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.
In hands as skilled at the keyboard as Sugar Ray Robinson's were in the ring, this athlete would've been a great biography subject. His charisma and winning technique made him the prince of Harlem in the WWII era (though he's primarily known to modern audiences as Jake LaMotta's opponent in Raging Bull). His friendship with Joe Louis helped eradicate color barriers. His fighting skills may have been equaled since then, but they've never been surpassed he was so powerful he killed a man in the ring. And his excesses of libido, temper, spousal abuse and bling-bling were, Boyd points out, tragic precursors of the behavior of many modern black athletes. Regrettably, the book is minimally competent and, at worst, painful. The journalist rarely devotes more than a few sentences to any of Robinson's matches, some of which, like the LaMotta battles, are the most talked about in boxing history. Instead, readers get puns ("The nation may have been experiencing a rationing of sugar, but the other Sugar was on a rampage") and ostentatious metaphors ("There were many fights when Sugar was a virtuoso pianist with gloves on, a soloist in a pugilist recital, delivering a rapid arpeggio of stiff left jabs"). Robinson is a worthy subject awaiting a more worthy treatment.