Legendary boxer Jake LaMotta, who was portrayed by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, has died at 95.
LaMotta’s fiancée, Denise Baker, confirmed his death to the Associated Press, saying that he died at a Miami-area hospital from complications of pneumonia.
Born in New York City in 1922, LaMotta took up fighting in 1941 after he was rejected for military service due to a medical issue. As a middleweight fighter, LaMotta won 83 of his 106 fights, earning the nickname “The Bronx Bull” because of his rugged fighting style. His most notorious rivalry was his six-fight showdown with Sugar Ray Robinson, of which he only won one (Robinson’s first defeat). The pair’s rivalry culminated in the notorious Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1951, where LaMotta took a brutal beating but refused to go down.
LaMotta’s memoir inspired the 1980 film Raging Bull, and De Niro won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the troubled boxer. The film is widely considered one of Scorsese’s best, as well as one of the best American films of all time. In 1990, it was named to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, which honors works that are considered “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
An unauthorized sequel called The Bronx Bull was released earlier this year, with William Forsythe starring as LaMotta. The film was originally titled Raging Bull II until a 2012 lawsuit by MGM Studios. MGM later dropped the lawsuit after the production agreed to retitle the film and to clarify that The Bronx Bull is not related to Raging Bull in any way.