James J. Braddock

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James J. Braddock

James Walter Braddock (June 7, 1905November 29, 1974) was a champion boxer. Fighting under the name James J. Braddock (ostensibly because two prior champions, James J. Corbett and James J. Jeffries had), his ability to win fights in which he was an underdog earned him the nickname Cinderella Man.

A strapping young man born in New York City into a poor Irish family, following a successful amateur career Jim Braddock turned pro at the age of 21, fighting in the light heavyweight division. Three years later in 1929, his performance earned him a chance to fight for the championship but he narrowly lost to Tommy Loughran in a 15-round decision. This was followed by another loss to Maxie Rosenbloom and for the next six years he struggled to earn a living as the Great Depression took hold and income opportunities in the boxing business were limited for most mid-ranked fighters.

However, he was given a fight with the highly touted John "Corn" Griffin. Although Braddock was intended as a stepping stone in Griffin's rise, Braddock scored an upset victory. After defeating another highly regarded heavyweight contender, John Henry Lewis, he was given a title fight against the World Heavyweight Champion, Max Baer. Considered no more than a journeyman fighter, Braddock was chosen by the champion's handlers because he was seen as a guaranteed easy payday for the champion. In one of the biggest upsets in championship boxing, on June 13, 1935, in Long Island City, New York, Braddock won the heavyweight championship of the world as the 10 to 1 underdog. The fight showed a dogged Braddock taking heavy hits from the powerful champion but who kept coming until he wore Baer down. At the end, the judges gave Braddock the title with a unanimous decision.

Jim Braddock suffered from problems with his hands after several injuries and in 1936 his title defense in Madison Square Garden against the German, Max Schmeling had to be cancelled. When ready to fight, the 32-year-old Braddock chose to defend his title against the then 23-year-old star, Joe Louis. Realizing that Louis would be a heavy favorite and being an astute businessman, Braddock negotiated an agreement whereby he would receive 10% of Louis' future earnings. Braddock knocked Louis down in the first round of their June 22, 1937 bout, but Louis recovered and dominated the bout, earning an 8th round stoppage.

Braddock fought one more fight in 1938, winning a decision over a top ranked opponent, but time had caught up with him and, wisely, he retired. In 1954, he was given the James J. Walker Award in recognition of his long and meritorious service to the boxing industry.

On his passing in 1974 in New Jersey, Jim Braddock was interred in the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Englewood, New Jersey. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001. A park in the city of North Bergen, New Jersey is named in his honor.

Biopic

A motion picture titled Cinderella Man tells the life story of James J. Braddock. Directed by Ron Howard, and starring Russell Crowe as Braddock and Renée Zellweger as his wife Mae, it was released June 3, 2005. There has been contention as to whether the on-screen depiction of Max Baer is accurate. Baer's demeanor, both within and outside the ring, was reportedly much less brutal than was portrayed.

External links


Preceded by:
Max Baer
Heavyweight boxing champion
1935–1937
Succeeded by:
Joe Louis

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