Last month Giacobbe “Jake” Lamotta, known both as the “Raging Bull and the “Bronx Bull” passed away in florida at the age of 95, decades after of his opponents took the final ten count. Lamotta was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan New York on 10 July 1921 to Italian Immigrants. It was a tough neighborhood, in fact he was in the same street gang as Rocky Graziano. How would you like to run into both of them in an alley in the middle of the night?
The only way out of the slums for Jake was with his fists. He turned professional on March 3rd 1941 and defeated a guy named Charley Mackley, and within a year was matched with “Sugar” Ray Robinson and lost a competitive decision. Some background on Robinson is necessary here.Robinson was just 22 when they fought, however he had been 85-0 as an amateur with 69 knockouts, forty of those in the 1st round, he then turned professional and was 35-0 (27 knockouts) when he fough Lamotta in the first of what would be a six fights.
Lamotta and Robinson set the standard for ring rivalries. Lamotta won the second one, knocking Robinson out of the ring in the process. There is a photo of that on the homepage of this website. In those six fights Lamotta put Robinson down three times, while Ray was not able to put Jake down, even in the famous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre fight on 14 February 19, which by the was the site of for the original massacre. Ray won five of the six, but that is misleading. You see the money was on Ray, not jake and the series could have easily been Lamotta five Robinson one, rather than the other way around.
Lamotta rampaged through the Middleweight and light heavyweight ranks unable to get a shot at the title for years, even though he beat great fighters like, Robinson, Fritzie Zivic, Jose Basora,George Costner, Tommy Bell, Lloyd Marshall, Robert Villemain, Bob Satterfield and Holman Williams. Marshall and Williams were black fighters that many fighters avoided including Robinson. Jake fought them both and beat them.
Finally Jake did get his shot for the title against the legendary Frenchman Marcel Cerdan in 1949. Unfortunately the only way Jake was given the opportunity was to agree to fix a fight.It didn’t matter that he had been a top contender for eight years, it was all about the money and protecting their own fighters. So Jake fought Billy Fox, a light heavyweight that had a knockout string that ran to 43. Jake was a great fighter but a lousy actor and everyone who witnessed it knew what they where watching. It is sad that Lamotta had to do that however, if he hadn’t he never would have won the title and he would have gone down in history as one of those “Uncrowned Champions” who were great fighters that just did not get the opportunity.
on June 16th 1949 Lamotta, stalked and battered the Frenchman and it was mercifully stopped in the 10th round. Tragically before the re-match, Cerdan was killed in a plane crash in the Atlantic Ocean on the way to training camp.Lamotta went on to defended his title twice, including the Lamotta-Dauthuille fight, the 1950 Fight of the Year in which Lamotta won by knock-out in the 15th Round. Lamotta lost his title to who else – Ray Robinson. Jake fought on until `1955 and finished with 109 fights, 83 victories, 19 loses and four draws, including 30 knockouts. He fought the all and then some. He was very proud of the fact that he had never been knocked down, that is until until his 106th fight against Danny Nardico. The Academy Award Winning movie “The Raging Bull” won fellow Italian American Robert Deniro the best Actor Oscar in 1980, which was based on the best selling book that preceded the movie. Lamotta passed away quietly in a Hospice of pneumonia in Aventura, Florida on 19 September 2017 at the age of ninety-five, which was sixty-eight years after winning the MiddleWeight Championship of the World. Rest in Peace Jake, there will never be another one like you.
Written by Al Iannacone Sr.