The crown captures your focus even before the lettering or the abstract head. This is seen throughout the artist's career and aims to challenge western history and the rule of the monarchy. He is saying that Afro-Caribbean figures are now the true kings, and that in this case, the greatest boxer is Sugar Ray Robinson. It is, of course, an extraordinarily simple artwork, featuring just a few strokes of a pencil or oil pen. It appears entirely unplanned, with the lettering inconsistent and leaning downwards, whilst the crown is not entirely symmetrical, and the portrait itself is child-like. Basquiat worked hard to reproduce the style created by children, it was neither an accident nor a sign of poor artistic ability as some others had argued.
Basquiat held a strong passion for the sport of Boxing. He even completed several photo shoots in which he was dressed in full boxing gear. In one he stood alongside his close friend, Andy Warhol. He went on to produce Neo-Expressionist portraits of a number of other boxers, not just Sugar Ray Robinson. He also included Jack Johnson, Jersey Joe Walcott and Cassius Clay (later, Muhammad Ali) within his oeuvre. These were all fairly similar, simply sketched form in the artist's free, seemingly child-like style. Basquiat spent many years perfecting this look, and was famously quoted as saying that it, "...took him years to paint like a child...". He also produced other boxer-related paintings too, such as Untitled (Boxer), that remains one of the most famous works from his entire career. Additionally, there was The Fighter, a lesser known piece which was still significant within his work on this theme of content.
One might imagine that Basquiat saw himself as a boxer, with his life full of hard knocks throughout. He may have seen the strength and doggedness of these famous boxers in his own character. They also represented some of the finest black athletes in the world, which appealed to his desire of seeing Afro-Caribbean being the new monarchy - hence the use of crowns in a number of his paintings. The artwork that we find before us in this page has been catalogued as Untitled (Sugar Ray Robinson), 1982 by the Gagosian Gallery, who we believe now own it. It was completed using acrylic and oil paintstick on canvas, with the canvas left loose and unattached to any frame. Basquiat regularly used paintsticks in order to draw quick lines in his graffitti, cartoon-like style. It would also be easier to set up than carrying large amounts of liquid paints around.