Testimonials from those who watched the best performance of a British fighter, Randolph Turpin against Sugar Ray Robinson, tell the story of a truly amazing competition. By Matt Bozet
On Tuesday, July 10, 1951, Pete Price watched his childhood friend become the world’s most famous fighter. “Once in a while there
A fight that comes out of nowhere and shakes the world, “So it was boxing newsGilbert Odd described the night Randolph Turpin took the world middleweight title from Sugar Ray Robinson in front of 18,000 fans in the auditorium at Earls Court.
Only Jake LaMotta had defeated Robinson in the previous 132 matches, LaMotta’s only victory in their six competitions, while the 23-year-old Turpin was just eight rounds winning in 40 of 43 fights (two losses, one draw) at the domestic and European level. level.
Price recalled, “You could hear a pin drop every round. Everyone was waiting for Randolph to come out. For me, no one could beat Randolph. It was impossible.”
Price formed this view as a boy. In his memoir, written before his death, at the age of 79, Price recalls in 2010: “When I was four, Randolph and I were running down the street and he fell to the ground. His knee was bleeding, but he didn’t cry. It wasn’t right. There was something wrong with that boy. Why wasn’t he crying? I was going to cry. I thought that was weird. That was the first thing I ever remembered about Randolph.”
Price grew up with the Turpins at Leamington Spa – Randolph was known as “Leamington Licker” – and wrote: “I was the first to wear a pair of gloves with Randolph. This was in a little square backyard we had. I punched him once and I remember him swinging 360 degrees and hitting me On the side of my face I ran crying.”
The turbines were all fighters. Older brothers Dick and Jackie were a professional, and sister Bryce believes Cathy “would be the best fighter in the whole family had she been a child.”
Price was “five or six years old” – Randolph the same age – when he went to support Dick in a fight at the Leamington Ice Rink.
Price recalls: “When that was done, Jackie and Randolph went in and made an exhibition named Alexander and Moses, and they poured money into it.”
Turpin made his amateur debut three months before his 14th birthday and was defeated on points, but many of his early fights ended in quick victories thanks to his right hand.
His interest in boxing was prompted by reading the story of Harry Gripp, the “Pittsburgh Windmill” who faced all the entrants in his career in 298 fights and won the world middleweight title.
Price wrote: “He reads it in bed and laughs and says ‘Listen to this’ and then reads a paragraph from the book where his manager asks him to get out of the clothes to fight for the world middleweight title and he has two women there.
“That’s why Randolph’s hero was.”
Turbin had a similar appetite. Price recalled a story when his friend was an amateur boxer in France. He wrote: “There was a featherweight from Coventry, whose name I can’t remember, and he had a date with this girl. Randolph found out, locked him in the toilet and met this girl himself.”
Turpin announced that he had finished boxing after meeting future wife Mary Stack, but he was convinced to continue and at the age of 17, won both Junior and Senior ABBA titles in the same season.
He joined Dick in George Middleton’s professional stable and restored the British middleweight title to the family in October 1950, by firing Albert Finch, who had stripped Dick’s belt six months earlier.
Turbine took just 48 seconds to add the vacant European belt, and Luke van Damme pulled down to send a message to Robinson. He had needed four rounds to beat the Dutchman four months earlier.
Robinson was more than the best boxer in the world. He was a well-known celebrity for those with a passing interest in sports.
On his seven-week European tour of seven fights, culminating in the Battle of Turpin, Robinson took with him a barber, driver, personal golf pro and a midget to keep him entertained. They went with Robinson in his pink Cadillac to France, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy and finally London.
Eamonn Andrews, a former good amateur boxer, asked Robinson about his busy schedule as he prepared to defend his title against Turpin. “My boss and I, we’ve been doing this for a long time, it’s nothing new,” Robinson said. “I’m going to make that prediction – I don’t usually make predictions about fights – but in this case I think I should. I expect the fight won’t go beyond 15 rounds.”
Robinson wasn’t alone in thinking about it. Bookmakers made it a 1/7 favorite with Turpin’s points win as a 20/1 long shot. Lynne Harvey gave Turpin some words of comfort by saying “No one is invincible” and showed his rival partners his ruthlessness at Jurish Castle in North Wales.
“We were all beaten up on a regular basis,” Jackie Turpin recalls before his death at the age of 84 in 2010. “It wasn’t fun for us and it wasn’t good for Randy because he was so ahead of himself, fitness too. Soon, and I just felt like I had to do something.”
So Jackie bought women’s underwear. The following mast recalls: “I took off my clothes and got into the ring.” I was wearing my bosom and pants and ties and across my stomach I had written in lipstick: ‘Don’t strike here.’ I had written on my forehead: ‘Out of bounds.’
“For once, he couldn’t beat me for my laughter. I then told him it was for his own good, that he was about to finish and he had a month left.”
Fight tickets were cut off within three days.
