Jim Braddock

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Braddock.James.Signed2.jpg
Class of 2001
Old Timer Category
Hall of Fame bio:click
World Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee

Name: Jim Braddock
Alias: The Cinderella Man
Birth Name: James Walter Braddock
Born: 1905-06-07
Birthplace: New York, New York, USA
Died: 1974-11-29 (Age:69)
Hometown: North Bergen, New Jersey, USA
Stance: Orthodox
Height: 6′ 2½″   /   189cm
Reach: 75″   /   191cm
Boxing Record: click

Division: Heavyweight
Managers: Alfred M. Barnett; Joe Gould
Trainer: Doc Robb, Ray Arcel
Jim Braddock Gallery


Career Overview

Like the man himself in the 1930s, the legacy of Jim Braddock has had a recent comeback. The 2005 motion picture "Cinderella Man" revived his forgotten name and story to people of today. Although the film romanticized some of the everyman appeal of Braddock's story, and unfairly demonized his opponent Max Baer as the movie's villain, the tale of his journey from impoverished dock worker to owner of the richest title in sports is compelling. Overcoming the starvation and destitution of the Depression, chronic injuries to his right hand, and twenty-three professional losses inside of five years through determination and hard work, Braddock's story represents one of the great aspects of the sport of boxing: its presentation of opportunity to the apparently hopeless and its occasional rewarding of hard work over natural talent. Which is not to say that he lacked talent. Fast and skilled, Jimmy showed skill as a boxing counter puncher. Possessed of a thunderous right hand punch and known as a determined competitor, Braddock suffered just two knockout losses in eighty-six pro outings. On top of that, he fought eight bouts against hall of fame competition and etched himself a place in the hall over a twelve year career.

Bulldog of Bergen

Though Braddock's winning the heavyweight championship was a major upset, it was not as though he came out of nowhere. Jimmy had been a valid contender in the light heavyweight division earlier in the decade. Born James Walter Braddock into the notoriously impoverished Irish American neighborhood of Hell's Kitchen in New York City, Jimmy's earliest experience with fisticuffs occurred in the streets at a young age. After he moved with his parents to North Bergen, New Jersey as a schoolboy, his fighting ways continued until someone suggested he channel his violent habits into organized boxing. At age sixteen, Jimmy began his amateur career. After winning the New Jersey State championships in both the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions, he eventually turned professional at twenty years old.

Braddock's manager, Joe Gould suggested that Jimmy change his name, from James Walter Braddock to "James J. Braddock", for stage purposes. The "J" initial was to imitate the frequently used middle initial of early heavyweight boxing champions James J. Corbett and James J. Jeffries. Gould guided his new charge into his first pro match against Al Settle at Union City, New Jersey, in 1926. The fight went the scheduled four round distance and, because official boxing decisions were illegal in New Jersey and other states at the time, the fight was official listed as a "no-decision". It was a lackluster start for Gould's new light heavyweight fighter, but Jimmy quickly showed promise in the next several months, knocking out his next eleven opponents, eight in the first round. By the end of the year he was fighting regularly in New York City, where the big money opponents and crowds appeared. He made a successful debut at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 1927 against George LaRocco. Though LaRocco outweighed him by twenty-two pounds, Braddock put him away inside of a round.

With Braddock still undefeated by the end of 1927, Gould began making a serious push at getting his fighter a title shot in 1928. A decision loss to the bigger Joe Monte over ten rounds on June 7 of that year, Jimmy's first professional loss, did not discourage he or Gould. Braddock was put in the ring with marginal contender Joe Sekyra just three bouts later, Sekyra taking a ten round decision. By this point, the newspapers had begun worrying that Braddock's talent was being squandered by Gould, who was rushing him too quickly to the top. Ignoring the critics, Braddock next took on Pete Latzo, the former welterweight champion who was making a comeback as a light heavyweight. The result was a noteworthy upset, as Jimmy broke the ex-champ's jaw and earned a ten round decision victory. That essential victory having saved his status as a young prospect, Braddock was nonetheless a significant underdog when he next fought undefeated power-puncher Tuffy Griffith at Madison Square Garden. To the astonishment of all in attendance, Braddock dropped his man four times in the second round for a sensational knockout win.

