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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "And let thy blows, doubly redoubled, fall like amazing thunder
on the casque of thy adverse pernicious enemy" King Richard II, Act I Scene iii

Two ancient bits of personal history came flooding back to me when I read Wil Haygood's "Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson".

First, when I was growing up in the late 50s and early 60s a big group of kids in my neighborhood used to gather into one...
Published on November 4, 2009 by Leonard Fleisig

versus
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A for Creativity, But Sometimes Inconsistent and Missing Key Info
I hate to be somewhat less than adoring among all these excellent reviews, but there was something I found lacking in this otherwise very interesting biography.

I understand and applaud the contextualizing of Sugar Ray and his place in the evolution and emergence of African-American culture and independence in the post-WWII era. I found the relationship...
Published on January 6, 2010 by Todd and In Charge


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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "And let thy blows, doubly redoubled, fall like amazing thunder, November 4, 2009
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books) (Hardcover)
on the casque of thy adverse pernicious enemy" King Richard II, Act I Scene iii

Two ancient bits of personal history came flooding back to me when I read Wil Haygood's "Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson".

First, when I was growing up in the late 50s and early 60s a big group of kids in my neighborhood used to gather into one tiny apartment to watch the boxing on Friday nights. In between fights, we'd strap on big gloves and stage our own 1 round fights. That ended the night we watched Emile Griffith kill Benny "Kid" Paret during a bout.

Second, I remember my father (a musician) talking about how so many of the performers he worked for loved fighters and the fight game. When asked why they seem to have such a close relationship with each other he said basically musicians and fighters (and other athletes) tended at that time to live on the margins or outside the margins of `acceptable' society. They are admired by society even while society sometimes thinks of them as somewhat off. He also indicated that when you get into the ring or put a sax to you lips or put a violin on your shoulders you become judged by your peers solely on merit. In the internal world of boxing and music there was something approaching a meritocracy that society generally was far from adopting. He noted that the best fighters in the world could be viewed as the jazz artists of boxing; you could compare a Robinson fight to a Miles Davis performance if you looked closely enough. The great fighters and the great jazz musicians could respond with fluidity and grace to their environment even if that environment was changing during a fight or a performance.

Both these memories came back to me because Haygood has done such a good job recreating the great Ray Robinson's life and times. He captures the brutality of the sport in a lengthy chapter on Robinson's six gut-wrenching bouts with the raging bull Jake LaMotta and another chapter on the fight against Jimmy Doyle in which Doyle died after a brutal beating at the hands of Robinson. At the same time, Haygood has gone outside the boundaries of the ring and done a fine job talking about Ray's life and times; including the symbiotic relationship he had with the great performers and artists of his. That would include amongst others Josephine Baker, Lena Horne and Langston Hughes. In so doing Robinson is revealed to be much more than a gladiator.

Sweet Thunder provided me with an awful lot of information about Robinson's life that I simply did not know before hand. His description of is early life in Detroit, his move with his mother to Harlem and especially his time in the Army during WWII alongside Joe Louis were eye openers. Haygood's account of Robinson's approach to a hostile segregated south was in stark contrast to his idol Louis' approach. Haygood manages to set out those different approaches without doing a disservice to either Louis or Robinson. Also fascinating was Robinson's lifetime demand on controlling his own ring career. He made no concessions to the mobsters who controlled much of boxing and was one of the first fighters to insist on having the final say in who he fought and when he fought.

I always admired Robinson the fighter but Haygood's excellent biography also caused me to admire the man. The fact that Haygood managed to do this without stooping to a hagiography filled with nothing but praise is to his eternal credit.

All in all this was a fine book and one that can be enjoyed even if you are not a fan of boxing.

L. Fleisig
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A for Creativity, But Sometimes Inconsistent and Missing Key Info, January 6, 2010
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This review is from: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books) (Hardcover)
I hate to be somewhat less than adoring among all these excellent reviews, but there was something I found lacking in this otherwise very interesting biography.

