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Pound for Pound: A Biography of Sugar Ray Robinson

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Hailed by critics as a long overdue portrait of Sugar Ray Robinson, a man who was as elusive out of the ring as he was magisterial in it, Pound for Pound is a lively and nuanced profile of an athlete who is arguably the best boxer the sport has ever known. So great were Robinson's skills, he was eulogized by Woody Allen, compared to Joe Louis, and praised by Muhammad Ali, Hailed by critics as a long overdue portrait of Sugar Ray Robinson, a man who was as elusive out of the ring as he was magisterial in it, Pound for Pound is a lively and nuanced profile of an athlete who is arguably the best boxer the sport has ever known. So great were Robinson's skills, he was eulogized by Woody Allen, compared to Joe Louis, and praised by Muhammad Ali, who called him "the king, the master, my idol." But the same discipline that Robinson brought to the sport eluded him at home, leading him to emotionally and physically abuse his family -- particularly his wife, the gorgeous dancer Edna Mae, whose entrepreneurial skills helped Robinson build an empire to which Harlemites were inexorably drawn. Exposing Robinson's flaws as well as putting his career in the context of his life and times, renowned journalist and bestselling author Herb Boyd, with Ray Robinson II, tells for the first time the full story of a complex man and sport-altering athlete.


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Hailed by critics as a long overdue portrait of Sugar Ray Robinson, a man who was as elusive out of the ring as he was magisterial in it, Pound for Pound is a lively and nuanced profile of an athlete who is arguably the best boxer the sport has ever known. So great were Robinson's skills, he was eulogized by Woody Allen, compared to Joe Louis, and praised by Muhammad Ali, Hailed by critics as a long overdue portrait of Sugar Ray Robinson, a man who was as elusive out of the ring as he was magisterial in it, Pound for Pound is a lively and nuanced profile of an athlete who is arguably the best boxer the sport has ever known. So great were Robinson's skills, he was eulogized by Woody Allen, compared to Joe Louis, and praised by Muhammad Ali, who called him "the king, the master, my idol." But the same discipline that Robinson brought to the sport eluded him at home, leading him to emotionally and physically abuse his family -- particularly his wife, the gorgeous dancer Edna Mae, whose entrepreneurial skills helped Robinson build an empire to which Harlemites were inexorably drawn. Exposing Robinson's flaws as well as putting his career in the context of his life and times, renowned journalist and bestselling author Herb Boyd, with Ray Robinson II, tells for the first time the full story of a complex man and sport-altering athlete.

30 review for Pound for Pound: A Biography of Sugar Ray Robinson

  1. 4 out of 5

    SheAintGotNoShoes

    I found this book to be rather balanced and fair. The author does not shy away from the fact that in his opinion SRR was the pound for pound best fighter ever, while leaving that verdict open to other people's interpretations. He praised all his good points, his rise from Black Bottom to pink cadillacs in Harlem, but does not avoid telling about his relentless domestic violence towards his first wife, breaking the arm of his second wife, not taking care of his first son and being a very distance I found this book to be rather balanced and fair. The author does not shy away from the fact that in his opinion SRR was the pound for pound best fighter ever, while leaving that verdict open to other people's interpretations. He praised all his good points, his rise from Black Bottom to pink cadillacs in Harlem, but does not avoid telling about his relentless domestic violence towards his first wife, breaking the arm of his second wife, not taking care of his first son and being a very distance and unavailable father to his second. Also sufficiently described and a source of never ending frustration ( though she sucked it up and stayed married to him for 20 years nonetheless ) was his relentless ' tom catting ' around, with practically anything in a skirt. If you like biographies, perhaps this will be for you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Boy Blue

