Sugar Ray Robinson was pound-for-pound the world's greatest boxer whose influence extended far beyond the rings he dominated for much of 25 years, friends said after his death at age 67.
"He was one of the finest human beings who ever lived, even a better person than a prizefighter," said Sid Lockitch, Robinson's business manager for 19 years."He was charitable, he cared very deeply for children," Lockitch said, referring to the Sugar Ray Youth Foundation, founded in 1969 in Los Angeles.
Robinson, whose 175-19-6 record included 110 knockouts in his career, died Wednesday, apparently of natural causes, shortly after being taken to Brotman Memorial Medical Center. He suffered from Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, Lockitch said.
Boxing's original Sugar Ray influenced fighters from Muhammad Ali to Sugar Ray Leonard.
Another of Robinson's most memorable rivalries was against Gene Fullmer, whom he had beaten only once in four meetings.
Robinson lost the middleweight title to Fullmer on Jan. 2, 1957, on a 15-round decision, then regained it on May 1 in Chicago with one of the most famous one-punch knockouts in boxing history, ending that fight in the fifth round.
He and Fullmer fought to a draw on Dec. 3, 1960, and he lost a 15-round decision to Fullmer on March 4, 1961, in Las Vegas.
"I idolized the man," Leonard said of Robinson. "Someone once said there was a comparison between Sugar Ray Leonard and Sugar Ray Robinson. Believe me, there's no comparison. Sugar Ray Robinson was the greatest."
"Generations of fighters copied his style, including Muhammad Ali," said Archie Moore, former light heavyweight champion and a friend for nearly 50 years. "Ali got a lot of his style from Robinson. We'll all miss him. I know I'll miss him."
Robinson fought his first fight Oct. 4, 1940, and his last at age 44 on Nov. 10, 1965, losing a 10-round decision to Joey Archer.
In that span, the flashy fighter was involved in some of the most memorable bouts
And he was as flashy outside the ring as inside it. He owned a Harlem nightclub and drove a flamingo-pink Cadillac. On his boxing tours of Europe during his peak, his entourage included a valet, a barber who doubled as his golf pro, and several family members as well as his trainers.
"Money is for spending," he once said.
Robinson was born on May 3, 1921, in Detroit, Mich., as Walker Smith Jr.
As a teenage amateur boxer, he borrowed the card of a young fighter named Ray Robinson. Once his Sugar Ray nickname stuck, he never used his real name again.
He was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1967.
"Sugar Ray Robinson was The Man, along with Joe Louis," former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes said. "Those two guys opened the door for the rest of us.
"Anytime you get into a conversation about old-time greats, those are the two people everyone talks about."
Even Louis, the renowned Brown Bomber and former heavyweight champion, once called Robinson "the greatest fighter ever to step into the ring."
Indeed, Robinson inspired the phrase, "pound for pound, the best," a description intended to transcend the weight divisions.
Robinson won the vacant world welterweight title on Dec. 20, 1946, with a 15-round decision over Tommy Bell and never lost a fight to a welterweight the rest of his career.
He also won the middleweight title, stopping Jake LaMotta in the 13th round on Feb. 14, 1951, in Chicago. That was the sixth time the two fighters had met, with Robinson winning five. It also was the only time they did not fight to the distance in one of the most brutal rivalries in boxing history.
Besides his wife, Millie, Robinson is survived by a son from an earlier marriage, Ray Jr., two stepchildren - Ramona Lewis and Butch Robinson - four grandchildren and a sister, Evelyn Nelson of New York.