I Shit You Not: Hall of Fame boxer Sugar Ray Robinson backed out of a fight because he had a dream that he was going to kill his opponent in the ring. After a priest and minister convinced Robinson to fight, Robinson went into the ring and killed his opponent, Jimmy Doyle.
Before he stepped into the ring against Sugar Ray, Jimmy promised his father that it would be his last fight—unless he won. He wanted enough money to go into business in California, managing and training other fighters.
Robinson got into the ring with Jimmy on June 24, 1947 in the same place where he fought Artie Levine. (Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.) The 3-1 favorite, 146 pounds, 27 years old, with a guarantee of $25,000 ($236,604.65 USD 2005) and 40% of the gate.
But what was haunting him was the terrible dream he had the night before.
“I had just gone to sleep and woke up in a cold sweat,” he said. “In my dreams I knocked out Doyle and I saw him dying. I was terrified. The next morning I told everyone I had a premonition something terrible was going to happen. I told the press, the public and the boxing officials.
“And it happened just like that.”
Under a paralyzing blow to the jaw, Jimmy Doyle's body stiffened, and he fell backwards to the canvas. With what was left of instinct he fumbled blindly for the ropes, brushed them with clumsy gloves, and lay still. The bell rang and the round ended as the referee's count reached nine. Jimmy Doyle's handlers went to work with cold water and smelling salts. But Boxer Doyle fought no more.
Nat Fleischer, in The Ring, September 1947, page 4 said the following:
'It was "a good, clean fight", but Robinson had the advantage in every round except the sixth (when Sugar Ray was staggered twice and hurt). A single left hook ended the fight, Doyle not having been in any noticeable difficulty until then. That punch knocked Jimmy rigid. With heels resting against the canvas as if hinged, Doyle's body went down. It struck the floor with a thud, like a rigid mass falling. His head crashed against the padded canvas, and as the referee started the count. Doyle raised his head and rested on his elbows. The count of nine was reached and the bell sounded to end the round. Art Winch, one of his handlers, leaped into the ring to call a halt. Doyle was taken in an ambulance to St. Vincent's Charity Hospital immediately after the injury. (Which is the same hospital after the Levine fight 15 months earlier.) Despite all efforts of the medical attendants, he failed to regain consciousness and passed away a few hours after Dr. Spencer Braden, brain specialist had operated on him to relieve the pressure on his brain.'
The coroner absolved Robinson of any guilt in Jimmy’s death, which was ruled accidental. To the coroner’s insistent question, “Didn’t you see he was hurt?” Ray sullenly answered, “Mister, it’s my business to hurt people.”
Robinson staged several bouts to raise money for Jimmy’s family—his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Delaney, brothers Edward, Francisco and Paul; and sister Dolores—and set up a trust fund so Jimmy’s mother would get $50 a month for 10 years.
His remains were brought back to Los Angeles and a Requiem was said at Presentation Church, 6406 Parmalee Ave. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery located at 4201 Whittier blvd. Los Angeles, CA. 90023.
Fact: This is the first death in a championship fight in modern U.S. boxing history.