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Jake LaMotta: A look back at The Raging Bull
By Vito Trabucco (May 24, 2004) 
Jake LaMotta
Boxing has changed throughout the years. Fighters are more inclined to take a knee when hurt, or they feel a need to be flashy, or worst of all, they do all their talking outside of the ring. When I sit back and think of the vintage years of this sport I love so much, one name pops into my mind. This is a tribute to the man who the Middleweight division bloodied, beaten, but could never knock down. The toughest SOB to ever put on pair boxing gloves. A tribute to the Bronx Bull, Jake LaMotta.

Jake was born Giacobe LaMotta on July 10th 1921 in the Bronx. He began boxing at an early age when his father made him fight other neighborhood kids for the entertainment of adults. A crowd-pleaser even back then, the money that spectators would throw into the ring after Jake fought, usually pennies, nickels and dimes, helped pay the rent at home. After spending time in reform school, LaMotta turned to pro boxing in 1941 at the age of 19.

One of Jake’s first big fights was against Sugar Ray Robinson. After flooring the great Robinson in the first round, LaMotta went on to score a victory on points. A rivalry ensued with Robinson as he captured a victory in the rematch. LaMotta went on to face a slew of other top-ranked opponents. He beat world-class fighters. Among the fallen were Fritzie Zivic, George Kochan, Tommy Bell, Bert Lytell, Jose Basora, Bob Satterfield, Holman Williams and Tony Janiro.

Known for his connection with New York’s organized crime, Jake agreed to throw a fight against Billy Fox. The one “in ring” regret that haunted Jake for a long time after.

LaMotta finally got his chance at boxing immortality on June 16, 1949 when he challenged Middleweight Champion Marcel Cerdan and won the title via a 10th-round TKO when Cerdan was unable to answer the bell. The two were scheduled to meet in a rematch. On a his trip back to the United States, the plane carrying the former champion went down and Cerdan lost his life.

In a career with many ups and downs, probably the greatest moment of LaMotta’s career is when he faced the game challenger Laurent Dauthuille. Trailing on the scorecards, LaMotta staged a miraculous 15th-round knockout of Dauthuille to retain his belt. That may have been Jake’s finest hour.

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The stage was now set for the sixth and final meeting between LaMotta and Sugar Ray Robinson. The legends met on February 14, 1951, in Chicago Stadium and this time Jake's middleweight crown was at stake. The fight would later be dubbed the infamous “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” Jake absorbed tremendous punishment throughout the fight. The end came for Jake in the 13th round when the referee couldn’t stand to watch LaMotta take anymore. Robinson was the new Middleweight Champion. But Jake never went down. LaMotta approached Robinson afterwards and muttered into his ear “You couldn't drop me! You never dropped me!”

LaMotta finished his career with a record of 83-19-4 with 30 KO’s. He went on to open his own bar and became a stand up comic where he was later arrested for sleeping with an underage girl.

In 1980, Martin Scorsese directed the film that graphically depicted LaMotta’s life, “Raging Bull” with Robert DeNiro in the title role. DeNiro went on to win an Academy Award for his performance as LaMotta. And to this day goes down as one of, if not the greatest, boxing films of all time.

Legend has it that at the premier, during the screening, Jake leans over to his ex-wife Vicky and says “Was I that bad?” To this Vicky replied “Honey, you were worse!”

With a roller coaster life such as LaMotta’s, with the fame and fortune, the jail time and heartbreak, I can only think of one of the first lines from the film “Raging Bull” where DeNiro looks at himself in the mirror and says “That’s entertainment!” You got that right, Jake. You weren’t afraid to slug it out in the ring and you weren’t afraid to slug it out with life. Yep, that’s entertainment.
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