Middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta, who was immortalized by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, died at the age of 95, his daughter, Christi, confirmed on Facebook.
LaMotta “died in a nursing home due to complications from pneumonia,” his family announced.
“Rest in Peace, Champ,” wrote De Niro, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of LaMotta, in a statement. The movie was nominated for eight Oscars. The Bronx Bull, which starred William Forsythe as LaMotta, came out in 2015.
Raging Bull was based on LaMotta’s autobiography Raging Bull: My Story, which was published in 1970. Jake LaMotta was born Giacobbe LaMotta in New York City’s Lower East Side on July 10, 1922. He was raised in the Bronx. LaMotta’s first fights were set up by his father who paid the rent by making him fight other kids to amuse the adults in the neighborhood. LaMotta learned to box properly when he was sent to reform school as a teenager. An a mastoid operation in one of his ears kept him out of World War II and he turned professional in 1941 at the age of 19.
LaMotta is most famous for his rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson, who he fought six times and beat once. LaMotta faced Robinson for the first time On Oct. 2, 1942, at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Robinson, who was fighting as a welterweight, won a 10-round unanimous decision. LaMotta and Robinson fought twice in one month at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium in February 1943. LaMotta knocked Robinson through the ropes in the eighth round, winning the first match. Robinson won the rematch three weeks later by unanimous decision, even though he was knocked down in round 7. Robinson beat LaMotta twice in 1945. Their final bout was at Chicago Stadium on Feb. 14, 1951, and is knowns as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Robinson gave LaMotta such a beating the referee called it in the 13th round. But LaMotta never hit the canvass. “You never got me down, Ray,” De Niro’s character would say in the film.
Ring Magazine named LaMotta as having the best boxing chin in 1997. Robinson was named greatest fighter.
“I fought Sugar Ray so many times I’m surprised I didn’t get diabetes,” LaMotta once joked.
LaMotta’s record was 83 wins, 19 losses, and 4 draws. He had 30 knockouts over his professional boxing career and was only knocked to the canvass once LaMotta won the middleweight title in 1949 against French boxer Marcel Cerdan at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. He retired in 1954.
LaMotta opened several bars after he retired from boxing. He was sentenced to six months in a Florida jail in 1957 for aiding and abetting a 14-year old girl in prostitution who worked out of his bar in Miami Beach. Though convicted, he always maintained his innocence.
LaMotta admitted the mob paid him $20,000 to throw a 1947 match with Billy Fox in return for a shot at the title in a 1960 appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust and Monopoly. They were investigating organized crime’s influence on boxing.
After retiring from the ring, LaMotta acted on television, low-budget movies – including two made by Lenny Bruce. He played a bartender in the boxing movie classic The Hustler (1961) which starred Paul Newman. He played various mugs the NBC sitcom Car 54, Where Are You?. LaMotta co-starred with O.J. Simpson in Firepower (1979). He starred in the 1989 film Mob War. LaMotta also did stand-up comedy and performed in an off-Broadway biographical show called Lady and the Champ where he met his seventh wife, Denise Baker. His second wife was Vikki LaMotta, played by Cathy Moriarty in Raging Bull.