THERE’S a blurry video that’s been popping up on the Internet for months now, a bare-chested old man throwing slow-motion punches in a dimly lit room. It looks like he’s in a dream and perhaps he was, maybe dreaming of past glories, maybe trying to find out if he’s still got it. Jake LaMotta died on September 19 2017 at the age of 95 and shadow boxes no more. He was one of the last remaining links to another time, a time when Joe Louis was the heavyweight champ and every man wore a hat. The old scoundrel had outlived them all and now he’s gone.
In his fighting prime Jake LaMotta was an imposing presence. He had a chunky physique, accentuated by slabs of muscle plastered across his hairy chest and broad back. He wore a leopard-print robe into the ring and when the bell rang he went about his business with reckless belligerence. Nobody had an easy time with LaMotta, not even Sugar Ray Robinson. His life outside the ring was as turbulent as his fighting style. The son of an abusive father, Jake LaMotta grew up poor, street smart and wild. Trouble was inevitable. He spent time in a reformatory for youthful offenders but didn’t reform.
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