Today we look at the claim that Sugar Ray Robinson dreamed that he would kill an opponent in the ring, which came true days later.
The story is true, although details vary.
Robinson knocked out opponent Jimmy Doyle in a 1947 Welterweight championship fight. Doyle never regained consciousness and died hours later. As Doyle fought for life in the hospital, Robinson told reporters that he had a dream in which Doyle died as a result of their fight.
While there are some variations to this story, Robinson discussed the dream with a reporter as he sat outside of Doyle’s hospital room immediately after the incident. As reported in the San Jose News on June 26, 1947:
Robinson, with a gauzy white patch over his right brow, looked up at the reported somewhat fearfully and said, “Jeez, this is awful. For three days I’ve been afraid something like this would happen.” The slender Negro champion rolled his eyes and added, “I’ve been afraid ever since I had that dream.”
Sugar Ray explained that last Saturday night, as he slept at the home of a Cleveland friend, Rodgers Price, he dreamed that he was in the ring defending his title against Jimmy Doyle. In a heated exchange, he suddenly floored Doyle, and Doyle lay there on the canvas unable to rise.
“I woke up in a cold sweat, yellin’ for Jimmy to get up – get up – get up! My yellin’ woke me up, I guess. And the sight of Jimmy lyin’ there on the canvas in the dream seemed so real that I had the jitters when I woke up. And I couldn’t go back to sleep. I just laid there, tossin’ around in bed.. And I felt lousy the next day. And in the back of my mind I felt scared every time I thought about the coming fight.”
Sugar Ray Robinson was scheduled to fight 22-year old Jimmy Doyle on June 25, 1947. The Saturday night before the fight, he had a dream in which he killed Doyle in the ring. Some sources claim that the dream disturbed Robinson and he wanted to back out of the fight. Fight promoters, who stood to lose money by Robinson’s decision, brought in a Catholic priest (some sources say a priest and minister) who sought to calm Robinson’s nerves by assuring him that it was only a dream. Robinson decided to go ahead with the fight, and dropped Doyle with a devastating left hook in the 8th round, winning by TKO (the bell rang at the count of 9). Doyle never regained consciousness and was carried from the ring by a stretcher. Robinson went to visit Doyle in the hospital and told reporters he hadn’t realized the extent of Doyle’s injuries the night before. Doyle was operated on for a blood clot in his brain by noted brain specialist Dr. Spencer Braden. He also suffered from respiratory paralysis. The boxer died of a cerebral hemorrhage 17 hours after being knocked out.
The Chairman of the Cleveland Boxing Commission said that Doyle was injured when he hit his head on the floor of the ring, although coroner Samuel Gerber said that “the blow to the jaw or face was the cause of the injury to the brain.”
Robinson set up a $50 per month trust over 10 years (about $6000) for Doyle’s parents. The money came from non-title fights against “Flashy” Sebastian and Jackie Wilson that year. That sum would total about $65,500 in 2015 dollars.
Doyle had suffered a previous head injury in the ring a year earlier when he struck his head on a ring buckle in a match against Artie Levine. When this fact came to light after Doyle’s death, calls were made for a ban on boxers with previous head injuries in the ring.
Sugar Ray Robinson claimed to have a dream about killing Jimmy Doyle in the ring, a premonition which came true in 1947.
- Ghastly Dream Came True; Robinson Dreamed That Doyle Wouldn’t Rise (Jack Cuddy, United Press, San Jose News: June 26, 1947, p13)
- Doyle Near Death After Kayo Loss to Ray Robinson (AP, The Evening Independent: June 25, 1947, p.12)
- Jimmy Doyle Killed in Title Bout (The Indian Express: June 27, 1947, p5)
- Mother of Doyle Receives Benefits (A.P., Youngstown Vindicator: November 2, 1947, p.D-5)
- A brooding Genius (Larry Schwartz, ESPN.com)
- Flashback: Sugar Ray Robinson Profiled – Part 2 (John F. McKenna, Boxing News 24: January 10, 2011)
Updated April 6, 2015
Originally published July 2013