It has long been one of boxing's most famous rivalries.
Before Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran, Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales, Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward and Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vazquez, Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta met in six brutal bouts that only those who have witnessed them can attest to the true magnitude these epic bouts brought to boxing.
Ray Robinson, the globally thought of best pound for pound fighter in history and Jake LaMotta. globally thought of as one of the sport's toughest fighters to ever lace on a pair of gloves, faced off an astonishing six times in nine years.
The first was a unanimous decision victory by Robinson on Oct 2nd 1942; the rematch on Feb 2nd 1943 had LaMotta winning by the same result, handing Robinson the first loss of his career, with the third bout of their epic series just three weeks later on Feb 26th 1943 it would once again be Robinson who was declared the victor.
After a short break, the pair faced off twice again in 1945 with both bouts again having Robinson declared the winner by unanimous decision. After five bouts between the two, with Jake coming ahead only once, most believed the rivalry was put to rest, behold though on Feb 14th 1951 the duo decided to meet for what would be the sixth and truly final time at the world famous Chicago Stadium.
This time, unlike the others both men were world champions, mind you this was when each division only had one world champion making the bout slightly more appealing due to the fact Robinson had already bested the Bronx native four of five times prior and without a title belt on the line excitement for this bout may not have been so high among the public’s radar.
This bout would also prove to be the most grueling of their half dozen, so grueling in fact it would later be dubbed “The St Valentines Day Massacre!”
As Robinson entered the ring wearing his traditional White and Black trunks, his body appeared a bit soft around the middle, many attributed this due to the fact Robinson was the current Welterweight Champion and had to pack on a few extra pounds for the bout.
LaMotta looked to be in the best condition of his career, his camp claimed it had never been tougher and Jake sparred over 100 rounds in preparation for the bout. With only LaMotta's middleweight title on the line it made sense on why he had trained so hard since he was the fighter who had the most to lose.
As the bout began Jake stood strong crouching down to gain leverage on his punches. Robinson moved around the ring beautifully flicking his long jab attempting to throw Jake off his game but early on it appeared that the Middleweight champion would not be deterred. When the second round ended Robinson had shown the better boxing ability as expected but it was LaMotta who scored the harder punches.
Rounds three through five continued in a similar fashion where both men stayed to the game plan they had mapped out in training camp and again while Jake landed the harder blows it was Robinson who kept moving, making LaMotta’s face begin to show signs of the crafty jab he had been pestering the middleweight champion with since the bout started.
In round six both men had trickles of blood flowing from their noses, LaMotta’s ever so slight and Robinson's much more visible to the crowd in attendance, many watching or listening on the radio began to feel as if this would be Jake's night, of course those who had such beliefs forgot exactly the type fighter Robinson was and that he was not a man to be denied a victory so easily.
The next two rounds each man had their moments and each man's supporters roared after even the slightest punch connected. At the start of the ninth round a shift in advantage would become ever so clear in Robinson's favor because LaMotta visibly showed signs of fatigue.
Once the two answered the bell for round ten it would be Robinson that started to allow his “Sugar" to flow freely, dancing catching LaMotta with combinations then turning out of the way before Jake could return fire. LaMotta in true “Bull” like fashion never stopped coming forward, looking for one big shot in hopes of turning the bout back to his favor.
Ray would have none of it, he started to let his hands go in such a simplistic fashion onlookers were dazzled, for a man to unleash such damage with such minimal effort viewers could not help but become mesmerized, what’s more LaMotta himself had become memorized. Every fan in attendance stood screaming with disbelief at the fact LaMotta could remain standing while being abused in such a fashion.
Jake was being battered from pillar to post, onlookers waited with baited breath for the champion to fall, any other fighter would have seen lights above them long ago yet as LaMotta had proven over the years he was no ordinary fighter, he was not even extraordinary, he was superhuman in what he was soaking up physically.
It would finally take the mercy of referee Frank Sikora for the bout to be halted, after 64 unforgettable rounds between the men, their in ring wars would finally be halted at 2:04 of the 65th round in the series and the 13th round of the sixth bout between one other.
Jake LaMotta would never again reach anywhere near a world title shot, retiring ten bouts later going a mediocre 5-4-1 being stopped on his stool twice. LaMotta would end his career with an 83 (30)-19 (4)-4 record.
Robinson who entered the sixth bout between these men with a 120-1-2 record would fight on for 14 more years trading the middleweight title with such greats as Gene Fullmer and Carmen Basilio during that time.
Regardless of how many times either man fought after their series and regardless of the legacy each man left behind if there was nothing else accomplished between them other then these six bouts it would still be nothing short of a marvel in terms that these two could inflict such damage upon one another then manage to continue on as fighters after it was all over.
The fact their final fight was dubbed with such an infamous moniker attest to the heart of each warrior. It also attest to the fact fighters just aren’t what they used to be.