Giacobbe "Jake" LaMotta (born July 10, 1921), nicknamed "The Bronx Bull" and "The Raging Bull", is an American retired professional boxer and former World Middleweight Champion. He was portrayed by Robert De Niro in the 1980 film Raging Bull.
1 Early life,
2 Boxing career
2.1 LaMotta vs. Robinson I-V,
2.2 LaMotta vs. Fox,
2.3 LaMotta vs. Cerdan,
2.4 World Middleweight Champion,
2.5 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre,
2.6 Light heavyweight,
4 Fighting style,
5 Raging Bull,
6 Later life,
8 External links,
LaMotta is an Italian-American born in New York City in the borough of the Bronx. He was forced by his father into fighting other children to entertain neighborhood adults, who threw pocket change into the ring. LaMotta's father collected the money and used it to help pay the rent. His cousin was inventor Richard LaMotta.
In 1941, at the age of 19, LaMotta turned professional. During World War II, he was rejected for military service because of a mastoid operation on one of his ears.
LaMotta went 14-0-1 (3 KOs) as a middleweight in his first fifteen bouts before losing a highly controversial split decision to Jimmy Reeves in Reeves' hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Chaos erupted after the decision was announced. Fights broke out around the ring and the crowd continued to boo for 20 minutes. The arena's organist tried to calm down the crowd by playing the "Star Spangled Banner".
One month later, LaMotta and Reeves fought again in the same arena. Reeves won a much less controversial decision. A third match between the two took place on March 19, 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. The first five rounds were close, though Reeves was struggling in the fourth. In the sixth round, LaMotta floored Reeves, who was only down for a second. Once the fight resumed, LaMotta landed a left on Reeves' chin, sending him down face-first. Reeves was blinking his eyes and shaking his head as the referee counted him out.
LaMotta vs. Robinson I-V:
LaMotta fought former Welterweight Champion Sugar Ray Robinson in Robinson's middleweight debut at Madison Square Garden, New York. LaMotta knocked Robinson down in the first round of the fight. Robinson got up and took control over much of the fight, winning via unanimous decision.
A rematch took place months later in Detroit, Michigan. The eighth round was historic. LaMotta landed a right to Robinson's head and a left to his body, sending him through the ropes. Robinson was saved by the bell at the count of nine. LaMotta, who was already leading on the scorecards before knocking Robinson out of the ring, pummeled and outpointed him for the rest of the fight. Robinson had trouble keeping LaMotta at bay. LaMotta won via unanimous decision, giving Robinson the first defeat of his career.
The victory was short-lived, as the two met again three weeks later, once again in Robinson's former home of Detroit. Robinson was knocked down for a nine-count count in round seven. Robinson later stated, "He really hurt me with a left in the seventh round. I was a little dazed and decided to stay on the deck." Robinson won the close fight by decision, utilizing a dazzling left jab and jarring uppercuts.
A fourth fight took place nearly two years after the third in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Robinson won once again by a unanimous decision.
LaMotta and Robinson had their fifth bout at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois on September 26, 1945. Robinson won by a very controversial split decision. The decision was loudly booed by the 14,755 people in attendance. LaMotta later said in his autobiography that the decision was widely criticized by several newspapers and boxing publishers. Robinson said afterward, "This was the toughest fight I've ever had with LaMotta."
LaMotta vs. Fox:
On November 14, 1947, LaMotta was knocked out in four rounds by Billy Fox. Suspecting the fight was fixed, the New York State Athletic Commission withheld purses for the fight and suspended LaMotta. The fight with Fox would come back to haunt LaMotta later in life, during a case with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In his testimony and in his later book, LaMotta admitted to throwing the fight in order to gain favor with the Mafia. All involved agreed the fix was obvious and their staging inept. As LaMotta wrote,
The first round, a couple of belts to his head, and I see a glassy look coming over his eyes. Jesus Christ, a couple of jabs and he's going to fall down? I began to panic a little. I was supposed to be throwing a fight to this guy, and it looked like I was going to end up holding him on his feet... By the fourth round, if there was anybody in the Garden who didn't know what was happening, he must have been dead drunk."
