Legendary world middleweight champion and boxing Hall of Famer Jake LaMotta, who later became the central character in the Martin Scorsese-directed Academy Award-winning film Raging Bull (1980) starring Robert De Niro, passed away in Miami, Florida today (September 20) at the age of 95. LaMotta’s fiancé of 25-years, Denise Baker, confirmed that LaMotta died of Dysphagia pneumonia at Palm Garden Nursing Home, in Miami, Florida, where he was given hospice care in recent weeks by Seasons Hospice.
Giacobbe “Jake” LaMotta was born on July 10, 1922 in New York City, and was raised in The Bronx. The brawler nicknamed the “Bronx Bull” won the middleweight championship in 1949, and is best remembered for his bouts against another iconic champion Sugar Ray Robinson. LaMotta retired in 1954 with a ring record of 83-19-4, with 30 knockouts. LaMotta was enshrined into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
His 1970 biography Raging Bull: My Story was adapted into the 1980 movie starring De Niro in the lead role.
LaMotta was known for an explosive temper on the streets of New York, but turned the street brawls into a profession. LaMotta turned pro as a teenager at age 19.
LaMotta handed the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson the first defeat of his career in 1943. The two would face each other six times, including the last time in 1951. In a fight later dubbed the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” LaMotta endured a brutal beating but refused to go down. The referee ultimately stopped the fight the 13th round.
Fritzie Zivic, Tommy Bell and Tony Janiro were among the other top boxers of the era that he defeated. In 1949, LaMotta stopped Marcel Cerdan for the middleweight championship. The two were scheduled for a rematch, which had to be called off after Cerdan died in a plane crash. LaMotta then successfully defended his title against Tiberio Mitri and Laurent Dauthuille.
In his later years, LaMotta made many personal appearances, mostly in New York.
A second movie on his life, entitled LaMotta: The Bronx Bull, released in 2015, starred such notable actors as William Forsythe, Paul Sorvino and Joe Mantegna.
LaMotta is survived by his fiancé Denise Baker, her daughters Meggen Connolley and Natalia Baker; his daughters Jacklyn O’Neill, Christie LaMotta, Elisa LaMotta, and Mia Day; brothers Joe LaMotta and Al LaMotta; sisters Maria Hawfield and Anne Ramaglia. He is pre-deceased by two sons, Jack and Joseph, who died seven months apart in 1998.
Funeral will be private. A memorial service will be held in New York, date and location to be determined.