Jake LaMotta fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times. “So many times it’s a wonder I don’t have diabetes,” LaMotta was fond of saying.
Robinson won five of the bouts, but LaMotta handed the greatest fighter ever his first pro defeat. In 106 bouts, LaMotta was knocked down only once. LaMotta was originally known as the Bronx Bull, a brawler and a bad man who was married six times, beat his wives and admitted to throwing a fight.
A throwback to the 1940s and ’50s, when boxing was a popular sport, he died yesterday at age 95. LaMotta was immortalized in the 1980 movie, “Raging Bull,” when Robert DeNiro portrayed the middleweight champion lamenting, “I cudda been a contender.”
DeNiro’s candid portrayal of LaMotta earned him an Oscar. As a performance, It ranks on par with Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will be Blood” and Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler,” two fictional characters. But LaMotta wasn’t fiction. He was real.