The price was one of the lucky ones. “My brother asked if I could get him a ticket to the Sugar Ray match, so I got two,” he wrote. “They were only 10 bobs in those days, in the back row.”
From his seat, Price thought Turpin won the first rounds with a knockout that Robinson struggled to read. The others weren’t sure what they were watching.
There were stories of Robinson “carrying” his opponents, and given that he was hugely favored to beat Turbine, that seemed a likely explanation for what was going on.
Robinson fought with true intent in the seventh round. “I saw Sugar Ray hit him with his right hand and I thought I saw his legs move for a split second,” Brice recalls, but by the end of the round Robinson was bleeding from a severe cut in his left eyebrow.
Daily Express correspondent Peter Wilson wrote: “The heads of the two men—the fault of either of them—met together in a sickening click like two billiard balls colliding. Turbine came out unmarked, but Robinson was so badly injured that after the fight, his doctor had to insert 14 stitches near his left eye.” “.
Robinson’s Angle was able to control the bleeding from the wound, but nevertheless, fans felt the fight was going Turbine’s way and during the thirteenth round they started singing, because he’s a good fellow.
Peter McInnes remembered the euphoria as the final round took off. In his autobiography of Turpin, Randy, he wrote: “The crowd was on its feet with men swarming the aisles, embracing complete strangers and shaking hands with everyone else.” “The woman cried, cried and fainted.”
The 20 million listeners of Raymond Glendenning’s lively commentary on the radio heard an exciting climax.
“Ray Robinson is being chased into the ring by Turbine. He’s clinging and he definitely looks more achy… Turbine comes in, right under the heart, left, right to face. Robinson’s head dangles on his shoulders… English boy got on a runway roof.”
“He drives Robinson back, hitting his face left and right. He gets the champ in trouble. The champ fights back as they drive away as hard as they can. Robinson’s eye is bad now and Turpin is still relatively underdeveloped. Turpin scores the last punch of the round…and who wins” ?”
Moments later, Glendinning relayed the news: “Turpin has won! Turpin has won! Randolph Turpin, 23, of Leamington Spa, is the new world middleweight champion.”
Upon hearing this, King George VI reportedly returned to his dinner guests and told them, “Turpin has won.”
Fans crowded around the London hotel where Turbine was staying, forcing him to leave via the staff entrance, but the good times didn’t last.
The rematch took place against 61,370 at New York’s Polo Grounds after just 64 days and was close to the scorecards after nine rounds.
There was a head clash on the tenth day that cut Robinson in the forehead and he recalled: “I noticed the referee staring at the blood on my face. His anxiety made me think the cut might be dangerous enough to stop the fight.”
Robinson found the shots to bring down Turbine and then unleashed a desperate barrage of 31 punches in just 25 seconds to force a stop.
Jackie said, “When we were kids, he (Randolph) always said he’d be the best in the world and he made it. He didn’t have more to get to and Robinson’s second fight came too soon for him. Randolph had to get to the top, go down and then other climbs.”[Randolph)alwayssaidhewouldbethebestintheworldandhehadachievedthatHehadnothingmoretoreachforandthesecondRobinsonfightcamemuchtoosoonforhimRandolphneedtoreachapeakcomeddownandthenclimbanother”[Randolph)alwayssaidhewouldbethebestintheworldandhehadachievedthatHehadnothingmoretoreachforandthesecondRobinsonfightcamemuchtoosoonforhimRandolphneededtoreachapeakcomedownandthenclimbanother”
According to Price, Turpin was already squeezed into another fight between Robinson’s two fights. He went with Turbine to a local boxing booth. Price, who has had 11 professional fights himself, wrote: “This girl said, ‘You’re not Randolph Turpin.’ As if Randolph Turpin was coming to the boxing booth, world champion. We have a PTI that will bring you tomorrow.”
The next night we were in the front row and asked, ‘Are there competitors in the crowd? “Yes,” said this man in an RAF uniform. “I’ll take Randolph, if it’s Randolph.”
“The bell went and Randolph hit him once with a left hook and on the way down grabbed him with the same punch and it’s over. He must have been down for 10 minutes. We started getting worried. He got up and said, ‘Come on, what’s the problem. I didn’t fall. He wanted to continue.'”
Turpin remained in touch with his childhood friend until his death in 1966, and Pete’s son, Gary Price, has memories of him. “Even when Randolph had none, he was still generous,” he said. “I remember my dad said to him, ‘Don’t donate your money,’ but every time he came to see us he would leave something under my pillow.”
Pete remembered the last time he spoke to Turpin. He wrote, “I fixed his record player, and about a week later he called me again. I said, ‘Licker, that guy is packed, you can also throw out the bloody thing and I’ll get you something cheap.’” He said, “Pete, I don’t have the money to bleed.”
The estimated £300,000 he had earned during his career in the ring was gone, some invested in a faltering Welsh guesthouse, and Inland Revenue wanted money that Turpin simply didn’t have.
On May 17, 1966, Turpin shot himself. The Leamington Licker has died at the age of 37.