Wanted: Dead or Alive. Sweet Jimmy Robinson, Boxing Mystery Man
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing correspondent
‘Sweet Jimmy’ Robinson is boxing’s heavyweight mystery man. Born in either 1924 or 1925, his whereabouts are forever unknown making him boxing’s mystery man. If Robinson is still alive somewhere, he would be 91 or 92 years old. To date, Robinson is the only one of Muhammad Ali’s 50 opponents whose whereabouts are unknown, and the only one of Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight professional opponents to weigh 159 pounds or less, a last minute insanity of a bout offer to take with the then Olympic Heavyweight Gold medalist turned pro Cassius Clay by his own admission.
What is known about Sweet Jimmy Robinson?
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, and a resident of Liberty City, Florida, Robinson trained out of Miami’s famed Fifth Street Gym, was managed by Clyde Killens, and was used by Chris Dundee frequently as a last minute opponent. Between 1960 and 1968, Robinson posted a professional record of 11 wins and 26 losses, with five knockouts, and was stopped 16 times, lost 19 of his last 20 bouts. Robinson fought between 162 and 181 pounds officially, and was 10-7 before his career ending losing streak, with all but one bout taking place between 1960 and 1964. Robinson had won seven of eight bouts in 1961, in contradiction to his record. Dundee had simply opted to use Robinson as a last minute opponent for the cash, beyond a certain point, which was not a sweet career move. It was, however, convenient for the promoters who contacted Dundee at the last moment, and needed a ‘somebody’, usually when the contracted fight pulled out of a bout just before a boxing show. Robinson, in this twist of fate, was willing to make himself available-for a price-until he got tired of it and retired.
On February 7, 1961, Robinson showed up to fight Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) as a last minute opponent for Willie Gullatt, who refused to appear for a meager payday of three hundred dollars to fight Ali. The bout lasted one minute and 34 seconds into the first round before Robinson was stopped at the Convention Center in Miami Beach. Only three other noteworthy names appear on Robinson’s record: Herb Siler, who was Muhammad Ali’s second opponent in December 1960; Kent Green, the only man to have stopped Muhammad Ali in the amateurs; and 94 bout middleweight veteran Yama Bahama, who fought Emile Griffith and Luis Rodriguez. Robinson, who had retired in May 1964, came out of retirement for a payday to fight Green in December 1968 in Miami, probably at the special request of Chris Dundee, and was stopped in the first round. No weights or time of the stoppage are recorded in boxing records of Robinson’s last bout.
In 1979, Robinson was interviewed in the Liberty City district of Miami, Florida while living on Welfare. Last seen walking around train tracks, Robinson’s whereabouts have been unknown for the past 37 years. Muhammad Ali autograph hound Stephen Singer collected signatures from 49 of Ali’s 50 opponents, but was never able to find the elusive Robinson. It is as if Robinson vanished into thin air. Despite never being declared a missing person, Robinson’s whereabouts-or ultimate tragic fate-remain unknown.
Ali was in reality a friend of Robinson’s from the Fifth Street Gym, and used to ride around the Miami area with his friend Robinson in a pink Cadillac. Ali and Robinson lost saw each other in 1967.
Robinson was obviously up and down in terms of health and appearance, but had no reason to lie about his weight years later. If Robinson was 159 pounds when he fought Ali, and not 177 pounds as is listed, then the bout was a farce for a payday. A buck is a buck.
In boxing, there are many Robinsons. Sugar Ray Robinson is the most famous to have held titles. The Cinderella Man from Wales, Steve Robinson, is the least famous of the Robinsons to hold a world title. Horace ‘Big City’ Robinson is the most famous heavyweight, as he fought Larry Holmes, Ron Lyle, Ron Stander, Leroy Diggs, Jerry Williams and Bernardo Mercardo (twice) his brief six year 14 bout career. Sweet Jimmy Robinson is the most forgotten. The boxing Robinsons made their statement in the annals of ring history. Sweet Jimmy Robinson’s statement? He showed up to fight when others chickened out. That, my friends, is noteworthy enough.