39-cent stamp honors Sugar Ray Robinson
WASHINGTON -- Sugar Ray Robinson would have considered being featured on a postage stamp "an honor for him, an honor for God and an honor for the community," his son said of the latest accolade for a man once selected as the top boxer of the 20th century.
The new 39-cent stamp, designed to resemble a vintage fight poster of the 1940s and '50s, is being released Friday in ceremonies at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"I think he would have thought [the stamp] was a gift from God," Ray Robinson II said in a telephone interview.
But not just a gift to him alone.
"He was a team player in a sport where you don't have a team," the younger Robinson said. His father valued his family, agents, lawyers, training staff and sparring partners, "that was the team."
He recalled his father's concern for fair and equal treatment for everyone. "'We're all one world,"' he said, quoting his father.
The elder Robinson once did a public service announcement urging the police to treat everyone the same, whether they were individuals on the street or famous athletes such as Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and himself, the son recalled.
And he noted his father's close friendship with boxer Jake LaMotta. LaMotta was the first fighter to beat Robinson, and the two fought six times. Yet they became friends and Robinson was best man at one of LaMotta's many weddings.
"They were two men that were committed to nothing but their craft," the younger Robinson said. "They didn't take their craft personally, they took it as going to work, like a plumber would, like an electrician would, and afterwards it was, 'Let's go out for a beer.' "
First-day of issue ceremonies for the stamp were scheduled for the Golden Gloves boxing competition.
Robinson was world welterweight champion from Dec. 20, 1946, until Feb. 14, 1951, when he won the world middleweight title for the first of five times. Overall, according to The Ring Record Book, Robinson fought 201 bouts, winning 174 (109 by knockout) against only 19 losses, six draws, and two no contests.
He was voted "Fighter of the Century" by a panel of experts in 1999.
And with boxing often called "The Sweet Science," Robinson was described as its sweetest practitioner by boxing historian Bert Sugar.
Robinson was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. After his fight career ended, he became an actor and established a youth foundation. He died from complications of Alzheimer's disease and diabetes on April 12, 1989.
The younger Robinson, a fight promoter, stays close to the sport and works with Ring Eight, a boxing support group that assists indigent fighters.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press