Jimmy Doyle was a promising welterweight boxer who had a fatal encounter with one of the greatest fighters of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson, in 1947. Doyle died from a severe head injury sustained during the title bout, which sparked controversy and sadness in the boxing world. This article will explore the life and death of Jimmy Doyle, and how his legacy lives on.
Early Life and Career
Jimmy Doyle was born James Emerson Delaney on August 12, 1924, in Los Angeles, California. He was of mixed-race Creole descent, and his parents were Edward Delaney and Marie Elodie Barret, who moved to Los Angeles from New Orleans shortly after their marriage in 1921. Doyle started boxing as a teenager, and made his professional debut in 1941. He quickly rose through the ranks, winning 43 of his 53 fights, with 14 knockouts. He was known for his speed, skill, and courage in the ring.
The Fight with Sugar Ray Robinson
In 1947, Doyle challenged Sugar Ray Robinson for the World Welterweight Title. Robinson was widely regarded as one of the best boxers of all time, and had a record of 75 wins, 1 loss, and 1 draw at the time. The fight took place on June 24, 1947, at the Cleveland Arena in Ohio. Robinson dominated most of the rounds, except for the sixth, when he was staggered twice and received a cut over his right eye. In the eighth round, Robinson landed a devastating left hook that knocked Doyle down. Doyle tried to get up, but collapsed again. The referee stopped the fight and declared Robinson the winner by technical knockout.
The Aftermath and Controversy
Doyle was immediately taken to St. Vincent’s Charity Hospital, where he never regained consciousness. He died seventeen hours later from a hemorrhagic stroke caused by a blood clot and concussion. He was given last rites by a Catholic priest as Robinson rushed to the hospital. According to Wikipedia, Doyle was fighting in Cleveland because the California boxing commission would not sanction him to fight again after suffering some heavy knockouts in his previous bouts. After his death, criminal charges were threatened against Robinson in Cleveland, up to and including manslaughter, but none actually materialized.
Robinson was deeply affected by Doyle’s death, and reportedly had a premonition that he would kill Doyle before the fight. He even tried to back out of the fight, but was persuaded by a priest that it was God’s will. Robinson later said that he felt guilty for killing Doyle, and that he never fought with the same killer instinct again. According to The Celebrity Deaths Robinson donated the earnings of his next four fights to Doyle’s mother, so she could buy a house.
The Legacy of Jimmy Doyle
Jimmy Doyle’s death was one of the most tragic events in boxing history, and raised questions about the safety and ethics of the sport. His death also inspired several works of art and literature, such as Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Fifty Grand”, which is based on Doyle’s fight with Robinson; John Huston’s film “The Harder They Fall”, which features a character named Toro Moreno who dies after fighting Buddy Brannen; and Bob Dylan’s song “Who Killed Davey Moore?”, which mentions Doyle as one of the boxers who died in the ring.
Jimmy Doyle was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles, where his grave marker reads: “A great little fighter”. He was posthumously inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996. He is remembered as a talented and brave boxer who met a tragic end at the hands of one of the greatest fighters ever.