American professional boxer, former World Middleweight champion, and stand-up comedian Giacobbe "Jake" LaMotta, commonly referred as The Raging Bull, died in a nursing home due to complications from pneumonia, his wife told US news site TMZ. He was 95.
The uncompromising fighter portrayed by Robert De Niro in Raging Bull
was based on Jake LaMotta’s 1970 memoir, depicting an emotional fighter struggling with life outside the ring. De Niro’s portrayal of LaMotta in Raging Bull
, directed by Martin Scorsese, garnered him the 1980 Academy Award for Best Actor.
Expressing her profound grief at the legendary boxer’s demise, LaMotta’s wife said, "I just want people to know, he was a great, sweet, sensitive, strong, compelling man with a great sense of humour, with eyes that danced.”
Born on 10 July 1922 to Italian parents in the Bronx area of New York City, LaMotta took up boxing after being rejected by the US military due to a medical condition.
However, LaMotta won national recognition only two years after taking up the professional boxing circuit, when he handed Sugar Ray Robinson his first ever defeat in 1943. LaMotta was used to be called "The Bronx Bull" because of his stamina in the ring, which he honed during a prison sentence.
With his rough style, and strong chin, LaMotta soon became one of the most famous fighters in boxing during the 1940s and 1950s. According to ESPN, he spent nearly a year personally training De Niro to box in a New York City gym for the film based on his memoir, the stark style of which was highly influenced by LaMotta's own autobiography.
"When I saw the film I was upset. I kind of look bad in it. Then I realised it was true. That's the way it was... It's not the way I am now, but the way I was then,” he said to a reviewer after the debut of The Raging Bull