Paul Pender, a former middleweight boxing champion who beat Sugar Ray Robinson in 1960, has died. He was 72.
Pender, who had been battling Alzheimer's disease, died Sunday at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford, Mass., a hospital spokeswoman said Monday.
On Jan. 22, 1960, Pender outpointed the 38-year-old Robinson in the old Boston Garden. Five months later, he retained the title in a split decision over Robinson in a rematch. Pender made two other successful defenses before losing to Terry Downes in London. In 1962, he regained the title with a 15-round decision over Downes in Boston.
But he battled with promoters to gain greater say over matchups and never boxed again. He was stripped of his title in November 1962.
"He never got the credit he deserved," said his son, Paul Pender Jr. "He was never really one to toot his own horn. He was just happy to just do his job and take his paycheck."
Pender, a native of Brookline, Mass., turned professional in 1949 after winning the New England amateur welterweight crown. He had a 20-2-2 record before joining the Marine Corps during the Korean War.
He briefly retired and joined the Brookline Fire Department in 1957 after repeatedly breaking his right hand. Pender returned to the ring in 1958, and finished his pro career with a 40-6-2 record.
"I consider boxing the biggest test in the world for endurance, mentally and physically," he told the Boston Herald. "It's a test because no one is responsible other than yourself. No one can accuse anybody else of making a mistake. That's why I enjoyed the challenge."
Pender became director of recreation for the Massachusetts state prison in Walpole after he left boxing, and became an early proponent of a national governing body for the sport.
In addition to his son, he is survived by two daughters and five grandsons.