Giacobbe "Jake" LaMotta, also known as the "Bull of the Bronx" or "Raging Bull" was an Italian-American boxer and writer, world middleweight champion from 1949 to 1951. Despite being controversial and violent figure, LaMotta is undoubtedly one of the most famous Italian-American sports celebrities of the post-war period, also thanks to the success of the movie directed by Martin Scorsese in 1980, in which the young boxer is played by another famous Italian-American Robert De Niro (a performance that earned De Niro an Oscar).
LaMotta was born in Manhattan's Lower East Side in July 1922, the son of a young Italian American woman and a Sicilian immigrant from Messina. After a brief period in Philadelphia, Jake grew up in the Bronx. His family's poor and precarious economic conditions pushed him participate in clandestine matches to increase the family income.
Following an attempted robbery, LaMotta spent some time in reformatory, where he learned to box. He became a professional boxer in 1942, when he was just 19 years old.
The following year, LaMotta defeated Sugar Ray Robinson in Detroit, who was then at considered the strongest living boxer.
In 1947, LaMotta was knocked out by Billy Fox. He would later reveal that he had deliberately lost the fight under pressure from the Mafia, helping to shed light on the influence of organized crime in the world of sports and boxing.
In June 1949, he defeated in Detroit the French Marcel Cerdan, winning for the first time the title of world champion of the middle weights. He confirmed the title the following year thanks to the victory over the Italian Tibero Mitri at the Madison Square Garden in New York. A few months later, Jake's fight against Laurent Dauthuille was defined "fight of the year," making boxing's history due to the incredible comeback realized by LaMotta in the last seconds of the match.
In 1951, however, LaMotta lost the title to Robinson. A series of unsatisfactory results followed, until his definitive retirement in 1954.
After a few years during which he worked as an actor, in 1970 LaMotta published his biography, Raging Bull, from which Scorsese drew inspiration for his 1980 movie.
Jake LaMotta died in Florida, due to pneumonia, at the age of 95, in September 2017.
Bronx Little Italy
Italian-American neighborhoods in the US
"Jake LaMotta" in National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame: https://www.niashf.org/inductees-jake-lamotta/