The Forgotten Trainer of Sugar Ray Robinson

By Harry Wiley.

My dad was Harry Wiley the trainer of Sugar Ray Robinson . He was born October 23, 1907 in New York City. After graduating from Dwitt Clinton in Manhattan he decided to have a go at boxing. He started well and won his first seven fights, then “disaster” He got hit by a Taxi and broke his leg. That was sadly the end of what could have been his promising boxing career but he had developed a love for this fine sport and started hanging around gyms. It was there he met Jack Blackburn and started working with young boxers, mostly amateurs. He also worked with the boxer Henry Armstrong. Famous for being the first fighter to hold three world championships simultaneously.

That was sadly the end of what could have been his promising Boxing career.

You couldn’t just carry a bucket or a water bottle, or yell at your fighter, “You Da Man!”

Back then being a trainer was different! You couldn’t just carry a bucket or a water bottle, or yell at your fighter, “you Da Man!” Or as I recently heard a cornerman yell at his fighter “You’ re the big DAWG!” now go out there and eat. No you had to actually know something about the game. I am relating these stories as I remember hearing them , from my dad as he spoke with his friends and his other fighters. First of all, as a cornerman, (notice I didn’t say trainer, that’s a whole other job) your job was to assist the trainer or what they call the chief second, the man responsible for the corner. These duties may include taking care of the mouthpiece, the boxers gloves, shoes. Yes shoes! New boxing shoes were, and still are smooth and must be “marked up, ” with scissors or a fingernail file. Your job was not yelling at any body, actually you weren’t allowed to say anything, that was the trainers job and you were not to ever interfere during the round breaks. The fighter needs to hear only one voice in the corner and that’s the voice of the head trainer.

In Ray’s case, his corner was run by two old smoothies, manager George Gainsford and my dad Harry Wiley, who were with him from the beginning, at Salem crescent church in Harlem. There was no yelling come on, you’re Da Man stuff, everything was small and concentrated… a wink and a nod between George and Harry was all that was needed. This made seamless, smooth running of the corner. The prior was not a statement from me but from an article I read in ring magazine, about the great sugar mans corner.

I would like to also mentioned a seldom heard name for that corner, the late Pee Wee Beale, they used to call him, now I don’t know Mr Beales real name but he played a major part in rays early corner, assisting with mouthpiece gloves, etc. He was the equipment man, and was priceless to Ray until he passed away from cancer, I am not sure what year.

I have fond memories of my dad’s stories about Ray. Like the smartest fighter he said he ever fought, which was not as most people would think, LaMotta! My dad said it was Fritzie Zivic. Ray said “that little so and so thought he had an answer for everything, but I showed him.” He did, he beat him twice by decision, every one begged George and my dad to not let ray fight him, but Ray insisted he could take him, and he was right!

My dad played a pivotal role as trainer to the greatest fighter pound for pound in the history of the game, and on top of that he was Ali’s trainer for two fights as well as Ellis and Mathis before he died.

Harry Wiley Jr.

(Proud Son of Harry Wiley Sr)

2 Responses to “The Forgotten Trainer of Sugar Ray Robinson”

  1. Billy C says:

    GREAT STUFF! This is the kind of thing we love to talk about on my radio show. Please drop me an email at Billy@TalkinBoxing.com when you get a chance.

  2. Greg Gorecky says:

    An excellent article on one of the great trainers from boxings past that time seems to have forgotten.

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