Goodbye Mr. Robinson

By The Fight Film Collector on June 19, 2013
Goodbye Mr. Robinson
“Archer is the top contender,” said Ray. "I know I can beat him. It’s not for the money.”

“I had hopes of fighting for the championship again if I had beaten Archer. But I didn’t win. With all due respect to Archer, he is not a puncher…”

Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Joey Archer
Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
November 11, 1965
With Bonus Footage
16mm Sound, 12 minutes

I work out at a neighborhood gym just a few blocks from where I live. An older gentleman, who was in the service during the 1960s, also goes there. We often talk boxing, and he told me that he once saw Sugar Ray Robinson fight in person. He couldn’t recall the opponent, but since the fight took place in the mid 1960s while my friend was stationed in Hawaii, I looked it up. He likely saw one of the two Robinson-Harrington fights in Honolulu 1965. Ray lost both by decision. “Yeah, he lost,” my friend said with a shrug. Then he smiled and added, “But for three rounds, it was Ray Robinson!”

In the lead up to the fight, Robinson had been urged to quit for the good of boxing and his health. “Look,” he said, “I’ve never been a failure yet. Four times I’ve been right, coming back to win the title when people said ‘why doesn’t he quit?’ Archer is the top contender. I know I can beat him. It’s not for the money…I’m not doing this to live on. I want to win the middleweight crown once more, then I’ll quit.”

Archer, who was 18 years younger than Robinson, said, “He was great in his day, but those days are no more for him. I know he can still throw combinations and will try to knock me out. But he won’t. I’ll put pressure on him all the way. He doesn’t want that title any more than I do.”

The crowd who witnessed the Ray Robinson vs. Joey Archer fight probably felt much the same as my friend did. It was November 11, 1965, and Robinson’s last professional fight. Middleweight contender Joey Archer took a one-sided decision from the 45-year-old man who many (including myself) regard as the best pound-for-pound boxer of all time.

After the bout Robinson said, “I had hopes of fighting for the championship again if I had beaten Archer. But I didn’t win. With all due respect to Archer, he is not a puncher. He hit me off balance and I got knocked down. They talked about a return match with Archer last night, but I didn’t say anything.”

The Film

When I received this film last year, I held the reel up to the light and saw that it was printed on color stock. Excited at the prospect of seeing a Ray Robinson fight in color, I cleaned and transferred the footage to digital video. The brownish tone suggests the film may have been in color, but perhaps had faded. I checked with boxing film historian Steve Lott, who told me the original camera film was actually black & white, but the final release, which he co-produced, was printed on color stock, which creates the sepia-tone effect. The print itself is clean and in excellent condition. The fight was captured by the Civic Arena’s single archival camera and is clear, sharp and well exposed.

Bonus Footage

In addition to the Archer fight are two bonus clips. The first is rare footage of a young Ray Robinson as a featherweight against Louis Valentine in the 1939 Golden Gloves Finals. Very little footage of Robinson exists of his fights prior to 1950, and this glimpse of Sugar Ray so early in his career is an absolute gem. After the Archer fight, the film concludes with Robinson’s retirement ceremony held at Madison Square Garden in December 1965. A sell-out crowd of 12,146 was there to pay tribute. Robinson was joined in the ring by former rivals Carmen Basilio, Randy Turpin, Bobo Olson and Gene Fullmer.

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Sugar Ray Robinson -vs- Joey Archer 11/10/65 (16mm Transfer) Robinson's Last Fight

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  1. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 06:57pm, 06/21/2013

    These films are great and are the antidote for revisionist history…nothing cheap about the knockdown….Ray was “off balance” because Joey knocked him off balance with a left hook and then put him down hard with with the follow up right…. with Ray just beating the count at nine. Joey was nobody’s “opponent”....he was a world class fighter and his record proves it!

  2. Mike Silver 09:25pm, 06/19/2013

    Where was Jake LaMotta? Without him the ceremony was definitely incomplete. The crumbs who ran the Garden wouldn’t let Jake be introduced because he admitted to a congressional investigation that he threw a fight under pressure from the mob. Graziano, who was mobbed up to his ears, threw a fight (everyone knew it but he never admitted it) and he was always introduced to loud cheers. LaMotta actually helped boxing with his testimony. In the end he showed more guts and class than the hypocrites who ran the Garden.

  3. nicolas 02:22pm, 06/19/2013

    I think the Garden at that time held more than the 12,000 that is written in this article, so unless they only had some 12,000 tickets, it was not sold out. Watching the men enter the ring, I could not help but feel for the tragedy that was Randy Turpin, who would take his own life some 6 months latter. I remember reading somewhere that Bobo Olson, helped him during the week of Robinson’s retirement announcement. LaMotta could not be there because of the admission of the fix in the Billy Fox fight some 16 yrs earlier.

  4. Michael Hegan 02:17pm, 06/19/2013

    None of us would see some of the footage that Fight Film Collector ..has taken the time and talent to recover.

    Many great moments had been captured on film of the day….but unless these films are recovered ..and copied ...they are just disintegrating….not just fight films….but many a sports event or Motion Picture…is ...rotting away.

    Thank you

  5. Michael Hegan 02:09pm, 06/19/2013

    Robinson was such an artist in the ring….his last years were passed over by most reports.

    What a great fighter he was…as was Frazier…Benny Leonard….and the list is endless….all who wound up penniless and little dignity. Boxing isn’t the only Pro Sport where this happens….and an honest deal for pension/disability vehicles should be available…...nobody ..with only sports background to get them to such a level where millions are part of the contracts .....

    Twenty two yrs old…..with or without money… have an attention span of a moth !!!! add ten million a year contracts to that…...and..

  6. Michael Hegan 01:58pm, 06/19/2013

    Robinson can probably make the top three in any list…and for most fight fans….the top ..number one…grand poobah of all fighters….pound for pound…...two hundred fights and most of them undefeated.

    Footage can prove the man was a thoroughly dangerous man….flurries (his flurries scored!! leonard…not just slap against the opponents shoulders !!)...hard body or head attack…KO punches ..both hands…and if it had to come to that…he’d put as much rubber on the road as anybody…..and still win !! beat by heat prostration…as did the referee…...but few ever beat RAY ROBINSON….......the mid sixties guy…was a lot of them….used up ...broke and no more friends…and needed a pay day….  his final years were spent in a fog of dementia..;.penniless

  7. Michael Hegan 01:53pm, 06/19/2013

    Basilio had heart ..grit and class.  Basilio and a lot of other fighters ...especially five of them..from Jake LaMotta on up…..owed a lot to beating Ray Robinson…
    They’re in History.  Basilio amongst them.  Tuff fkr with few words to say.and a man who enjoyed his privacy…....but he took time to pay his respects to Sugar Ray Robinson…

  8. Mike Casey 05:20am, 06/19/2013

    Yes, Clarence, very true!

  9. Clarence George 05:00am, 06/19/2013

    Basilio couldn’t stand Robinson, and yet he was there to pay him tribute.  What a class act he was.

  10. Mike Casey 04:44am, 06/19/2013

    Alas, yes - goodbye, Ray. It was some ride!

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