MARTIN SCORSESE and Robert De Niro have offered their own tributes to Jake LaMotta, whose life story they made into the film Raging Bull.
LaMotta’s death, at the age of 95, was announced by his daughter Christi via Facebook on Wednesday.
The former world middleweight champion held the belt between 1949 and 1951 before losing it to his great rival Sugar Ray Robinson, and enjoyed one of boxing’s most colourful careers, in and out of the ring.
His successes and failures, both personal and professional, were documented in the 1980 classic directed by Scorsese and starring De Niro, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of LaMotta having worked extensively with him to prepare for the role.
“He was, as they say, larger than life,” Scorsese said of his fellow New Yorker.
“He lived a tough life, with a lot to overcome, but that’s exactly what he did. I’m glad to have had the chance to know him.”
De Niro issued a pithier statement, but one which conveyed the scale of his regard. “Rest in Peace, Champ”, it read.
Born into abject poverty in the Bronx in 1922, LaMotta rose to become one of the most revered fighters in history and was noted for his wild, slugging style.
He fought 106 times in a 13-year career which brought 83 wins and 19 defeats, including the legendary series against Robinson, to whom he lost five of their six bouts.
LaMotta was known for his links to the mob and was alleged to have thrown a 1947 fight against Billy Fox in return for getting a title shot two years later.
Outside the ring, LaMotta earned a reputation for thuggery and violence and was accused of beating up at least one of his seven wives.
While Raging Bull brought new interest in his story – and continues to do so – LaMotta reflected upon seeing the finished movie that it painted a harsh but fair picture of that period of his life.
He had four daughters and two sons, both deceased, and continued to live in New York, where he owned restaurants and even enjoyed a brief career as a stand-up comedian.
Christi LaMotta followed up her announcement of his death with some reflections on her father’s life and career, posting: “Way-back-when, there were no programs or help like they have now to help athletes.
“Pop went down a sad self-destructive road, he drank, broke & ended up as a bouncer in a NYC bar – a drunk came up to him and confronted him, Pop defended himself and got in trouble because as a champion, your hands are lethal weapons for life.
“My heart breaks for the pain & demons he must have endured. I’m proud that my Father was a great Champion, he lost his title to one of the best Middleweight Boxers in history, Sugar Ray Robinson – Pop was champ in 51′ – I was born in 52′ (I’m a fighter too) lol.
“God Bless you Jake LaMotta & now you’re in Heaven with the love of your life, my beloved Mother Vikki & your sons, my brothers Jack & Joe LaMotta.”