In Intelligent Life‘s review of Sweet Thunder, a Sugar Ray Robinson biography, they discuss Sugar Ray’s entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity in keeping control over his own business and brand.
Robinson was savvy. He was the first black athlete to own most of the rights to his fights and to negotiate broadcasting deals on radio and television. [â€¦] Robinson would regularly raise the issue of compensation with promoters only after tickets had been sold, when calling off a fight was not a possibility. He would also only agree to fight if mobsters weren’t involved. Once he was paid, he spent lavishly on fine clothes, fancy cars (he preferred a pink Cadillac) and an extensive entourage.
But all of this came at a price. Barnes lamented that the sports writers of the time, who had enormous power to build up and then tear down a fighter, soon turned on Robinson and criticised him for his unsportsmanlike greed. Of course many of these same writers happily buzzed around Frankie Carbo and other New York mobsters who controlled the sport at the time.
Robinson’s financial confidence extended beyond the ring. At a time when banks would not lend black people money for businesses, he realised the only way he could become financially independent was to invest his own money. [â€¦] After Robinson purchased six buildings in Harlem, “he did not need to go to the bankers ever again”. He owned several businesses, including his famed (and now defunct) nightclub, “Sugar Ray’s”.