There were just 13 seconds left on the clock.
It was on this day back in 1950, when legendary middleweight tough guy Jake LaMotta scored a sensational last gasp KO over Frenchman Laurent Dauthuille to save his world title. Immortalised in the classic 1980 film, ‘Raging Bull,’ the come-from-behind (way behind) knockout “The Bronx Bull” inflicted on Dauthuille is indeed the stuff of legend. Had it not actually happened, any realistic film director would have chucked the storyline out, due to it being too unbelievable.
Has any world champion ever left it so late, having been outboxed and out-fought, before turning the tables in such stunning fashion to save his crown?
LaMotta and Dauthuille had met before, in Montreal, Canada the previous February. On this occasion, Dauthuille turned in a superb performance, besting Jake over ten rounds. Since then, LaMotta had bounced back, winning three and then taking the world middleweight title from Marcel Cerdan. In the rematch with Dauthuille, LaMotta was making the second defence of the title (having lost a non-title fight with Robert Villemain).
Dauthuille had fought some seven times since beating LaMotta, defeating Johnny Greco by KO and being decisioned by Kid Gavilan during this period. At The Olympia Stadium in Detroit, LaMotta-Dauthuille II became The Ring Magazine Fight of the Year. The 15th round KO LaMotta scored is one of the most incredible in middleweight history; if not in boxing history regardless of weight class.
LaMotta, a man who often struggled to make the middleweight limit, was tiring in the later rounds against the classy and also tough Dauthuille. Way behind on each score-card – 72-68, 74-66, 71-69 – LaMotta’s belt was perilously close to being taken from him. In fact, going into round 15, all Dauthuille had to do was play it safe, box and move, see out the three minutes and he would be world champ. But LaMotta lured his challenger in by playing possum, and then Jake struck. A ferocious salvo battered Dauthuille into the ropes and then down to the canvas.
LaMotta put everything he had into his shots, his venom something to see. Dauthuille must not have known what hit him. LaMotta was still the champion of the world. There had been just 13 seconds left on the clock.
LaMotta would lose the title in his next fight, this in the also legendary “Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre” with Sugar Ray Robinson. Dauthuille fought on until 1952, and he was stopped just twice more, this in his final two fights. Dauthuille passed away in 1971, aged just 47. Never has a man been so cruelly denied the world middleweight title.