Former Middleweight Champion Jake LaMotta, ‘Raging Bull’ Subject, Dead At 95: Tributes Pour In
Jake LaMotta, a former middleweight champion boxer who was portrayed by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s award-winning 1980 movie Raging Bull, died Wednesday at the age of 95.
Jake LaMotta death news
LaMotta died in a nursing home in Miami due to complications from pneumonia, his wife Denise Baker stated.
“He was a great man, sensitive, and had eyes that danced right up to the end. I love him; God rest his soul,” Baker told ABC. “And he never went down!”
The boxer was best known for his fights against Sugar Ray Robinson. LaMotta held the middleweight title from 1949 to 1951 after beating titleholder Marcel Cerdan in Detroit and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
LaMotta went 83-19-4 along with 30 knockouts throughout his career, which began in 1941 and ended in 1954. A New York City native, he quickly earned the nickname “Bronx Bull.”
De Niro, who won the Academy Award for his performance as LaMotta in “Raging Bull” — which was based on the boxer’s 1970 memoir of the same name written with Joseph Carter and Peter Savage. — kept his tribute to the former champion simple: “Rest in Peace, Champ.”
Scorsese also lauded LaMotta.
“He was, as they say, larger than life,” Scorsese said of the legendary fighter. “He lived a tough life, with a lot to overcome, but that’s exactly what he did. I’m glad to have had the chance to know him.”
De Niro spoke in 2013 about his sparring sessions with LaMotta in preparation for the role, and said he was impressed with the boxer’s age despite his growing age.
“I sparred with people with gear on, but we were careful,” De Niro told Time magazine. “We weren’t looking to kill anyone. Then I trained with Jake. He would say, ‘Hit me, don’t worry, don’t worry.’ He was 55, but he was really tough. I didn’t realise until I got to his age that you could still take a punch.”
LaMotta later returned the compliment, saying De Niro fought so well that he believed the actor could have become a professional boxer as well.
LaMotta faced Robinson for the first out of six times on Oct. 2, 1942 at Madison Square Garden, with Robinson fighting as a welterweight. Robinson destroyed LaMotta, leaving him bloodied and winning via unanimous decision in ten rounds.
“I would think that Jake thinks it’s a movie about himself,” Mr. Scorsese told The New York Times shortly after “Raging Bull” was released. “But those who think it’s a boxing picture would be out of their minds. It’s brutal, sure, but it’s a brutality that could take place not only in the boxing ring but in the bedroom or in an office. Jake is an elemental man.”
Indeed, Scorsese’s film depicted how quick-tempered LaMotta was in his personal life. The boxer was married six times, according to the New York Times. His second wife Vickie — portrayed by Cathy Moriarty in the film — was a teenager at the time of their marriage in 1946. LaMotta had a very tempestuous relationship with each of his wives, and even had an affair with one woman, although he accused his bother and manager Joey of sleeping with Vickie.
Moriarty was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Vickie, and Joe Pesci was also nominated for his portrayal of Joey LaMotta.
In 2015, a second movie based on LaMotta’s life, “The Bronx Bull,” was released starring William Forsythe in the title role.
After retiring from boxing, LaMotta spent most of his time acting, appearing on television, and dabbling in stand-up comedy. He had an off-Broadway biographical show called “Lady and the Champ.”
He appeared as a bartender in the Paul Newman film “The Hustler” (1961) and played the mobster Big Julie in a 1965 production of the musical “Guys and Dolls” at the City Center in Manhattan.
Besides Ms. Baker, LaMotta is survived by his daughters, Jacklyn O’Neill, Christie LaMotta, Elisa LaMotta and Mia Day; Ms. Baker’s daughters, Meggen Connolley and Natalia Baker; his brothers, Joe and Al; his sisters, Maria Hawfield and Anne Ramaglia; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 24: Former World Middleweight Champion boxer Jake LaMotta attends the 27th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to benefit the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis at The Waldorf=Astoria on September 24, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund To Cure Paralysis)