Does it make any sense to hold a potentially brutal boxing bout on Valentine’s Day?
For all its mushiness and even crass commercialism even many decades back, Valentine’s Day is still observed with so much love in the air. But in 1951 or the preceding year, what did the promoters behind the sixth bout between Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake Lamotta had in mind when the scheduled a sixth bout between the two on February 14?
It was in 1929 when the original “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” took place, after Al Capone’s gang showered bullets on the henchmen of rival George Moran in the north side of Chicago. That was brutal.
So did the promoters of Robinson-Lamotta VI saw a version of The Valentine’s Day Massacre happening in the ring?
For sure, the promoters saw a war unfolding between the protagonists because Robinson and Lamotta figured in five bouts that ended in decisions. So there was much pride between the two fighters and I’ll even bet you the paydays for their sixth bout at middleweight (160 pounds) were nothing compared to what the top boxers get today to face each other in a rematch or trilogy.
Prior to meeting for the sixth time, Robinson beat Lamotta four out of five times, and Robinson hit the deck at least two times while La Motta looked like a heavy tank that could not be knocked out of action.
Lamotta won their second fight by decision and ended his rival’s impressive unbeaten streak. Their first bout was in October 1942 at welterweight (147 pounds).
Perhaps it was destiny for both fighters to meet many times in the ring because it pitted a slick and lanky boxer in Robinson who stood 5’11” and a slugger in Lamotta who was 5’8”.
Robinson was also a one of a kind fighter compiling career record of 173-19-6 with 108 knockouts. He was only stopped once and he attributed that to heat exhaustion instead of light heavyweight Joey Maxim being the better fighter. That means he never hit the deck for a ten-count or a trip to dreamland.
Lamotta’s career record was 83-19-4 with 30 KOs.
Looking at the first three close fights between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez that ended with the Filipino winning two by decision, there is really this itch among archrivals to fight each other repeatedly until one of them gets knocked out or stopped. Perhaps that was what motivated Lamotta and Robinson to face each other for a sixth time.
Up to this day, Robinson-Lamotta VI for the world middleweight title is still talked about among real boxing fans because it was not lopsided despite Lamotta getting badly beaten in the 13th round.
If there is any consolation, Lamotta refused to go down and hung onto the ropes as Robinson unloaded leather on his hapless opponent in the 13th round. The victor later praised Lamotta as the toughest opponent he has ever faced.
The brutal sixth bout between the two has been immortalized in the film “Raging Bull” that featured Robert DeNiro as Lamotta. It is still considered one of the best boxing movies of all time.
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre can show boxing fans what is sorely missing among boxers of today: pride and ego. While elite boxers have every right to demand big paydays for marquee bouts, it is ego and pride that should primarily motivate top boxers to go into the ring to bludgeon each other just to prove who is the better fighter.
And we have seen a demonstration of that in Pacquiao-Marquez, Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier, Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti, among others.
So during Valentine’s Day, top boxers should be reminded on how pride and ego fueled a very memorable sixth fight between Robinson and Lamotta, even if pride and ego makes it impossible for a person to really love, which is the reason why the Day of Hearts is celebrated.