On June 26, 1947, famed boxer Sugar Ray Robinson knocked out Jimmy Doyle, 22, leading to the first death ever suffered in a boxing world championship match.
In his autobiography, Robinson (1921–1989) told the heart-sinking story.
“It was there, the night before the fight, that I had a dream, a premonition,” Robinson wrote.
“In the dream, Jimmy Doyle was in the ring with me. I hit him a few good punches and he was on his back, his blank eyes staring up at me, and I was staring down at him, not knowing what to do, and the referee was moving in to count to ten and Doyle still wasn’t moving a muscle and in the crowd I could hear people yelling, ‘He’s dead, he’s dead,’ and I didn’t know what to do. Then I woke up.”
Robinson didn’t want to fight Doyle, but promoter Larry Atkins convinced him it was pointless to cancel the fight because of a dream.
When Robinson knocked Doyle out, “I stood over him, transfixed, seeing my dream come true, horribly true.”
“I had knocked out guys before, dozens of them. But in those fights, I always had a good feeling, a conquering feeling when I saw them being counted out, maybe because I could see that they weren’t really hurt. But now, with Doyle stretched out and his eyes blank, I had that empty feeling you get when something in your life is really wrong, and all I could think of was the dream.”
“You warned me, God,” Robinson thought. “You told me. Why did I let everybody talk me out of it.”