The thrown fight and a payment of $20,000 to the Mafia got LaMotta his title bout against World Middleweight Champion Marcel Cerdan.
LaMotta went 9-1 before he fought for the title. His only loss was a decision to Laurent Dauthuille.
LaMotta vs. Cerdan:
LaMotta won the world title on June 16, 1949 in Detroit, Michigan, defeating Frenchman Marcel Cerdan. LaMotta won the first round (also knocking Cerdan down), Cerdan the second, and the third was even. At that point it became clear something was wrong. Cerdan dislocated his arm in the first round, apparently damaged in the knockdown, and gave up before the start of the 10th round. LaMotta damaged his left hand in the fifth round, but still landed 104 punches in the ninth round, whereas Cerdan hardly threw a punch. The official score had LaMotta as winner by a knockout in 10 rounds because the bell had already rung to begin that round when Cerdan announced he was quitting. A rematch was arranged, but while Cerdan was flying back to the United States to fight the rematch, his Air France Lockheed Constellation crashed in the Azores, killing everyone on board.
World Middleweight Champion:
LaMotta made his first title defense against Tiberio Mitri on July 7, 1950 at Madison Square Garden, New York. LaMotta retained his title via unanimous decision.
LaMotta's next defense came on September 13, 1950 against Laurent Dauthuille. Dauthuille had previously beaten LaMotta by decision before LaMotta became world champion. By the fifteenth round, Dauthuille was once again ahead on all scorecards (72-68, 74-66, 71-69) and seemed to be about to repeat a victory against LaMotta. Shockingly, LaMotta hit Dauthuille with a barrage of punches that sent him down against the ropes toward the end of the round. Dauthuille was counted out with 13 seconds left in the fight. This fight was named Fight of the Year for 1950 by The Ring Magazine.
Saint Valentine's Day Massacre:
LaMotta was challenged by Sugar Ray Robinson for the final fight in their legendary six-bout rivalry. Held on February 14, 1951, Saint Valentine's Day, the fight became known as boxing's version of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. In the last few rounds, LaMotta began to take a horrible beating and was soon unable to defend himself from Robinson's powerful blows. But, in an amazing show of courage, LaMotta refused to go down. Robinson won by a technical knockout in the 13th round, when the fight was stopped with LaMotta lying on the ropes. However, Robinson was never able to knock LaMotta down.
LaMotta moved up to light heavyweight after losing his world middleweight title. He had poor results at first. He lost his debut against "Irish" Bob Murphy, lost a split decision to Norman Hayes, and drew with Gene Hairston in his first three bouts. In his next three fights, LaMotta had rematches with Hayes, Hairston, and Murphy and defeated all of them by unanimous decision.
On December 31, 1952, LaMotta had his next fight against Danny Nardico. As the fight went on, it became clear LaMotta was declining as a fighter. LaMotta was knocked down for the only time in his career (not counting his thrown 1947 fight) by a right hand in the seventh round. LaMotta got up and was beaten against a corner by Nardico until the bell rang. LaMotta's corner stopped the bout before the eighth round began.
In the mid-1950s, LaMotta sustained a boxing injury and took time off to recover.
When LaMotta returned, he knocked out his first two opponents, Johnny Pretzie (TKO 4) and Al McCoy (KO 1), but a split decision loss afterwards to Billy Kilgore convinced him to finally retire.
After retirement, LaMotta owned and managed bars, and became a stage actor and stand-up comedian. In 1958 he was arrested and charged with introducing men to an underage girl at a club he owned in Miami. He was convicted and served time on a chain gang, although he has maintained his innocence.
LaMotta appeared in more than 15 films, including The Hustler (1961) with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason, in which he had a cameo role as a bartender. He also appeared in several episodes of the NBC police comedy, Car 54 Where Are You? (1961-1963).
