The St. Valentine's Massacre: Sugar Ray Robinson vs Jake LaMotta VI

On this day in 1951, Jake LaMotta was Sugar Ray Robinson's bloody Valentine in a brutal world middleweight title fight.

The two fighters had one of the most compelling rivalries in boxing history, fighting each other six times in nine years.

La Motta - nicknamed the Bronx Bull - was known as a brawler inside the ring while Robinson was and still is, regarded as the greatest boxer to have laced a pair of gloves.

LaMotta fought Robinson on Valentine's Day 61 year's ago in Chicago and revealed it was the most painful of them all.

"I fought Sugar Ray so often I almost got diabetes," LaMotta said.

LaMotta had defeated Robinson in 1943 via points - their second encounter - and Sugar Ray's first defeat after 40 wins as a professional. Robinson did, however, gain revenge 21 days later and in 1946, he won the welterweight championship.

Their sixth meeting was for LaMotta's middleweight title - a belt he had won from Marcel Cerdan of France in June 1949. Going into the bout, he remained the only fighter to have inflicted defeat on Robinson's record from 124 bouts.

The duo met to sign contracts for the sixth fight - which took place on February 14, 1951 - and in an attempt to play mind games, Robinson tried to get in his opponent's head by drinking a glass of blood drained from a beef steak.

However, LaMotta - who struggled to make the middleweight limit for his third title defence - was his usual self inside the ring on fight night and after eight rounds in, he was ahead on two of the three scorecards.

Problems making weight would eventually work in Robinson's favour as LaMotta faded in the later rounds, and he took some telling blows to the body - especially in an incredible 11th round.

Robinson dominated the next round and in the 13th, Robinson unloaded even more in would be the last one of the bout as the referee intervened and halted proceedings.

Sugar Ray Robinson

LaMotta, who passed away in 2017 at 95, gave his version of accounts.

"If the referee had held up another 30 more seconds, Sugar Ray would have collapsed from hitting me," he said.

"He's the toughest guy I ever fought, I never knew anyone who was more aggressive and rough as he," Robinson said years after the fight.

The fight was given the title of The St. Valentine's Day Massacre - in reference to a shootout between gangsters Al Capone and Bugs Moran in 1929. It resulted in seven people being killed by bullets, leaving blood all over a white wall in Lincoln Park, Chicago. 

It would be the sixth and final time they fought and LaMotta retired three years later. Meanwhile, bigger fights awaited Robinson and he finally hung the gloves up in 1965.

Sugar Ray Robinson

LaMotta's record ended with 83 wins from 106 pro fights, which included a two-year title reign as middleweight king. For Robinson, he won 173 fights, losing 19 and drawing six. He held world titles at welterweight and middleweight (five times).

The Robinson-LaMotta fight series ended 5-1 in favour of Sugar Ray and he is remembered as the best Pound for Pound boxer in history.

Ray Leonard called himself Sugar Ray Leonard in tribute to how good Robinson was. Another reason was to prove to the world that he was the second-coming of Robinson.

While LaMotta doesn't have the same sort of legacy as Robinson in the history books, his story was portrayed by legendary actor Robert De Niro in the 1980 film Raging Bull - the same title as LaMotta's boxing nickname.

Read more: 50 facts about Muhammad Ali

Latest news