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Being Sugar Ray: The Life of Sugar Ray Robinson, America's Greatest Boxer and the First Celebrity Athlete Hardcover – January 8, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Civitas Books; 1St Edition edition (January 8, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465078036
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465078035
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,749,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Shropshire (The Business of Sports Agents) calls this "the biography of an idea": Sugar Ray Robinson as the first sports figure to engineer a synergistic success machine out of a flashy image, a fancy entourage and a business plan. Indeed, rather than a straight recount of the storied fighter's life, Shropshire uses scenes from it to create a prism through which the phenomenon of the celebrity athlete reveals itself. Consequently, this volume often reads like a CliffsNotes version of the African-American boxer's troubled youth, 25-year career, restless retirement and demise. Though hardly a saint in or out of the ring, Robinson carved a legacy that Shropshire contends athletes have been trying to emulate (consciously or otherwise) ever since. Race obviously plays a big role in Robinson's story, and the author (African-American himself) handles the topic admirably; on the subject of contemporary sports stars, however, he isn't as evenhanded, making examples of the usual suspects-Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss-and arguing how each could learn from Robinson's example. Vivid, present-tense you-are-there retellings of boxing matches balance nicely a narrative that often runs dry on textbook-like prose.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Shropshire argues that boxer Robinson's popularity in the 1950s and 1960s was the precursor to the "cult of celebrity" experienced in later years by such black athletes as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods. Robinson was a black celebrity in a generally hostile white world, yet he managed to avoid many of the pitfalls experienced by previous black boxing champions, such as Jack Johnson (who antagonized the white world and was virtually crushed by it) and Joe Louis (who submerged his real personality to avoid a similar fate). Robinson, on the other hand, managed to become an embodiment of middle-class values without turning his back on the black community. Shropshire points out that middleweight Robinson's success outside the ring had much to do with his average size, which made it possible for average-size men, both black and white, to identify with him. By presenting the story of Robinson's life in the context of his stature as a public figure, Shropshire delivers both an empathetic biography as well as a studied, thoughtful examination of celebrity. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Best Of All on April 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Sugar Ray Robinson was the consummate professional, entertainer, and businessperson. How do today's athletes measure up compared to Sugar Ray Robinson?" And unfortunately for the focus of the book, author Kenneth Shropshire spends too much valuable space in the 220 pages trying to find Robinson's trifecta in the athletes of today.

For nearly 190 of those pages Shropshire takes small snippets from Robinson's life and attempts to weave comparisons & contrasts through stars like Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods, Terrell Owens, Ron Artest, Randy Moss, Roger Federer, Pat Tillman, Mike Tyson, Shaq, Michael Jordan, Paul Pierce and Allen Iverson. It is oftentimes a very frustrating read as Shropshire fails to tie these loose strands together in so few pages.

And, ultimately, Shropshire questions his approach in the closing paragraph: "There is no evidence that Sugar Ray consciously led the postsegregation celebrity athlete transition. Maybe athletes today are accomplishing something unconsciously. Time will tell."

The book starts out with so much promise - chronicling Robinson's final farewell to boxing in December 1965 - and his years as an amateur fighter, with special emphasis on how he "found" his ring name and nickname. But the spotlight doesn't again fully focus on Robinson until the closing chapters of the too-often tragic boxing story of a former great champion; major financial problems to go along with severe physical debilitation from taking too many hard blows in a career lasting far too long.

I would give Shropshire the benefit of the doubt of being overly-ambitious if only somewhere in the title describes how he theorizes the evolution of Walker Smith Jr. into Sugar Ray Robinson has impacted the new generation of celebrity athletes.

"Suger Ray lived the moment," concludes Shropshire. It is too bad that Sugar Ray's moment is muddled in this book.
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Format: Hardcover
If you want a detailed biography of Sugar Ray then this book is not it and to be fair does not pretend to be despite the title. Shropshire who has written a number of books and articles on business and sports and black sportsmen has taken the core theme that the man was in the 1950s (after an initial first career in the 1940s) able to reinvent himself and become the prototype for many of todays black sports stars in terms of handling how they become famous and wealthy.

The book takes a number of themes such as style; business dealings, competitor rivalries and followers/hangers on and covers each in a chapter built around events in Sugar Ray's life. These are expanded to include reactions under the scrutiny of the media; mega financial wealth from very poor beginnings and obtaining status and respect with both blacks and whites (or the ability by wrong moves to easily lose it!). However Shropshire does spend a lot of time in the telling making many references to later sportsmen and events from the 1970s to date. For an non-US reader with little knowledge of NFL, NBA I suspect many of the names and events will mean little, even if the key points of principle are understood.

An interesting read from that limited perspective but I suspect if like me you read as a boxing fan, you will find it a bit of a disappointment, despite the occasional detailed coverage of a key fight. One thing the book does show is the clear evidence that many of todays superstars have it easy compared with the number of matches and scores Robinson achieved across his long period of activity. Proof again that Sugar Ray was the true all time boxing great, whatever his personal flaws.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. Zywica on November 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the worst biographies I have ever read. The author, instead of giving us new information on Sugar Ray, compares his life and deeds to that of many other athletes, in many different sports, in many different eras. There are many bio's of Robinson available, all of them much better than this one.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Joan Sutherland on April 20, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book for a friend who is incarcerated in New Jersey.
However he has written to me about how much he enjoyed this book. He told me that he had no idea of the adversity that this man faced.
He was regarded as the greatest middleweight ever and the first African American celebrity Athlete.
As a child growing up I do remember hearing so much about this boxer and the story of how he got the name Sugar Ray. He was working out in the gym when a trainer watching him said the immortal words " Thats some sweet fighter up there - in fact he is as sweet as sugar. Hence the name Sugar Ray.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. Turner on April 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Being Sugar Ray...The First Celebrity Athlete, is a read that provides an examination of the life and times of Sugar Ray and a studied insight into the superstar athletes of today. Although Charles Barkley and others resist the title of role model, Sugar Ray Robinson created the mold.

Not in the sense of an athlete to be emulated by our youth, but in creating the vision for young athletes of what Celebrity entails and looks like and from whence it came. Shropshire deftly utilizes his years of experience in the sports world to bring us closer to understanding how and why today's athletes do what they do on and especially off the playing fields. More than understanding how to train to succeed in sports, the author seeks to shed some light upon the darkness of celebrity that many of today's star represent and continue to experience. It represents an intriguing guide to the inside of sports, athletes and their vulnerability to being in the spotlight that we cast upon them. A valuable addition to a sports fan library...especially for the young superstar in training!

Bro2much

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