A lifelong baseball fan, he organized the Jake LaMotta All-Star Team in the Bronx. The LaMotta team played in Sterling Oval which was located between 165th and 164th Streets between Clay and Teller Avenue. He also held professional fights at that field, and his brother Joey often fought there.
In 1960, LaMotta was called to testify before a U.S. Senate sub-committee that was looking at underworld influence on boxing. He testified that he had thrown his bout with Billy Fox so that the mob would arrange a title bout for him.
LaMotta is recognized as having one of the best chins in boxing. He rolled with punches, minimizing their force and damage when they landed, but he was also able to absorb many blows. In the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, his sixth bout with Robinson, LaMotta suffered numerous severe blows to the head. Commentators could be heard saying "No man can take this kind of punishment!" But LaMotta did not go down. The fight was stopped by the referee in the 13th round, declaring it a TKO victory for Robinson.
LaMotta was one of the first boxers to adopt the "bully" style of fighting, in that he always stayed close and in punching range of his opponent, by stalking him around the ring, and sacrificed taking punches himself in order to land his own shots. Due to his aggressive, unrelenting style he was known as "The Bronx Bull". He boasted "No son-of-a-bitch ever knocked me off my feet", but that claim was ended in December 1952 at the hands of Danny Nardico when Nardico caught him with a hard right in the seventh round. LaMotta fell into the ropes and went down. After regaining his footing, he was unable to come out for the next round.
Hollywood executives approached LaMotta with the idea of a movie about his life, based on his 1970 memoir Raging Bull: My Story. The film, Raging Bull, released in 1980, was initially only a minor box office success, but eventually became a huge critical success both for director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro, who gained about 60 pounds during the shooting of the film to play the older LaMotta in later scenes.
To accurately portray the younger LaMotta, De Niro trained with LaMotta until LaMotta felt he was ready to box professionally. De Niro lived in Paris for three months, eating at the finest restaurants in order to gain sufficient weight to portray LaMotta after retirement. De Niro won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
The film depicts a violent and self-destructive LaMotta, who once goes as far as beating his own brother, manager Joey LaMotta, while accusing him of having an affair with Jake's then wife, Vickie LaMotta. (In real life, this altercation was between LaMotta and his best friend Pete, not his brother Joey. The Joey character in the film is an amalgamation to simplify the narrative.)
In February 1998, LaMotta's elder son Jake LaMotta, Jr., died of liver cancer. In September 1998, his younger son Joseph LaMotta died in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada.
His nephew, John LaMotta, fought in the heavyweight-novice class of the 2001 Golden Gloves championship tournament. Another nephew, William Lustig, is a well-known director and producer of horror films and the president of Blue Underground, Inc.
LaMotta married a seventh wife, his longtime fiancée Denise Baker, on January 4, 2013. He has four daughters, including Christi by his second wife Vikki and Stephanie by his fourth wife Dimitria.
He remains active on the speaking and autograph circuit, and has published several books about his career, his life, and his fights with Robinson.
He is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and was ranked 52nd on Ring Magazine's List of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years. The magazine also ranked him as one of the 10 greatest middleweights of all time.
On 2 June 2012 he was taken ill at a signing event in the UK, but was later discharged from hospital in a safe condition.
LaMotta appeared in a 50-minute New York stage production, Lady and the Champ, in July 2012. The production focused on LaMotta's boxing career, and was criticized by The New York Times as poorly executed and a "bizarre debacle".
LaMotta is the subject of a forthcoming documentary directed and produced by LEMMY co-director Greg Olliver. The film has planned release of early 2014, and features an appearance by Mike Tyson among other notable athletes, actors and Jake's family & friends. Also in production is a sequel to Raging Bull. MGM has filed suit to halt the project, saying that LaMotta does not have the right to make a sequel. The lawsuit was settled on July 31, 2012 when LaMotta agreed to change the title of the film to The Bronx Bull.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license