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Jake LaMotta (1922 - 2017), boxing champ who inspired "Raging Bull"

NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images / Photo by Richard Corkery

Jake LaMotta (1922 - 2017), boxing champ who inspired "Raging Bull"

Boxing legend Jake LaMotta, whom Robert De Niro portrayed in the film "Raging Bull," died September 19, 2017, in Miami, at the age of 95, according to The New York Times. 

His fiancée of 25 years, Denise Baker, said he died of dysphagia pneumonia at Palm Garden Nursing Home, where he been admitted for hospice care recently. 

A daughter, Christi LaMotta, announced his death in a Facebook post but did not provide additional details. 

Born July 10, 1921, LaMotta began fighting when he was just a child, made to do so by his father to help support the family – he'd fight other neighborhood children and adult spectators would throw change into the ring. By 19, LaMotta had honed his skills enough to go pro. 

LaMotta was an aggressive fighter with a brutal style that earned him the nicknames "The Bronx Bull" and "The Raging Bull." Among his early fights was a legendary series against Sugar Ray Robinson, beginning in 1942. LaMotta lost their first bout but won their second – he was the first ever to defeat Robinson. Robinson would win four subsequent fights with LaMotta. 

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In 1949, LaMotta defeated world middleweight champion Marcel Cerdan in a title bout. He held that title until Feb. 14, 1951 – and he lost it in his final fight against Robinson. In a fight that went down in history and was nicknamed the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, LaMotta fought hard but took a beating, and he lost after the winner stopped LaMotta in the 13th round. LaMotta would never regain the championship. After that defeat, he moved to light heavyweight, winning some fights but no titles. 

After his retirement from boxing, LaMotta owned and managed bars. He also acted and performed stand-up comedy. He had roles in movies including "The Hustler" as well as several guest-star turns on TV's "Car 54, Where Are You?" 

LaMotta also wrote several books about his life and career. One of those books was the 1970 memoir, "Raging Bull: My Story." Ten years after its publication, the movie adapted from it, directed by Martin Scorsese, was released to great critical acclaim. Star Robert De Niro trained with LaMotta until LaMotta deemed him skilled enough to fight professionally. The effort won De Niro an Academy Award. 

Martin Scorsese talked about LaMotta and the movie “Raging Bull” with the New York Times shortly after it was released. 

“I would think that Jake thinks it’s a movie about himself.” “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.” 

Robert De Niro released a touching short tribute to LaMotta. "Rest in Peace, Champ."

LaMotta is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. 

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