Friday, February 15, 2013

The St Valentines Day Massacre

By Peter Silkov

The St Valentines Day Massacre
Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Jake Lamotta…
For The World Middleweight Championship
Feb 14th 1951 Chicago Stadium.

This week while we celebrate with love and affection  St. Valentine’s Day, sixty-two years ago Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake Lamotta had their own particularly violent Valentine’s Day party, when Robinson challenged Jake for his Middleweight championship.  The two men had formed one of boxing’s most potent relationships in a rivalry, which stretched back to 1942 and five previous fierce encounters.
Lamotta had handed Ray the first defeat of his professional career in their second fight, but Robinson had avenged himself by beating Jake three times since then.

On Feb 14th 1951 after being fistically apart for almost six years, the two met for the sixth time, with Lamottas Middleweight crown up for grabs. 

The fight was a classic, one of many littering the 160 pound division’s history, with both men renewing their pugilistic acquaintance with gleeful abandon. This battle would go down in ring history as ‘the St Valentines Day Massacre’.

As in their previous fights Lamotta bored in relentlessly, living up to his moniker ‘the Bronx Bull’ while Sugar Ray played the matador, using his sweet mix of speed and skills, and ballet like footwork, to evade and counter Jake’s persistent rushes.   Sugar Ray chipped away at ‘the bull’ with a rapier jab and bursts of lightning combinations, until a tiring Lamotta was at his mercy. 

In the last three rounds of the fight Robinson handed out a beating of almost sadistic proportions. Lamotta, his face now swollen and distorted, took it with a masochistic courage, as he continued to try and come forward and fight back as much as he could. Right up until the end, when at 2:04 of the thirteenth round, a defenceless Lamotta stood with his back against the ropes, his gloved hands clasping at the top strands, as Sugar Ray raked his head and body with a final fusillade of blows. Finally, the referee stepped between them and ended the bout.

With his spectacular victory over Lamotta, and capture of his second worlds title, Robinson had solidified his reputation as the greatest boxer of his era while ‘The Bronx Bull’ left the ring that night with his grim boast of never having been put down in a fight, still intact. 

Sugar Ray Robinson is now regarded by many as the greatest boxer pound for pound of all time. Jake Lamotta had his life and boxing career immortalised by Martin Scorsese and Robert Deniro in the operatic film “Raging Bull”. Both men will forever be linked within Ring history, and their Valentines Day showdown stands as the epic culmination of their fistic relationship.

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