I understand and applaud the contextualizing of Sugar Ray and his place in the evolution and emergence of African-American culture and independence in the post-WWII era. I found the relationship between Ray and Miles or Hughes to be fascinating, his many business ventures and efforts outside the ring to be worthy of discussion, and even liked the jazzbo style of the author.

However, there were times when -- if not a "monotonous linear narrative" as one reviewer calls it -- how about at least some sense of the chronological arc of his fighting career? You just don't get many details and are left wondering exactly when did he win the belt, who was he fighting at the time etc. I personally would have like more of that, though I agree Haygood covers The Raging Bull matches well.

In sum, there were parts of this book I really liked, and parts of this book that I wished were in there so I could have liked them too.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Last!!!!, November 13, 2009
By 
Jimmy B (New Jersey United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books) (Hardcover)
At last a biography worthy of the Pound for Pound Greatest Fighter that ever lived.
Sugar Ray Robinson was a true original, as a fighter he had it all,Speed..Power..and courage in the ring.
As a man he was flamboyant,flashy,and class personified..
Wil Haywood has done an amazing job in recounting the life of this Boxing Legend.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haygood's Left Hook Draws Sugar Ray A Man In Full, November 25, 2009
By 
Peter C. (Westchester, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books) (Hardcover)
Complaint:

Could Use More Pictures Next Edition.

Praise:

For me, as I suspect it is for most, the name Sugar Ray Robinson is synonymous with boxing glory, and therefore before picking up Haygood's treatment I was dreading a dry, technical account of the fighters exploits in the ring, loosely tethered by anecdotes, I should have known better.

Though boxing, like Sugar's jab, leads the narrative it is not what you come away remembering him for. Instead, Haygood draws a much wider arc, and as a consequence, interesting and profound account of the passions, insecurities, trials, and triumphs of Sugar outside the ring, as an individual and in the context of his time. We are lead to believe that for Sugar, boxing was the place where he both discovered, and when necessary, reinforced his self-worth but that boxing was to significant extent merely a launching pad that could propel a man like him from the rough Harlem streets to the galaxies and stars that really touched his soul. People like Langston Hughes, Miles Davis and the lovely Lena Horne, meant more to his existence than his epic battle with the Raging Bull, though Haygood spares no expense in recounting that piece of boxing lore.

In sum, the only readers who will be disappointed are those who come seeking monotonous linearity of the jab; Haygood, like Sugar, comes from the outside with the lucid, lyrical left-hook and wins with a knockout I never saw coming.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The "Context" nearly wrecks the book, March 20, 2010
By 
F. W. Young (Toronto, Ontario) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books) (Hardcover)
About halfway through "Sweet Thunder", I began to skip the sections about Lena Horne, Langston Hughes and the rest of the "Times" from "The Life And Times".

Far from placing Sugar Ray's life in context, they served to stop the narrative of his life cold.

Full of information, but a very frustrating book - I have to echo what another reviewer said - it is almost inexcusable for a biography of a boxer to present his career in such a disjointed manner. Somewhere along the line, one would think the author, his editor or someone at the publishing house would have considered putting in a chronological list of the fights of Sugar Ray's career.

These criticisms aside, the boxing sections of "Sweet Thunder" make it a worthwhile read for fight fans. Just prepare to be inundated with a lot of extraneous information.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest book on boxing, December 24, 2009
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This review is from: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books) (Hardcover)
Having been an amateur boxer and competed in the NY Golden Gloves in 1957, Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson met and exceeded my expectations. You really get an in depth look of the personality and character of Sugar Ray. Also covered was Sugar Ray's toughest opponent, Jake LaMotta. Both came from entirely different backgrounds and met on six occaisions. If you are a boxing fan then you must purchase this book.

tony paratore
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rhythm all around, December 22, 2009
By 
This review is from: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books) (Hardcover)
Sugar Ray Robinson was, indeed, poetry in motion and Wil Haygood's wonderful biography of this fighter who was the greatest comeback kid of all time is heartwarming. As most prizefighters, Sugar Ray came from a difficult upbringing but his spirit and talent earned him the recognition he desired and the legacy which survives today.

