1949-06-16 Jake LaMotta w rtd 10 (15) Marcel Cerdan, Briggs Stadium, Detroit, Michigan, USA - WORLD

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1949-06-16 Jake LaMotta w rtd 10 (15) Marcel Cerdan, Briggs Stadium, Detroit, Michigan, USA - WORLD. Referee: Johnny Weber. Outfought in every department, body punches sickening him, from the fourth onwards the champion was unable to throw punches with any effect due to torn ligaments in his left shoulder. Cerdan (159½) had won just one session, the second, and was at the mercy of LaMotta (158½), despite the latter having injured his left hand in the fifth, when he slumped on to his stool at the end of the ninth. He had been blasted from head to body in that round, Nat Fleischer of The Ring magazine, counting 104 blows that were not returned. Once it was clear that the referee was not going to stop the fight, the Frenchman was retired after the bell rang to start the tenth. Blaming his injury on being pushed to the floor in the first round, Cerdan stated that he would be back and the return was made for 28 September.

Then tragedy struck. After the fight had been moved on to 2 December due to LaMotta suffering a shoulder injury in training, Cerdan was killed in a plane crash over the Azores on 27 October while on his way to America. It was then agreed that LaMotta would meet Robert Villemain in a non-title contest at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC on 9 December as long as he signed up to defend his title by March 1950. Villemain won the ten-round points decision, but by the the end of December the NYSAC were forced to warn LaMotta that if he did not sign for a title defence by 1 February he would be stripped. Although LaMotta signed up to defend his title in March, New York’s International Boxing Club got an agreement that the champion could make an open-air defence in June.

By now, Sugar Ray Robinson was recognised as the outstanding challenger, having recently beaten Steve Belloise (w co 7 on 24 August 1949 at the Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York) in an eliminating bout, but it would be Rocky Graziano who was selected by LaMotta for 28 June 1950.

Then, in May 1950, following LaMotta’s inability to sign for a defence against Robinson, the Pennsylvanian Boxing Commission decided to match the welterweight champion against Villemain for their version of the title.

Meanwhile, Graziano suffered a fractured left thumb at the beginning of June and had to withdraw, his place being taken by Tiberio Mitri, the European champion, with the date being moved on two weeks. Mitri was already in America, having Outpointed Dick Wagner at Madison Square Garden on 19 May, and was ready and willing. A clever boxer who lacked real power, Mitri had lost just once in 52 contests and had turned back men such as Jean Stock (twice), Giovanni Manca, Laurent Dauthille, Dick Turpin and Cyrille Delannoit.