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Jake LaMotta

A Fall From Grace

LaMotta had one more fight in 1951 and six in 1952. He had no matches in 1953 and fought his final three in 1954. By then he bore the scars of his career, including a nose that had been broken six times. LaMotta then quit the ring and settled in Miami, Florida where he opened a club and dated a string of movie stars, including Jayne Mansfield, Ginger Rogers, Jane Russell, and Hedi Lamar. He fell from grace with the sportswriters and most of his friends because of his violent behavior. He drank too much, pursued the wives of his friends and admitted to raping the wife of one. He was arrested and served time on a chain gang for acting as the pimp of an underage girl, although he has maintained that he was innocent.

Bunce, who wrote of meeting LaMotta, said that "there are so many tales of LaMotta groping a friend's wife or girlfriend at social events that it would be impossible to start listing them. It seems that retaliation was left to the women, presumably the men were too scared, and LaMotta was variously hit with full ice buckets or else doused with cocktails."


1921 Born July 10 in New York, New York
1941 Turns pro
1947 Throws fight with Billy Fox
1949 Wins world middleweight title from French champion Marcel Cerdan
1951 Loses title to "Sugar" Ray Robinson
1954 Final fight, a loss to Billy Kilgore
1950s Becomes owner of a Miami Beach bar
1958 Serves six months on a chain gang in Dade County, Florida for corrupting the morals of a minor
1960 Testifies before Kefauver Committee, admitting to taking dive in 1947
1970 Publishes autobiography Raging Bull: My Story
1970s Begins to perform standup comedy routines in New York
1981 Film adaptation of Raging Bull, is released
1998 Son Jack dies of liver cancer
1998 Son Joseph killed in crash of Swissair Flight 111
1998 Sues Swissair, Delta, McDonnell-Douglas, and Boeing for $125 million

LaMotta's earlier loss to Bill Fox had been suspect since the event, and in 1960, he confessed to the Kefauver Committee that he had thrown that fight. His honesty degraded his reputation even further, and when Robinson quit boxing, LaMotta was barred from attending his farewell dinner.

Washington Times writer Thom Loverro, who caught LaMotta's comedy act at Café Milano in Georgetown, wrote that his one-liners "would have made Henny Youngman proud: 'I'm in great shape, every artery in my body is as hard as a rock…. We're going to talk aboutthe art of self-defense tonight. In order to defend yourself you need two things, a good lawyer and a good alibi….My doctor told me once if I didn't stop drinking I'd lose my hearing. I told the doctor so what, the stuff I'm drinking is better than the stuff I'm hearing.'" The line that LaMotta is famous for is his, "I fought Sugar Ray so many times, it's a wonder I don't have diabetes."

Always a storyteller, LaMotta performed his comedy routine for many years, and his minor celebrity received a boost when the movie Raging Bull was released. Married seven times, his marriage to his second wife, Vickie, is an integral component of the film based on his autobiography. LaMotta regularly abused Vickie, the mother of his sons, Jack and Joe, and one of his four daughters. Robert DeNiro won an Oscar for his portrayal of LaMotta in Raging Bull, a Martin Scorsese film that pulls no punches in depicting the life of one of the toughest boxers ever to step into the ring.

Roger Ebert reviewed Raging Bull in the Los Angeles Times, saying that the film "is the most painful and heartrending portrait of jealousy in the cinema—an Othello for our times. It's the best film I've seen about the low self-esteem, sexual inadequacy, and fear that lead some men to abuse women. Boxing is the arena, not the subject. LaMotta was famous for refusing to be knocked down in the ring. There are scenes where he stands passively, his hands at his side, allowing himself to be hammered. We sense why he didn't go down. He hurt too much to allow the pain to stop."

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Famous Sports StarsBoxingJake LaMotta Biography - The "bronx Bull", Middleweight Champ, A Fall From Grace, Chronology, Personal Tragedy And The Later Years - SELECTED WRITINGS BY LAMOTTA: