In the later years of his life, Jake LaMotta did not shy away from ringside. You see the legends of their time come and go and sometimes seek that privacy but that was not a part of his legacy. LaMotta was appropriately named “The Raging Bull” and outlived the contemporaries of his time.
But on Wednesday morning at the age of 95, Jake LaMotta had his last round after struggling with complications from pneumonia at a nursing home in Miami. When last seen at ringside in New York a year ago, LaMotta had that fire in his eye and could talk about the legends of his time.
Oh, there was that cowboy hat and putting up the fists, proudly displaying the 1990 Hall of Fame ring that is rightfully deserved. When you saw one of the greatest middleweights of his time, that was Jake LaMotta “The Raging Bull” who got that name because he could take punishment and had one of the greatest jaws in boxing history.
He spent the later years in New York City and took some of those stories to the stage as a standup comic, the act as good as his championship fights. LaMotta once told this columnist that Madison Square Garden is where boxing belongs, talking like the old school fighter that knew something about being in the smoke filled arenas and at the “Mecca” known as Madison Square Garden.
But in boxing that legacy comes from what was delivered in the ring. Jake LaMotta gave boxing fans a show. and like the one in a move “The Raging Bull” that epitomized and resurrected his life, that was real, one of the all-time great movies about a legend in the sport that is realistic and not the fiction of Rocky calling out “Adrian.”
Four epic fights of 10-rounds with the late and great Sugar Ray Robinson, and another of 12-rounds at Comiskey Park in Chicago, controversial that went against LaMotta and a crowd that showed their displeasure was boxing. You see, Jake LaMotta was a fan favorite because of the way he would take a punch and come right back.
Legend, there is no debate with 106 fights and a 83-19-4, 30 KO mark, and for a kid that had street fights in the Bronx and made them the real thing, well that can’t compare to the fighter of today.
Robinson, a top ten all-time great would later say about that final fight, “This was the toughest fight I’ve ever had with LaMotta.” But boxing fans can look back at fights that went 15-rounds, and it was the “Raging Bull” that was made for those long distance fights and in that era when the sport was not conscious about injuries to the head.
LaMotta vs. Laurent Dauthuille, September 13, 1950, the late boxing author and historian Bert Sugar wrote about the 15th round in the book “The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists” that he co-authored with Teddy Atlas:
“In what looked like the last three minutes of LaMotta’s reign as middleweight champion after losing almost every round of the previous 14 to challenger Laurent Dauthuille, LaMotta staged a last-second comeback worthy of a Phileas Fogg, catching Dauthuille with a deep-ditch beauty of a left and then assailing him with an assortment of lefts and rights which felled the challenger over the bottom rope with one long, looping left when he was counted out with only 30 seconds to go in the fight.”
That was the vintage “Raging Bull.” And in this new era of boxing, where fights go 12-rounds and rarely end without controversy, the way to do then was fight to the end and finish off your opponent.
Others may have fit the mold, but Jake LaMotta and that legacy will always live on. Rest In Peace Champ.
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