Giacobbe La Motta (born July 10, 1921), better known as Jake LaMotta, nicknamed "The Bronx Bull" and "The Raging Bull", is a former boxing middleweight champion who was portrayed by Robert De Niro in the film Raging Bull.
LaMotta, born in the New York City borough of the Bronx in the Pelham Parkway and Morris Park area, began boxing at an early age when his father made him fight other neighborhood kids for the entertainment of adults. A crowd pleaser even back then, the money that spectators would throw into the ring after Jake fought — usually pennies, nickels and dimes — helped pay the rent at home. LaMotta turned to pro boxing in 1941 at the age of 19.
LaMotta, who compiled a record of 83 wins, 19 losses and 4 draws with 30 wins by way of knockout, was the first man to beat Sugar Ray Robinson, knocking him down in the first round and outpointing him over the course of ten rounds during the second fight of their legendary six bout rivalry.
On 14 November 1947, he was knocked out in four rounds by Billy Fox. The New York State Athletic Commission withheld purses for the fight and suspended LaMotta. The fight with Fox would come back to haunt LaMotta later in life, during a hearing with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In the testimony and his later book, LaMotta admitted to throwing the fight in order to gain favor with the mafia. All involved agreed the fix was obvious and their staging inept. As LaMotta wrote,
The first round, a couple of belts to his head, and I see a glassy look coming over his eyes. Jesus Christ, a couple of jabs and he's going to fall down? I began to panic a little. I was supposed to be throwing a fight to this guy, and it looked like I was going to end up holding him on his feet ... By , if there was anybody in the Garden who didn't know what was happening, he must have been dead drunk."
The thrown fight and a payment of $20,000 to the mafia got LaMotta his title bout against Marcel Cerdan.
LaMotta won the world title in 1949 in Detroit against Frenchman Marcel Cerdan, who was the world champion. Cerdan, called by many boxing critics the greatest champion ever from France, dislocated his arm in the first round and gave up before the start of the tenth, the official scoring being LaMotta winner by a knockout in ten because the bell had already rung to begin that round when Cerdan announced he was quitting. A rematch was arranged, but while Cerdan was flying back to the United States to fight the rematch, his Air France Lockheed Constellation crashed at the Azores, killing everyone on board. LaMotta met two challengers (Tiberio Mitri and Laurent Dauthuille) and beat them, and then he was challenged by Robinson for their rivalry's sixth fight. Held on February 14, 1951, the fight became known as boxing's version of The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Robinson won by a technical knockout in the thirteenth round, when the fight was stopped with LaMotta lying on the ropes. In 1960, LaMotta was called to testify before a U.S. Senate sub-committee that was looking at underworld influence on the boxing game. Lamotta testified that he had thrown his bout with Billy Fox so the mob would arrange a title bout for him.
In the mid-1950s LaMotta suffered from a boxing injury and took time off to recover. He was always interested in baseball and decided to form the Jake LaMotta All-Star team. They played in Sterling Oval which was located between 165th and 164th Street between Clay and Teller Avenue in the Bronx. He also held professional fights at that field and his brother Joey often fought there.
After retirement, LaMotta bought a few bars and became a stage actor and stand up comedian. He also appeared in over 15 motion pictures, including The Hustler, with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. LaMotta played the bartender.
Jake LaMotta is recognized as having one of the best chins in boxing. While he was able to absorb punches with little effect, he was also adept at rolling with the punches to minimize the damage. He was recognized for having immense punching power, and was one of the first boxers to adopt the physical "bully" style of fighting, in that he always stayed physically close and in punching range of his opponent, by stalking him around the ring, and sacrificed taking punches himself in order to land his own powerful punches. Due to his aggressive, unrelenting style he was soon dubbed "The Bronx Bull" by fans and journalists alike.
Hollywood executives approached LaMotta with the idea of a movie about his life, based on LaMotta's 1970 memoir Raging Bull: My Story. The film, Raging Bull, was initially only a minor box office success, but eventually became a huge critical success both for director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro, who gained about 60 pounds (27 kg) during the shooting of the film, to play the older LaMotta in the scenes of his later life.
De Niro lived in Paris for three months eating at the finest restaurants in order to gain the sufficient weight to portray LaMotta after retirement. De Niro received an Oscar for his performance.
The movie depicted a violent and problematic LaMotta who once even went as far as beating his own brother, manager Joey LaMotta, accusing him of having an affair with his (Jake's) then wife, Vickie LaMotta, although his brother was actually his best friend, Pete in real life.
In 1998, his son, Joseph LaMotta, died in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada.
His nephew, John LaMotta, was a member of the Golden Gloves championship tournament.
LaMotta has been active on the speaking and autograph circuit, and has published several books about his career, his wife, and his fights with Robinson.
He is a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.
He was ranked 52nd on Ring Magazine's list of the 80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years. Ring Magazine also ranked him as one of the ten greatest middleweights of all-time.