Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Meeting Sugar Ray Robinson
Sugar Ray Robinson One of the great personal memories during my short time in the ring was meeting Sugar Ray Robinson. It went beyond just meeting him. For a short time during the 1970's, he was my friend and I never forgot him.
I trained at the Main Street Gym in Downtown Los Angeles, usually in the afternoon. Sugar Ray trained there daily. No sparring, just the rope, shadowboxing, hitting the bags, etc. He was in his 50's at the time. He was a daily figure at the gym. He always wore a red sweat suit.
One afternoon, I was shadowboxing in front of one the mirrors. I glanced behind me and I could see Sugar Ray, skipping rope, I could also see that he was looking at me. A minute or two later, I saw that he stopped skipping rope and was studying me.
He walked up to me and said “Excuse me son, do you mind if I give you a little advice?” My first instinct was to look at my trainer, Mel Epstein, for permission. Mel usually went ballistic when anyone approached any of his fighters. He nodded at me and smiled. I mean, what was he going to say? Don't listen to him, he doesn't know anything about boxing!!
He says, “I noticed that every time you throw the jab you bring your right hand back.” Don't do that. That's a good way to get knocked out! I want you to think of your right hand as a catcher's mitt and the other guy's fist as the baseball. Just relax and catch it.' He moved around a bit so I could see what he meant.
Over the course of time he had more advice, much of it reinforced what Mel had already shared with me. I was mindful of every minute with him. I soaked it all up. You can take it to the bank that I was well aware of how lucky I was.
What sealed it for me were the times I was at the gym, and I saw Sugar Ray walk through the doors and look around, then he saw me, smiled and went to the locker room. He was looking for me.
This went on for several months and then one day he was gone. I never saw him again. I remember hearing in the news, back in 1989, that he passed away. I'm grateful for the memories and I'm grateful that this great man took some time out of his own life to spend with me. R.I.P.