The Unexplained: The Man Who Never Was

An early day photograph of boxer Sweet Jimmy Robinson who vanished into the wind. Photo from Alchetron.

He was a boxer, a loser, a drifter, finally wandering homeless on the streets. Then Sweet Jimmy Robinson disappeared without a trace.

They disappear like the wind.   This is what a neighborhood character, “Shelly,” said about the hundreds of homeless and street people that live in the Liberty City section of Miami.

In an article for ESPN, called Shadow Boxing, by Wright Thompson, the neighborhood character, “Shelly,” makes his appearance.  “Shelly” was well-known at Camillus House, a place that serves meals to the homeless who wander in.  Some of those people may even find a few odd jobs to do around the place.

On one memorable occasion, “Shelly” was asked about Jimmy Robinson by a person who was on a personal mission and had made it a point to ferret out “Shelly.”  It was rumored that “Shelly” might know the actual whereabouts of a man Sweet Jimmy Robinson, the name he goes by.  The person thought Jimmy would make good subject matter for a story and was serving as a volunteer in the kitchen at Camillus House.

 I guess you could say he was doing research for his writing.  He needed some real facts.  He had been inspired to search out the facts after hearing about the quest of another:  Stephen Singer, a car salesman from New Hampshire, was desperately trying to find Jimmy.  He needed Sweet Jimmy’s autograph in the worst way.  He had not been able to locate him, anywhere.  And he had tried for years.

When “Shelly” did cross the threshold of Camillus House, the kitchen volunteer/writer went on point and dashed out to get information—if he could.  He had searched high and low, traveled the highways, and this would be his final attempt to talk to “Shelly,” the person claiming to be the last person in the area to talk to Jimmy.

Sara Marie Hogg

“His brother came in a car from North Carolina to get him and took him to his home.  I am probably the only person who saw Jimmy get into the car.  He shook my hand right before he left, and he said he would see me when he came back.  He never did come back.  Yep, they disappear like the wind.”

After eighty-year-old “Shelly” faded out, the amateur detective shook his head.  He so wanted to know where Jimmy was, but after all, “Shelly” was eighty and his mind was fried.  Did “Shelly” really say goodbye to Jimmy, or did he just want to chew the fat with another person for a few minutes?  Did the man with a hard life and a long rap sheet just want to be the center of attention for a brief moment in time?  Could he even be believed?

Who was Sweet Jimmy Robinson and where was he?

Jimmy was thought to have been born in 1925.  He was a boxer who fought Cassius Clay, who became better known as Muhammad Ali in 1961.

Willie Guallatt was scheduled to fight Clay on February 7th of that year.  When Guallatt did not show up, Robinson was thrown in as a substitute at the last minute.  That makes Sweet Jimmy Robinson Clay’s fourth professional boxing bout.

Sweet Jimmy may or may not have started out his life in Kansas City.  He eventually ended up in the Liberty City area of Miami, Florida, also known as Model City.  In the Miami area, his love of boxing led him to the famous 5thStreet Gym—home to many prominent boxers.  He was classified as a middleweight, but he was also known to fight at times as a heavyweight.  He was able to get a manager— Clyde Killens, the owner of a pool hall.

 Killens was able to wiggle into some of the Chris Dundee (Angelo’s brother) boxing promotions in Miami-Dade County.  Dundee focused on boxing prospects who were on the rise.  These Dundee bouts could be stepping stones for serious young boxers.

In the February 7, 1961 bout between Cassius Clay and Sweet Jimmy Robinson, Clay knocked out Sweet Jimmy at 1:34 in Round One.  It was a TKO.

Robinson had been thrown into the fight because Guallatt backed out and was a no-show.  Guallatt backed out because he was only being paid $300 while Clay was earning $800.  Guallatt went off and had some drinks instead.

The fight was at Miami Beach Convention Hall.  Robinson had his gear stowed in an old banged-up duffle bag.

The fight did not sour Robinson on boxing.  He kept boxing for seven years.  He had 8 wins and 25 losses.  He was actually knocked out 16 times. We now know that some of this stuff can cause permanent brain damage.  For several years Sweet Jimmy Robinson just floated around in Liberty City, becoming a fixture in various pool halls. In 1969, he was talked into a bout with Kent Green in Miami Beach.  Green was known for having a TKO win over Ali when Ali was an amateur.

Green took Robinson out in under 60 seconds.

Robinson continued to float and drift in Liberty City. A Sports Illustrated writer was able to track down Sweet Jimmy Robinson in 1979 for an interview.  The fighter offered up a couple of interesting tidbits in the article.  Although his weight was listed as 178 for the Clay bout, he actually only weighed 158.  He also mentioned that he and Clay/Ali were good friends.  He said that Ali used to drive him around in his pink Cadillac.

This interview is the last sighting ever known of Sweet Jimmy Robinson.  He disappeared off the face of the earth.

No one has seen him since.

The person searching for Jimmy for an article had finally tracked down “Shelly,” and “Shelly” may or may not have seen Jimmy “get into a car with his brother.”  Jimmy has not left much of a paper trail.  There is no known date of birth, no public records, and no known family. 

The other man –  Stephen Singer, who was trying to get Sweet Jimmy’s signature, was near the end of completing a long project.  He wanted the signatures of all fifty opponents who had fought Ali.  He only has forty-nine, and some of those were extremely hard to get—a lot of detective work and a lot of travel.

Number fifty is Sweet Jimmy Robinson.  It doesn’t look very likely that his signature will ever wind up in Stephen Singer’s collection.

He is gone with the wind.

Where, oh where, is Sweet Jimmy Robinson?


Please click HERE to find Sara Marie Hogg’s mystery, Dark Continent Continental.

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