As fight fans the word over know, boxing great Jake LaMotta passed away this week at the long-lived age of 95. Tributes have been pouring in from all over, deservedly so, and most celebratory pieces written in dedication to “The Bronx Bull” go into great detail about Jake’s great chin, his unimaginably tough and durable chin.
Truly a phenomenon, LaMotta, who retired from the ring with an astonishing 83-19-4(30) record in April of 1954, outlived his famous ring rivals by a considerable amount of time. The sublime Sugar Ray Robinson has been gone for well over thirty years, Frenchman Laurent Dauthuille, against whom Jake scored that flabbergasting, come-from-behind, last 13-seconds of the 15th-round KO, passed away back in 1971. Tony Janiro, the good looking kid Jake busted up (as immortalized in the classic movie starring Robert De Niro (“well, he ain’t good looking no more”) left us in 1985. And the list goes on.
Blessed with one of the hardest, most durable chins in all of boxing, Jake took everything his opponents could dish out. Never has a harder man, mentally or physically, stepped into the ring. Or has there? Is LaMotta deserving of being placed in boxing history as the fighter possessing the greatest, the sturdiest chin in the entire middleweight division?
It sure is tough to dismiss LaMotta’s credentials. Only the phenomenal Sugar Ray Robinson, Billy Fox (in a well-known fixed encounter) and Bob Murphy and Danny Nardico, both fights taking place at light-heavyweight, managed to stop LaMotta – but never once was Jake counted out. But There are some other seriously tough middleweights to consider when it comes to the best chin belonging to a 160 pounder: what about Gene Fulmer? Stopped just twice, by Robinson and, at the end of his career, via corner retirement to Dick Tiger, Gene too was teak-tough.
What about the disturbingly hard Harry Greb? Yes, a number of Greb’s big fights came at light-heavy, but he was a natural middleweight. Despite this, he was stopped just twice in 298 pro bouts (records vary, with some stats listing Greb as having a lesser number of bouts)! Joe Chip, who out-weighed Greb by a quite ridiculous margin, stopped him in 1913, while Kid Graves scored a second-round TKO over Greb in 1915 – Greb suffering a broken arm.
Then we have Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Never stopped and never legitimately knocked off his feet (Juan Domingo Roldan scored an official knockdown over Hagler but everyone can clearly see Hagler had slipped and was not hurt in the slightest), Hagler’s beard withstood some hellacious bombs – the vicious punches of Thomas Hearns and John “The Beast” Mugabi failing to put a dent in Hagler.
Bottom line, it’s down to opinion, but one thing is clear – the middleweight division has seen some of the toughest, most durable fighters in the sport ever.
Honourable mentions: Carmen Basilio, James Toney (Toney’s chin serving him well up at cruiserweight and even at heavyweight!), Bernard Hopkins, Gennady Golovkin.