    Sugar Ray Robinson is such a fascinating character, so charismatic and glowing that anything written about him would be interesting. Unfortunately, this book has tried to get Sugar's naturally fascinating life to do all the work. Someone else commented that this reads like a 300 page Wikipedia entry and I feel that probably isn't far off the mark. A mjor problem with the book is that though it mentions the difference between Sugar the boxer, Sugar the public icon, and Sugar the man at home it rea Sugar Ray Robinson is such a fascinating character, so charismatic and glowing that anything written about him would be interesting. Unfortunately, this book has tried to get Sugar's naturally fascinating life to do all the work. Someone else commented that this reads like a 300 page Wikipedia entry and I feel that probably isn't far off the mark. A mjor problem with the book is that though it mentions the difference between Sugar the boxer, Sugar the public icon, and Sugar the man at home it really makes no attempt to reconcile these personas. Apart from the occasional throwaway comment Boyd does no analysis on the real motivations or the reasons Sugar ended up the way he did. There's a prescient moment when Sugar laments the fall of Joe Louis after the Brown Bomber gets easily beaten in his final fight after coming out of retirement because of his dire financial situation. Sugar states he never wants to end up like that and Boyd says this was oddly prophetic but then it isn't revisited when Sugar goes on to do extend his career way longer than Louis and ultimately ruin his career more than Louis ever did. The tears Sugar cried for Louis aren't there when Sugar himself is at his lowest. It seems Sugar lived entirely in the moment and while there were many around him who could see this none of them were able to convince him of the benefits of financial prudence or they actively undermined the few successful business endeavours he did create. There's also this feeling that he was playing the role he felt people wanted him to play, the star of Harlem, the one who made it, the pink cadillac, the pomped hair. In many ways the story of Sugar is a cautionary tale to the sports stars of today. It's still the case that hundreds of professional athletes in America end up destitute and broke because of their inability to manage money and the luxurious lifestyles they get caught in and can't seem to live without, think Iverson playing in China etc. There's also a story in the way people hang on to famous and succesful people and ultimately drag them down. Another issue with the book is that the actual boxing, the fights and the training, are not well done. Boyd seems to have an inability to get in there and find what makes Sugar the champ, what makes him pound for pound the greatest fighter of all time. I also found Ray Robinson II's contributions almost meaningless. He was actually there for a lot of this but all of his potential insight is reduced to throwaway comments about his childish thoughts and feelings at the time. Edna Mae comes out of the book as a completely misunderstood and undervalued component of Sugar's life and success. Unfortunately, the domestic violence throughout the book isn't really addressed. It's reported as factual but there's no attempt to understand why it's happening or what could have been done to prevent it. I think that is the biggest problem with the book. We come to it wanting to read about the great boxing champion and we leave thinking yes he was a great fighter but a terrible man. But we don't get any look at why he was that way. In The Cost Of These Dreams, Wright Thompson talks about how all the things that made Michael Jordan the greatest basketballer of all time are all the things that hold him back from integrating into society as a normal person. I feel this sort of analysis could have been directed at Sugar Ray Robinson. An absolute master in the ring but completely inept in normal life. I remember him as the greatest pound for pound fighter of all time, an absolute icon both of his time and now, but also as a flawed human being. A personality with just a few cracks that were widened over time by a cruel society that ultimately broke him down and left him for dead.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bart

