The rest of the fight was nothing but the last steps down for a gallant Robinson. He all but hit the canvas again in the sixth and once again in the seventh, looked better in the eighth and slugged it out with Archer in the ninth. In the last minute of the 10th round men at ringside were standing and pleading, "Don't hit him again, Joey! That's enough!" As the fighters awaited the decision after the final bell tears welled into Robinson's bloodshot eyes. There was a tiny cut, a mere scratch, on his right cheekbone. His nose was ruddy from all those jabs. He was breathing heavily. His legs were leaden. He knew.
It had been a long and glorious trail for Sugar Ray Robinson, who just may have been the best fighter ever. His skills were exquisite, his punch superb, his courage unsurpassed. But, as he had just learned, there always comes a day when only the courage remains.
The soft-spoken Archer held court in his dressing room.
"He's a tough guy," Archer said. "He is one of the cagiest old guys in boxing. He feints—most fighters today can't do that. He is the greatest fighter I ever saw among the middleweights."
And in a nearby room, the bleary-eyed Robinson was refusing to concede that he had fought his last.
"I want to get a night's sleep before I make up my mind," he said.
Next afternoon at the airport, waiting for a plane to take him back to New York, Sugar Ray smiled wanly, hunched his black leather, hip-length coat about his shoulders and said that retirement was the only course open to him now.
"But we have this offer of a return bout with Archer," one of his followers protested.
"Aw, what would be the point?" Robinson said.