Turpin was born in Leamington Spa to a white British mother and black Guyanan father. He became a professional boxer in 1946. In 1951, Sugar Ray Robinson traveled to England and gave Turpin an opportunity to fight for his middleweight championship. Turpin became only the second man to defeat Robinson when he won a fifteen-round decision.
Robinson and Turpin had a rematch in September 1951 where Robinson regained the title by a tenth-round knockout.
He stopped boxing in the mid-1960s. He lived in Leamington Spa with his wife and four daughters. On 17 May 1966 in Leamington Spa he shot one of his daughters (who survived), then shot himself dead.