Randolph Turpin is the latest trailblazer featured in our Hidden Figures online series, running throughout Black History Month, bringing to life the stories of black sporting pioneers you may never have heard of
Friday 16 October 2020 11:09, UK
Randolph Turpin's name is still renowned in British boxing 69 years after his sensational world-title win over Sugar Ray Robinson.
Born in Leamington of Guyana heritage, Turpin would produce arguably the greatest ever victory by a boxer in Britain after he famously toppled Robinson, who had amassed 129 victories, with two draws and one loss.
He and his three brothers all boxed, but Randolph had shown his promise since the amateur ranks as he became the first black boxer to win a senior ABA championship.
After making his professional debut in September 1946, Turpin reeled off 14 straight victories, but took a break from the sport after his career was stalled by a draw and two defeats within a handful of fights.
Turpin took up weight training, back then a rare regime for a fighter, but managed to boost his punch power and strength, which was later acknowledged by Robinson.
He would avenge both of his defeats as he claimed the British middleweight belt in 1950, equalling the achievement of his brother Dick, who became the first black British champion when he beat Vince Hawkins in 1948.
A first round knockout of Luc van Dam earned Turpin the European title and he would then be selected as an opponent for the final leg of Robinson's European tour at Earls Court in July 1951.
The American arrived with a daunting reputation, an unbeaten amateur who had only one professional loss in 132 fights against Jake LaMotta, which he avenged with five victories.
But Turpin was far from overawed, troubling Robinson from the start with his awkward, physical fighting style and after 15 rounds, he received a points victory that sparked scenes of celebration.
A crowd of 10,000 people turned up to a civic reception in Leamington after Turpin claimed the world middleweight title, the first British fighter to achieve this feat since Bob Fitzsimmons in 1891.
His reign would be brief as Turpin had signed a contract with a 90-day rematch clause and Robinson would receive a return bout, just two months later in New York. Turpin produced another courageous performance, inflicting a bad cut on Robinson, but his spell as a world champion was ended by a 10th round stoppage after he was floored.
Turpin received one more chance to regain the world middleweight title against Bobo Olson, only to suffer a punishing points defeat to the American.
But his stunning win over Robinson will always be fondly remembered by British fight fans.
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