On this day in 1951, Randy Turpin upset Sugar Ray Robsinon to capture the Middleweight Championship of the World. At the time, Robinson had lost just once in his career, to Jake LaMottoa (who celebrates his 94th birthday today!) in 1943. At the time of his loss to Turpin, Robinson had gone undefeated for over 8 years and in over 90 fights.
Turpin is one of the greats of British boxing. Known as the Leamington Licker, his family was the first black family to live in Leamington, where his father moved from British Guina. By the time he faced Robinson, Turpin was viewed as a respectable contender. But Robinson was a living legend. Turpin dug in and out-boxed the champion, demonstrating that he truly deserves to rank among the elite caliber of all-time boxers.
Robinson won the rematch just over two months later, back in New York City. After regaining his belt, Robinson spent the first part of 1952 beating Bobo Olson and Rocky Graziano, before challenging light heavyweight champion Joey Maxim in June. In that fight, Robinson was far ahead on the cards before collapsing from heat following Round 13. He would retire for three years, then return in 1955 and hold the middleweight title three more times over the remainder of the decade. In all, Robinson would continue boxing until 1965, when he fought his last bout at age 44. Few boxing historians disagree that he is the true, all-time, pound-for-pound king.
Turpin would remain one of the top fighters in England. In 1952, he won the British Commonwealth light heavyweight title and won the Commonwealth middleweight title later in the same year. In 1953, he lost to Olson in a fight for Robinson’s newly vacated title. He would continue to defend the Commonwealth light heavyweight title over the following years and lost a challenge for the European middleweight belt in 1954 to Tiberio Mitri.
Turpin tragically took his own life in 1966. He remains an enduring hero to the citizens of Leamington and on this day in 2001, a statue of Turpin was erected in the village square there.