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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: MAY 1, 1957

Fullmer Took His Lumps: It Was Too Much Sugar

May 01, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the immediate aftermath--and even now, 42 years later--few could get over its suddenness.

That middleweight champion Gene Fullmer, a muscle-bound tank of a man with a jaw that looked carved from granite, could be rendered so helpless with one punch defied belief.

Yet there he was, crawling around on the Chicago Stadium ring floor, unable to make his legs work.

Standing over him, in the greatest triumph of his 25 years in the ring, was Sugar Ray Robinson, at 36 thought to have reached the end of a great career.

A 3 1/2-1 underdog, Robinson had just reclaimed the middleweight championship for the fourth time. He had lost it the previous January to Fullmer on a 15-round decision.

This time, Fullmer, 25, wasn't protecting his chin as he had in the first match, when he pushed, shoved and flailed away at Robinson to win the title.

Fullmer fell for a Robinson sucker play. Several times in the first four rounds, Robinson threw long lead rights, trying to draw in the champion for a left hook.

But in the fifth, he went low with the right, digging a punch into Fullmer's ribs as the champion charged in. Fullmer dropped his right hand. Then came the picturesque left hook, like a lightning bolt.

It smacked Fullmer flush on the jaw. As he crawled, dazed, around the ring, referee Frank Sikora followed him and counted him out.

Afterward, in his dressing room, Robinson was brought quickly back to earth. Waiting for him were three Internal Revenue Service agents, who had just attached his purse of $167,479 for $23,000 in back taxes.

Also on this date: In 1951, New York Yankee rookie Mickey Mantle hit his first major league home run, a 450-footer to left-center field. It came 31 years to the day after Babe Ruth hit his first Yankee home run, in 1920. . . . In 1936, Yankee rookie Joe DiMaggio made his debut with a three-hit game against the St. Louis Browns. . . . In 1948, at the Kentucky Derby, Eddie Arcaro rode Citation to a 3 1/2-length victory over Coaltown. . . . In 1952, John Longden and Count Fleet coasted to a Kentucky Derby win. . . . In 1991, Nolan Ryan, 44, in perhaps the most amazing performance of his long career, pitched a record seventh no-hitter, this one for the Texas Rangers, against Toronto. . . . On the same day, Oakland's Rickey Henderson got his 939th stolen base, breaking Lou Brock's record. Brock needed 19 seasons; Henderson was in his 13th season.

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