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Home / News and Information / April 2006 / World champion boxer was born on North Railroad Street in Ailey

World champion boxer was born on North Railroad Street in Ailey

Taylor Hereford
BPC Director of Marketing
4-21-06

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, Gloria Cannida-Farmer of Higgston never thought this day would come. After all, it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to attend a ceremony unveiling a commemorative stamp featuring your first cousin.

A first cousin who just happens to be “The World’s Greatest Fighter.”

Sherry Scruggs, Marketing Manager for the USPS in Macon, and Marvin Palmer, Postmaster for the Ailey Post Office, unveil the commemorative stamp featuring world-champion boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.

Family members and supporters of famed boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, along with local officials from the United States Postal Service, gathered this past Friday morning in the Snooks Student Activities Center on the campus of Brewton-Parker College to unveil only the second commemorative stamp honoring a boxing legend in Postal Service history.

The commemorative stamp – which depicts Robinson in the peak years of his fighting career and looks similar to what a fight poster would have looked like back in the 1940s and ‘50s – was actually released on Friday, April 7 in New York City, where Robinson was actually discovered in a local gym. Also on that day, a “First Day Issue Ceremony” was held at the Theater in Madison Square Garden, featuring remarks from Ray Robinson II, Sugar Ray’s son, and included a who’s who of boxing greats – including Joe Frazier and Jake “Raging Bull” Lamotta – as special guests.

In total, approximately one hundred million stamps were released, with the stamp being available nationwide on Saturday, April 8.

At the local dedication ceremony at Brewton-Parker, Ms. Sherry Scruggs, Marketing Manager for the USPS in Macon, gave the keynote address in the absence of Ms. Lizabeth J. Dobbins, USPS District Manager for the South Georgia District. Ms. Scruggs gave a brief synopsis of Robinson’s life and career in the boxing ring which ended with his retirement in 1965.

After Ms. Scruggs’ address to the crowd, the stamp was officially unveiled. Those who took part in the official unveiling were Mr. Marvin Palmer, Postmaster of the Ailey Post Office, Mr. Scott Bower, Manager of Post Office Operations for the USPS, and Ms. Scruggs.

A sheet of commemorative stamps and special cancellation were then given to Brewton-Parker and to Gloria Cannida-Farmer, who represented the Robinson family.

During the ceremony, Ms. Cannida-Farmer was given an opportunity to reflect and share some thoughts about her famous cousin and the story she told was quite interesting.

Sugar Ray Robinson was born Walker Smith, Jr. on May 3, 1921. For most of his life, Robinson, along with a majority of people across the country who followed his boxing career, thought he was born in Detroit, Michigan. Robinson penned Detroit as his birthplace in his autobiography. Detroit was even listed in encyclopedias as the place of birth.

But it wasn’t until Sugar Ray sent a letter requesting a certified copy of his birth certificate to the Montgomery County Courthouse in Mount Vernon dated September 9, 1987 that thoughts of where he was born began to change.

According to the birth certificate, Walker Smith, Jr. was actually born in a home at 312 North Railroad Street – now Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive East – in Ailey to Mr. and Mrs. Walter (Leila) Smith, Sr.

For a period of time, though, Robinson did live with his mother in Detroit when he was young.

In 1932, Robinson’s family moved to Harlem, New York where his boxing abilities were noticed in a local gym. He was able to acquire an Amateur Athletic Union card that was issued to a boy named Ray Robinson. Using his assumed name, he built a reputation for himself by fighting 85 amateur bouts and going undefeated.

In 1940, Robinson became a professional boxer after winning the Golden Gloves featherweight and lightweight titles.

Robinson toured the country’s military bases while in the United States Army and entertained the troops by sparring with three other boxers – one being heavyweight champion Joe Louis. He was honorably discharged in June 1944 and devoted his civilian life to a goal of becoming the world welterweight champion. Robinson achieved his goal and was the undefeated world welterweight champion from 1946 to 1951, when he won his first of five world middleweight titles.

Upon Sugar Ray’s retirement from boxing on December 10, 1965, he was presented with a trophy during a ceremony at Madison Square Garden which had as its inscription, “The World’s Greatest Fighter.”

According to The Ring Record Book, Robinson’s overall record stood at 174 wins (109 KO’s), 19 losses, 6 draws, and 2 no contests.

In 1967, Robinson was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame. A former editor of The Ring magazine gave Robinson the number one ranking in his 1984 book The 100 Greatest Boxers of All Time. In 1990, Robinson became a member by induction of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Nine years later, the Associated Press assembled a panel of boxing experts ultimately giving Robinson the title of “the number one fighter of the century.”

Robinson died April 12, 1989 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

The large replica of the commemorative stamp that was unveiled during the ceremony at Brewton-Parker on Friday will be hung in the Ailey Post Office so that the public will never forget “Ailey’s native son.”

(The United States Postal Service and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this story.)

-BPC-

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The mission of Brewton-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist college, is to develop the whole student through the application of Biblically-centered truth to a liberal arts curriculum in a community of shared Christian values.
 
Brewton-Parker College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Brewton-Parker College.
 
Updated on: April 15, 2010 8:26 PM