Randolph (Randy) Turpin

Randolph Turpin’s finest hour as a professional boxer came when he dramatically out-fought the legendary American middleweight Sugar Ray Robinson, to become Britain’s first Black World Champion. He became England’s shinning boxing star 10th July 1951 when he scored the upset of the century by winning a 15-round decision Sugar Ray Robinson to capture the world’s 160-pound boxing title.

Randolph Turpin was born in Leamington Spa on 7th June 1928. His father Lionel was from Guyana and had fought for England in WWI. Wounded at the Battle of the Somme, where he had also been gassed and sustained lung damage, Lionel Turpin came to England for treatment. He met Beatrice, born into a boxing family, and with whom he had five children. Randolph was the youngest, and his father died of his war injuries before Randolph had turned one.

Boxing was, and still is, a working-class sport. Randolph (Randy) and his brother Jackie started boxing in the boxing booths at local fairs with his brother Jackie in a double act called ‘Alexander and Moses’. Where they fought for ‘nobbins’ – money thrown into the ring by the spectators. His boxing career started at the Leamington Boys Club, which continued when he joined the Royal Navy, during which as an amateur boxer, he won 97 of the total of 100 fights.

“Randolph was a cook in the Royal Navy and enjoyed a successful amateur career, during which he was A.B.A welterweight champion In 1945, Randolph was 17, the following year he was Middleweight Champion. He also won a number of service titles and gained fame helping Britain beat the United States in a match at Wembley by knocking out his opponent Harold Anspach.”

Black Presence

As a professional boxer, Randy Turpin went on to win British, European, Commonwealth and World middleweight boxing titles.

This is a rags to riches story. From an impoverished upbringing where his mother worked as a cleaner to feed and house her five children and where Turpin and his brother earned ‘nobbins’ at boxing fares, Turpin went on to earn millions for the second fight against Sugar Ray Robinson – $2,207,000 for the fight and the rights to the film and TV rights.

Randy Turpin wins the Middleweight Boxing World Championship from Sugar Ray Robinson

His greatness lasted  all of a month-and-a-half. Robinson knocked him out in their rematch to regain the title.

Even though Randy Turpin went on to win the British Empire Middleweight and Light heavyweight Titles and the European Light heavyweight Championship, he never again wore the world’s championship crown.

Knockout defeats to Tiberio Mitri in one round, Gordon Wallace in four and Yolande Pompey in two ended his days as a contender, and he retired in 1958.

His private life was filled with emotional and financial problems, and he made a comeback on March 18, 1963 at Wisbech, England, knocking out Eddie Marcano in six rounds. Next in Malta, on August 22, 1964 he knocked out Charles Seguna in two rounds, and it seemed that Randy Turpin had found his old skills again.

However, on May 17, 1966, the 37-year-old former champion shot and killed himself in his home at Warwickshire, England.

“At the height of his career Randolph was surrounded by those who regarded themselves as friends and well-wishers. But he was deserted by many as he lost his position and money. The fickleness of his friends and the incompetent advice must have weighed so heavily upon him that he was forced to desperation. Randolph was a simple man, a naive man and he needed friends to protect him from the spongers. To our shame he was let down. The tragedy is not his failure alone, but the failure of our whole society.”

 Reverend Eugene Haselden at his funeral

 In Randy Turpin’s words:

“So we leave this game which was hard and cruel.
And down at the show on a ringside stool.
We’ll watch the next man, just one more fool.”

Statue of Randy Turpin in Warwick Market Place

Further reading:

Raftery Poet The 64 Day Hero

Thoughts and Shorts

Wikipaedia

Offbeat

100 Great Black Britons

Black Presence

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