Sugar Ray Robinson’s Deadly Premonition

“Rhythm is everything in boxing. Every move you make starts with your heart, and that’s in rhythm or you’re in trouble.” —Sugar Ray Robinson

In A Nutshell

Before defending his welterweight title in 1947, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson had a dream that he would kill his opponent. He agreed to continue with the fight only after being convinced by a priest that everything was going to be all right. That night, true to his nightmare, he proceeded to beat 22-year-old Jimmy Doyle to death.

The Whole Bushel

Since the corruption of figures like Don King, boxing has seen a steep decline, but it was once among the most popular sports. One of the greatest stars of the bygone era was Sugar Ray Robinson (born Walker Smith Jr.), a middleweight champion who dominated in the mid-20th century. Sugar Ray has been cited by many (including fellow boxers Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, and Roberto Duran) as the best pound-for-pound fighter in history.

In 1947, while fighting as a welterweight, Robinson was scheduled to take on a man named Jimmy Doyle in Cleveland, Ohio. The night before their bout, Sugar Ray had a horrible dream—that he killed Doyle in the ring with a left hook. Terrified, he refused to fight until promoters actually got a Catholic priest to assure him that his premonition was baseless.

Article Continued Below

Jimmy Doyle never stood a chance. He put up a valiant effort, actually winning the sixth round, but Robinson beat him soundly. In the eighth round, Sugar Ray unleashed a left hook that knocked Doyle to the mat. He was rushed to St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital, but died a few hours afterward. There was talk of bringing Robinson up on manslaughter, but no charges materialized. Sugar Ray was deeply affected by the incident. When he learned that Doyle had been saving up money to buy his mother a house, he set up a trust to take care of her for the next 10 years. Jimmy Doyle was just 22 years old.

Show Me The Proof

NY Times Obituary: Sugar Ray Robinson, Boxing’s ‘Best,’ Is Dead
ESPN: A Brooding Genius
Boxing Record: Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Jimmy Doyle