Jake LaMotta, the “Raging Bull” brawler with the iron chin who fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times and was portrayed by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s iconic 1980 movie, has died. He was 95. His death Tuesday was confirmed in a Facebook post by his family.
The black-and-white Raging Bull is considered among the greatest sports movies of all time. De Niro won his only Best Actor Oscar for Raging Bull, a gritty tale of the quick-tempered, easily jealous LaMotta’s boxing career and turbulent life outside the ring. The film earned eight Academy Awards nominations including Best Picture — it lost to Ordinary People — and the first Best Director nom for Scorsese. Thelma Schoonmaker won for Best Film Editing, her first of three Oscars for Scorsese films.
“Rest in peace, Champ,” De Niro said in a statement today.
Cathy Moriarty earned a supporting Oscar nom for played the fighter’s wife, former Playboy Bunny Vickie LaMotta, and Joe Pesci also was nominated for playing his younger brother and manager Joey. The cast also included Nicholas Colasanto, Theresa Saldana and Frank Vincent, who died last week.
Fighting mostly as a middleweight from 1941-54, LaMotta starting out going 14-0-1 and went more than a decade as a pro before suffering a knockdown. His brawls with Robinson were legendary; LaMotta won only one of them, the first rematch in 1943 when he clobbered Robinson and sent him through the ropes in the historic eighth round in Detroit. The legendary Robinson got revenge just three weeks later, winning a unanimous decision despite taking a nine count in Round 7.
LaMotta won the World Middleweight Championship by knocking out Marcel Cerdan in 1949 and defended it three times — including Ring magazine’s “Fight of the Year” against Laurent Dauthuille in 1950 — before losing to Robinson in the storied “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” the following year. He retired in 1954 with a record of 83-19-4 with 30 KOs.
After hanging up his gloves, LaMotta worked as a bar owner/manager, did some stand-up comedy and appeared in more than 15 films ranging from Best Picture nominee The Hustler (1961), starring Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie and George C. Scott, to an extra role in New Jack City (1991). He also appeared as different characters in five episodes of Car 54, Where Are You? in the early ’60s.