SAN FRANCISCO WASN'T TOO SURPRISED
The boxing fans least surprised by the downfall of Bobo Olson were those of his home town. Before the fight last week an SI correspondent wired this summary of reflections along Leavenworth Street, headquarters of the Sweet Science in San Francisco:
" Olson is being sued for divorce by his wife, who claims the once-home-loving Bobo has been wandering. It's no secret that Bobo, in recent weeks, has been a frequent visitor to bars, though it is claimed he hardly ever drinks spirited liquors. He doesn't say much but seems to like the atmosphere. Some local critics believe he is ripe to lose the middleweight title.
For a triumphant Sugar Ray Robinson and Budd Schulberg's account of how he came back, turn to page 36.
SUGAR RAY—A WILL AND FIVE INSPIRED SECONDS
If the fight game is show business with blood, Sugar Ray Robinson is its Booth, its Barrymore, its Brando. The manly art may have its seamy side, but it will survive its scandals because it is still the closest thing to Russian roulette we have in sports. A ball team plays for keeps every day, a golfer plays his heart out, but it is only in the prize ring that fame and fortune, disgrace and despair, hang on a single night, a single round or five inspired seconds that turn champions into bums and seemingly used-up contenders into legends.
Last Friday night in Chicago, as Sugar Ray Robinson danced in his corner waiting for the opening bell, while Champion Bobo Olson performed a jerky stationary jog in the opposite corner, tension silenced the crowd and touched even the veteran sportswriters who expected to see the ruin of the greatest boxer of the '40s and '50s. He had been our Dixon, our Gans, our Leonard, an unbeatable welterweight and middleweight who could make the moves that reminded the old-timers of the masters. To see him feint with his shoulders, move in, slide away and counter, to see him put combination punches together faster than any ringsider could count them, to see him hook off the jab and then throw the straight right hand, was to see what the whole complex sport of boxing is all about.
But the years were supposed to have stolen the matchless grace from Sugar Ray. In this same Chicago ring 11 months earlier he had looked flat-footed and ordinary with Tiger Jones. Then Castellani had knocked him down and the satin-black man with the once-marvelous legs had had to call on a champion's memory to game it out to the final bell.
So the smart money said the twice-champion of the middleweights could never make it back. Hell, they never come back, remember? In the half-century of glove fighting it had never happened, and Sugar Ray with all his pride and cuteness had shown nothing in his comeback campaign to suggest that he could succeed where Corbett and Fitzsimmons failed.
So the money boys set the price on Olson at 17-5 and, despite the nostalgic interest in Ray's adventure, it became very nearly an out fight. Not a single sportswriter or manager, as I wandered around at the weigh-in ceremonies, could see it any other way but Olson. Sugar Ray might outspeed him for five, six rounds, give him a little boxing lesson maybe, but then Olson would plod on and Ray's 35-year-old legs would stiffen and the dazzler of the '40s would burn down and out.