By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing: Primo Carnera won the heavyweight championship of the world when he knocked out Jack Sharkey in 1933. For years afterward, rumors persisted that the fight was fixed. Sharkey consistently said that Carnera had beaten him, though the former champion’s wife had doubts. Unfortunately, many of Carnera’s early bouts looked sloppy and amateurish, casting doubts on the results.
Author Joseph Page does a fine job detailing Carnera’s strengths and weaknesses in his new book, PRIMO CARNERA – The life and career of the heavyweight-boxing champion. The book starts with a brief account of Carnera’s travails in Sequals,
Italy before moving to the beginning of his boxing career in 1928. His
skills were nothing to write home about, but his massive size (six foot
seven and 270 pounds) drew interest.
Carnera began to box in earnest when former professional fighter Paul
Journee spotted him at a circus in France. Journee taught Carnera how to
use his size and utilize his enormous reach. Carnera fought regularly
and was soon on a ship to America, where he debuted in 1930. Many of the
big mans victories caused an uproar. Boxing fans would scream as one
opponent after another crumbled. Author Page does an excellent job of
showing the reader that Carnera had developed into a decent boxer.The
fixed fights' dilemma would hang over Carnera like a dark cloud. The
accusations tainted his victory over Sharkey.
Carnera was a good person with no interests in his financial affairs.
His alleged mob-controlled managers knew this and took full advantage of
his naivety. He lost his crown in 1934 when Max Baer floored him 11
times. Carnera fought Joe Louis a few months later. He trained hard
figuring a victory over the hard-charging Louis would re-ignite his
career. But Louis stopped Carnera in six, as more of his posse deserted
him. He went home to an unhappy Italy and an exploitive Italian
Government. Carnera’s ring earnings were close to $400 thousand dollars
by 1937 but somehow he was still broke.
Page deserves credit for casting a more positive light on Carnera’s
boxing career. His descriptions of Carnera’s fights are rich in feeling
and atmosphere. Carnera wasn’t the most skillful of boxers, but, Page
writes, he was certainly one of the most courageous. The author’s
knowledge of boxing history is solid, though an error regarding the
Baer/James J. Braddock fight is distracting, as is a tendency to repeat
PRIMO CARNERA – The life and career of the heavyweight champion is an enjoyable read. Page gives Carnera his due, pointing out his many
victories (89) and achievements. His chapters on the later stages of
Carnera’s life are well done.
For information regarding purchasing this book please go to www.mcfarlandpub.com or call 800-253-2187.
Recent work from Raspanti:
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