The photo on the back cover of "Sweet Thunder" says it all and Robinson's zest for life was matched by his determination in the ring. After a somewhat slow start, Haygood really gets going when he describes Sugar Ray's bouts. Unfortunately, the author has a tendency to tip off the reader as to the outcome of some of them, but all in all, Haygood's descriptions of Robinson and his life in and out of the ring are excellent.

I highly recommend "Sweet Thunder" for capturing the life of one of the finest boxers ever and a man whose passion made us all smile. Sugar Ray Robinson was one of a kind and "Sweet Thunder" reminds us of that.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars VERY disappointing, January 29, 2010
This review is from: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books) (Hardcover)
I have read many boxing biographies and for years I've been waiting for a good, serious book about Sugar Ray Robinson. This was not it. The book gave me precious little insight into the man and the narrative was haphazard at best. It's almost as if the writer realized he did not have enough material for an in-depth biography and had to pad the book with unimportant material (Lena Horne? Esquire Magazine? I was not interested in any of that.) Maybe one day the book I'm waiting for will appear.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best biography on the great man., January 11, 2011
This review is from: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books) (Hardcover)
If you are a fan of boxing or just want to learn about an imperative American, but this book.

This is hands down the best biography written about Sugar Ray Robinson.
We also get an intimate look into 1940's and 50's Harlem. You can feel the ambiance through the pages.
Will Haygood writes with verve and precision not unlike Sugar Ray's fighting style.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Biography of Sugar Ray's life, February 6, 2010
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This review is from: Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books) (Hardcover)
Sugar Ray Robinson is considered to be by most boxing insiders the greatest fighter of all time pound for pound, and I agree. This book is worthy of the man. You learn about his childhood in Detroit, then down in Georgia, then back in Detroit. He gets his nickname when the person who sees his fight fight proclaims that he is as sweet as sugar.

He beat many great fighters on the way up, including 4 wins over Jake LaMotta, but he doesn't get a crack at the title until 1946, when he wins a decision over hard punching Tommy Bell.

Robinson had fast hands, and a powerful punch, particularly the left hook. He knocks out Jimmy Doyle in a 1947 title fight. Doyle dies the next day from injuries sustained in the fight. Robinson was deeply affected by this. He became more involved with charities, and he may have held back his big punches more often in fights where he was winning from that point on.

Robinson's battles with LaMotta (including the epic 6th battle on 2-14-51 and his fights with Fritzie Zivic, Henry Armstrong, Carmen Basilio, Joey Maxim, Gene Fullmer and more are beautifully and accurately described.

You also feel like you are on the streets of Harlem and Manhattan as Sugar Ray hobnobs with the jazz greats and the famous New Yorkers of his time. I also appreciated his stand on refusing to put on boxing exhibitions for segregated audiences.

Robinson, for all his love of the nightlife, was a deeply spiritual man, often spending time alone with God in churches. His heart was broken when he got divorced from Edna Mae, but he married Millie, who loved her prizefighter to the end.

One of the more touching parts of the book was Sugar Ray's friendship with Mel Dick. The small boy idolized Robinson. He took the subway everyday into Manhattan to watch Robinson train. One day, Sugar Ray said "Who are you?" He said "I'm Mel." Robinson said "Why are you here?" "To watch you train." "Why?" Because I love you."

Sugar Ray tousled the boys hair, and they became friends for life. He was best man for Mel's wedding, and Mel was there right up until the prizefighter's death.

I hope this gives you a taste of how good this book is, and how great Sugar Ray was.
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Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Borzoi Books)
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