Jake LaMotta Dies; Boxer, Raging Bull Inspiration Was 95

by at . Comments

Jake LaMotta, the boxer who provided the inspiration for the classic Martin Scorsese filmĀ Raging Bull, has passed away at the age of 95.

Sources close to LaMotta say that he died peacefully at his home in Arizona, surrounded by loved ones.

Jake LaMotta Photo

Inside the ring, the 1949-51 middleweight champion was known for his tenacity and his ability to endure punishment that would send weaker fighters to the mat.

LaMotta's six bouts with Sugar Ray Robinson are the stuff of boxing legend, and though LaMotta was victorious in just one of the contests, Robinson frequently stated that he was in awe of his opponent's ability.

"I never fought a fighter as strong as he is," Robinson said in one post-fight interview.

Sadly, these days, LaMotta is as well known for his personal struggles as for the successes he enjoyed inside the ring.

Marred by a violent temper, multiple stints in prison, and allegations of fight fixing, LaMotta's life was never easy, but his many challenges attracted the attention of one of Hollywood's most legendary filmmakers.

Jake LaMotta Boxing Photo

Martin Scorsese's 1980 masterpiece Raging Bull is a warts-and-all portrayal of LaMotta that's widely regarded as one of the most important cinematic works of the past fifty years.

"When I saw the film, I was upset," LaMotta said after watching the movie for the first time.

"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. I realize it now. It's not the way I am now, but the way I was then."

Despite his relative obscurity as a fighter, one would be hard-pressed to name another athlete who so effectively captured the imagination of the entertainment world.

In addition to Raging Bull, LaMotta was the subject of a documentary, a stage production about his relationship with his seventh wife, and a controversial pseudo-sequel to the Scorsese film entitled The Bronx Bull.

Jake LaMotta Image

LaMotta even dabbled in acting, starring in a one-man show based on his career, and making cameos in the classic film The Hustler and the popular TV series Car 54 Where Are You?

LaMotta was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

In 2002, The Ring magazine ranked him as one of the 80 best fighters of the last 80 years.

"He was a great man, sensitive and had eyes that danced right up to the end. I love him, God rest his soul," his wife said in an interview today.

Paraphrasing an oft-quoted line from Raging Bull, she added, "And he never went down!"

Tags: ,