CNN/SI

  Robinson vs. Fullmer - Jan 2, 1957  
  gloves
Sports Illustrated takes you ringside for 10 of the best bouts in Madison Square Garden history. Click on a fight and return to the Mecca.

1957: Robinson-Fullmer
1963: Clay-Jones
1967: Ali-Folley
1968: Foster-Tiger
1971: Ali-Frazier
1977: Ali-Shavers
1979: Holmes-Weaver
1983: Duran-Moore
1986: Camacho-Rosario
1991: Leonard-Norris
Evanders Believe It Or Not! From Don King's bark to Mike Tyson's bite, Holyfield's career has been defined by the outrageous. Scroll through our timeline to relive the madness and mayhem.
Tomato Cans They're known for bleeding, losing and taking a serious pounding. Check out our gallery of boxing's most unlikely contenders.
Molding a Champion CNN/SI followed Holyfield through a typical day of training. Check out the video clips, but be sure to come back to Evander's Believe It Or Not.

Team Holyfield
A Day in the Life

 
 
 
Last Seconds Of A Champion

Not without honor, Sugar Ray Robinson surrenders his title to bull-strong Gene Fullmer in a battle of Wit vs. Brawn

by Martin Kane

Issue date: January 14, 1957

  1957 SI Cover    (Hy Peskin)
It was the 15th round. Out of his corner came Sugar Ray Robinson with three minutes to go as middleweight champion of the world. Blood trickled from a deep, inch-long cut over his left eye. It had splashed down onto his white trunks, onto his thigh and shin. His hair, so carefully marcelled in Round One, was a disordered shock. This was a beaten fighter but a champion, too. He proved it during those last seconds.

He was 35 years old by his account, 36 by the record books, 37 by the reckoning of one of his five managers. By any calculation, he was old. Against him now, charging toward him once more as in every previous round, was a young man of 25, the bullnecked, heavy muscled, powerful Gene Fullmer, a welder's apprentice from West Jordan, Utah and, very likely, with more talent for welding than for boxing. Fullmer ended his charge by crashing a right into Robinson's body. Robinson sagged back, as he had done so many times before.

Suddenly the crowd screamed. There were 18,134 fans packed into Madison Square Garden and just about every one of them was howling in admiration. Few fans love Sugar Ray outside the ring but when he is working at his trade it is impossible not to respect him. He is a brave and skillful man. So the crowd howled. For Champion Sugar once more had cut loose with one of his fabulous flurries, a blinding fast combination to Fullmer's tough head, the kind that a few months before had crashed Bobo Olson to the canvas of a Los Angeles ring.

Fullmer, of course, is no Bobo Olson. With his 17-inch neck and powerful legs he has the durability, perhaps, of a Jake LaMotta and something of the crude insistence of a Rocky Marciano. The hardest punches merely shake him up a little. He has never been knocked out. But the crowd had not yet accepted this truth. It did seem, for a few wonderful seconds which revived memories of more youthful skills, that Sugar Ray's coldly furious combinations might work. His only chance was a knockout. He was trying desperately to achieve it.

He could not do it, of course, least of all after 14 rounds. Fullmer gave ground briefly, then he lunged back. Robinson caught Fullmer with a smashing right to the head, followed it with another, followed that with a right to the body. Everything about those punches reminded one of the young Robinson, whose grace and guile and power had made him welterweight champion and the only man to win the middleweight title three times. Everything, that is, but their effect.

The fight came to a close with Robinson, by some miracle of longevity, still fighting on his toes instead of in an old man's flat-footed stance, his miraculous dancer's legs still taking him wherever he wanted to go without ever a sign that age had weakened them. The boxing bromide has it that a fighter's legs abandon him first and his punch goes last. In the case of Sugar Ray Robinson the reverse may well be true.

So the last round ended, with Fullmer so confused that he continued to fight. He didn't hear the bell or see the red lights flash on the ring posts. Referee Ruby Goldstein stepped between the fighters.

It was Sugar Ray's round, last stand of a champion. It was Gene's fight.