Jake LaMotta, former middleweight boxing champion and inspiration for the 1981 Robert DeNiro–Martin Scorsese film Raging Bull, has died. He was 95.
His fiancee Denise Baker confirmed that LaMotta died from complications of pneumonia, per Time.
Raging Bull earned DeNiro an Academy Award and immortalized the popular boxer who was known as The Bronx Bull in his prime.
“When I saw the film I was upset,” LaMotta told an interviewer. “I kind of look bad in it. Then I realized it was true. That’s the way it was. I was a no-good bastard … It’s not the way I am now but the way I was then.”
Throughout his 14-year career (1941 to 1954) , LaMotta amassed a staggering record of 83-19-4 with 30 knockouts. He fought Hall of Fame fighter Sugar Ray Robinson an unfathomable six times, even managing to hand the generational talent his first-ever defeat.
“The three toughest fighters I’ve ever been up against were Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson and Sugar Ray Robinson,” LaMotta said.
“I fought Sugar so many times, I’m surprised I’m not diabetic,” he said in an oft-used line.
LaMotta was the source of improbable comebacks and stellar fights during his heyday. However, he was also a source of controversy as well. LaMotta testified before a U.S. Senate committee in 1960 that he threw a fight against Billy Fox.
“I purposely lost a fight to Billy Fox because they promised me that I would get a shot to fight for the title if I did,” LaMotta said in 1970 interview printed in Peter Heller’s 1973 book In This Corner: 40 World Champions Tell Their Stories, according to the outlet. LaMotta lost in the fourth round against Fox in November 1947 at Madison Square Garden. He wound up waiting 10 fights until his title shot came.
In 1949, LaMotta finally claimed the middleweight championship when Marcel Cerdan quit on his stool after the 10th round.
The boxer was famous for his stout chin and ability to absorb punishment.
“Punches never bothered me that much,” he once told the Times of London (per Reuters).
Robinson is survived by his six children from his seven marriages. Of all people, Robinson was the best man at the sixth wedding.