chicago as Robinson wished to remain busy and make the most of his nonetheless spry 31-year-old legs.

Rocky Graziano

However whereas Robinson vs Graziano was a scorching ticket and drew an enormous crowd to Chicago Stadium, few gave “The Rock” greater than a puncher’s probability. In any case, it was no secret that Rocky might solely field a technique: weapons blazing behind his cannon of a proper hand. Sugar Ray was the way more expert and versatile pugilist with expertise to spare by way of footwork, mobility and ring smarts. Thus, the intrigue of the match past the large names and the likelihood {that a} resurgent Graziano’s energy would possibly bother Ray, had every thing to do with how Robinson selected to method it tactically. Would he field with endurance and poise and restrict Graziano’s possibilities, or would he please each the gang and Rocky and go for a shoot-out?

Robinson vs Graziano

To the shock of many, he clearly selected the latter; as an alternative of boxing on the again foot and staying out of vary of the challenger’s harmful proper, Robinson got here ahead from the outset, throwing bombs. The consequence was a rough-and-tumble battle in spherical one, with loads of clinches and mauling, Graziano throwing rabbit punches with abandon as the 2 wrestled for place. The champion’s hand-speed and accuracy carried the opener as Rocky absorbed quite a few laborious photographs to each physique and head, Sugar Ray even pinning Graziano on the ropes at one level and battering him with each fists.

However within the second, Ray, heeding his nook’s recommendation, seemed to sluggish the torrid tempo and took his foot off the gasoline pedal, which in flip allowed Rocky to achieve the momentum he was in search of as he stalked Ray and unloaded a few of his trademark energy photographs. The champion countered with a sustained barrage that briefly knocked Rocky again on his heels, however it was nonetheless Graziano chasing Robinson and calling the tune within the second, the gutsy challenger waving to Ray at spherical’s finish as if to say “I nearly acquired you!”

Robinson vs Graziano

To the delight of the sell-out crowd, the slugfest continued in spherical three with each males unleashing the large bombs, after which it occurred: the nice Sugar Ray let fly a two-fisted barrage, hurting Rocky and forcing him to retreat, however within the course of Ray left himself each susceptible and off-balance. A determined, Hail Mary proper hand from Graziano didn’t land cleanly, however nonetheless carried sufficient weight to briefly knock the champion to at least one knee. Robinson was up with out a rely and the referee merely acknowledged the knockdown and allowed the battle proceed.

Robinson vs Graziano

Graziano gave chase, searching for to capitalize as Ray back-pedaled and circled the ring. Then, abruptly, Robinson reversed the momentum and backed the challenger to the ropes, touchdown two fast left hooks after which a crushing proper, the shot touchdown flush and separating Graziano from each his mouthpiece, which went flying, and his senses. For a break up second Rocky remained on his ft, his physique limp, his head drooping down, earlier than he crumpled to the canvas. Mendacity on his aspect, he gyrated his proper leg in a useless try to resuscitate himself, however by the point consciousness returned and he was vertical once more, the referee’s rely was performed.

“I believed I had time to stand up however my legs have been gone,” lamented Rocky in his dressing room. “One second I’m successful, the following I’m listening to the rely. Boy, the man can belt! An ideal fighter.”

Robust as he was, Rocky by no means got here near beating the rely.

For his half, Robinson was equally charitable, noting that the punch which briefly floored him had landed behind the ear. “Good factor it didn’t get me on the chin,” he stated. “I’ve met many robust fighters … however nobody ever stung me greater than Rocky.”

For Graziano, this was the start of the tip. 5 months later he dropped a call to rising star Chuck Davey, and whereas little doubt Rocky might have continued and banked a couple of extra paydays, he correctly hung up his gloves for good and launched into a profession in present enterprise. Ray nearly adopted an equivalent path as he misplaced to Joey Maxim in his subsequent outing and in addition retired, however lower than three years later he launched into one other wonderful run that included memorable battles in opposition to “Bobo” Olson, Carmen Basilio, Gene Fullmer and Joey Giardello.              — Michael Carbert 

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