    Pound for Pound is a good book about an exceptional athlete who was also a decent man. Whatever else it is, it is a reminder of what a brutal craft prizefighting was and always will be. As a writer Herb Boyd is about average. There are times when he is out of his depth in writing about boxing - he makes a bizarre early reference to how many more amateur fights Robinson had (69) than contemporary fighters (Floyd Mayweather, as a timely example, had more than 220) - and there are times when he's re Pound for Pound is a good book about an exceptional athlete who was also a decent man. Whatever else it is, it is a reminder of what a brutal craft prizefighting was and always will be. As a writer Herb Boyd is about average. There are times when he is out of his depth in writing about boxing - he makes a bizarre early reference to how many more amateur fights Robinson had (69) than contemporary fighters (Floyd Mayweather, as a timely example, had more than 220) - and there are times when he's reduced to campy intrusion, such as letting us know, apropos of nothing, that milkshakes at a neighborhood drug store were "delicious." Too, Boyd - described as a noted activist, journalist, author and teacher - is much more of a Robinson fan than a boxing writer or a biographer. Pound for Pound is not exhaustive or particularly critical, and at times it feels like the author is trying too hard to cover up Robinson's misdeeds. Probably the origin of this is contained in the book's title. See, "pound for pound" is a ranking system that was invented for Robinson's benefit. As a welterweight champ, Robinson couldn't hope to knock out a heavyweight like Joe Luis, but "pound for pound", the argument goes, Robinson was the better and harder punching prizefighter. That brings us to Muhammad Ali. Ali was fond of calling himself "The Greatest" even though Ali himself knew that Robinson was greater. But in the immaturity and widespread hagiography of the 1960s and 70s, Ali became something of a cultural icon. As a half-naked pugilist he became, to some, a philosopher and civil rights icon. In Pound for Pound Boyd is endeavoring to argue that Robinson was the greatest fighter of all time - which he was. Trouble is, in the residue of the 70s, Boyd feels compelled to prove Robinson was also a great person, else how could he be compared with Ali? Really, Robinson fit very few definitions of "great" outside the ring. That's fine; Ali fit even fewer (including his own professed definitions). But it will take another three decades and a cultural overhaul before the truth of what roles athletes played (or didn't play) in social change (or social stasis) is clarified. In the meantime, Pound for Pound is a good introduction to Robinson. And it's particularly appropriate for any young boxing fan who's mistakenly believed Floyd Mayweather's recent assertions that he's somehow greater than Robinson was.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jamar

    A great book for any boxing or Harlem Renaissance fan. Often seen and acclaimed as THE best boxer of all-time and one of the best businessmen of Harlem, this book will give you a detailed look at Ray Robinson's life. And it showed me that a man with such great looks, personality, and a man who at times made victory look so effortlessly, can have many faults and struggles as well. A great novel to humble any champ!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tj

    As sports biographies go, especially given that the reader - me - has no real knowledge of boxing other than enjoying the odd big fight night here and there, I thought it offered an interesting insight into the man himself and the murky world of sports promotion and the corruption and exploitation inherent in all sporting celebrity

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tyler

    The life of the best boxer in the history of the sport. The focus is more on his life, his relationship w/ his wife, and living in Harlem in the late 40s and early 50s. Its good, but im more interested in his fights.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wayne

    Basically a 300 page Wikipedia entry

  8. 5 out of 5

    DJ Meunier

    In depth look into SRR's life inside and outside of the ring. A valuable read for any boxing or fight aficionado.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    A good boxing biography. There isn't a lot here that isn't in Sugar's autobiography but a good read for boxing fans.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ward

    OK but a little superficial. A chronological account without a whole lot of insight. I'm sure he was more interesting than this.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dayla

    Pound for pound no one beat Sugar Ray Robinson. Yes that is what they said, and it was true. Sugar Ray died on my birthday April 12, 1989. Joe Louis died on my birthday April 12, 1981. No wonder I always felt connected to boxers. Great book about his life.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lala Hulse

    If you don't like boxing at all, this sure is the boxing book for you! I actually couldn't finish it - I had to put it down when the author said that Robinson "kayoed" his opponent. That's fine for a regular book, but KO is a term of art in boxing and it has a particular meaning. And spelling. Aside from the evident disinterest in actual boxing, I was left with more question about Sugar Ray than answers. If you're looking for African American history there are better books, and if you're looking If you don't like boxing at all, this sure is the boxing book for you! I actually couldn't finish it - I had to put it down when the author said that Robinson "kayoed" his opponent. That's fine for a regular book, but KO is a term of art in boxing and it has a particular meaning. And spelling. Aside from the evident disinterest in actual boxing, I was left with more question about Sugar Ray than answers. If you're looking for African American history there are better books, and if you're looking for boxing history almost anything else would be better.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Fraggle

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Schneider

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jimrudi

  16. 4 out of 5

    David

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sullivan Marbry

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul Taylor

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex Davies

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kevin J.

  23. 5 out of 5

    6th hour ELA 10

  24. 4 out of 5

    Philip Cohen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Braj

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carol Havlik

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dakota

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jason Fullerton

  30. 5 out of 5

    Phil

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