At the close of 1928, The Ring, the sport?s most popular journal, rated Jimmy as the number one contender for the crown held by world light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran. On January 18, 1929, he was matched with the number two ranked contender, Leo Lomski of Aberdeen, Washington. Lomski took the ten round decision, but Braddock quickly rebounded with a ninth round stoppage of former world champion Jimmy Slattery, two months later. After a first round pummeling of overmatched Eddie Benson in April, Braddock was finally given his shot at Loughran. A future hall of famer considered among the great light heavyweight champs in history, Loughran was a fast, skilled boxer, who was by this time already a veteran of over one hundred pro bouts and was making his fourth defense of the championship. On July 18, 1929, he danced circles around the relative upstart Braddock, dealing the New Jersey fighter an embarrassingly one-sided boxing lesson and taking a fifteen round unanimous decision.

Financial & Professional Troubles

He was in the ring less than a month later to fight the unknown Yale Okun in Los Angeles. The upset decision in favor of Okun, however, foreshadowed the tailspin Braddock's career was about to take. At the same time, the loss illustrated that Braddock appeared to have lost confidence due to the loss to Loughran noted above. On November 15, 1929, looking to prove the doubters wrong, Jimmy took on number one contender Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom, another future hall of famer and more experienced fighter. Rosenbloom won a decision, dealing Jimmy his third consecutive loss in a period of four months.

Braddock's boxing career took another turn for the worse when he was forced to work on the docks (due to the effects of the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression) and did not have the time to train or money to pay trainers. His right hand, his best punch, also frequently broke in fights and Jimmy did not have the money to get it properly cared for. Instead he would often go into fights on short notice, just days apart, disguising the injury. From January, 1930 to May, 1933, he lost seventeen pro bouts and disappeared from the view and minds of the boxing press and fans. He moved into the heavyweight division, but fared no better. With fight offers now coming less frequently and respectable paydays even less frequently than that, Braddock reluctantly borrowed from welfare to support his children. Things seemed to be turning up for Jim's career in the Summer of 1933. He won two consecutive bouts in June and July. But after breaking his right hand in a bout against prospect Abe Feldman on September 25, Braddock's career seemed over. Unable to fight and only working occasionally on the Hoboken docks, Jimmy's future seemed bleak.

Cinderella Man

Now living in horrendous poverty, Braddock was suddenly open to a return to the ring when Madison Square Garden promoter James J. Johnston approached him about facing Corn Griffin, Johnston's latest prospect. Griffin had impressed sportswriters with his boxing technique as a sparring partner to reigning heavyweight champion Primo Carnera. On two day's notice, a match was made between Griffin and Braddock, who was perceived as a has-been pushover for Giffin to annihilate, on the under card of the heavyweight championship bout between Primo Carnera and Max Baer at the Garden on June 14, 1934. The younger, fresher Griffin fearlessly battered his over-the-hill opponent in the opening round, and sent Jimmy down for the second time in his career during those second round. Jimmy rose and stunned the crowd by putting Griffin down with a well-time right hand counter. The remainder of the round was all Braddock, as Griffin, clearly stunned, flailed aimlessly and took big right hand blows to the head. The fight continued along the same lines going into the third, until the referee stopped the match and declared Jimmy the upset winner. "I did that on hash", Braddock gloated to Gould in victory. "Wait till you see what I can do on steak." Jimmy's purse for the bout was two-hundred and fifty dollars.

While Griffin had been no top contender, the surprising win did convince some that Braddock may have enough left to continue fighting. When Madison Square Garden's Jimmy Johnston signed up-and-coming light heavyweight John Henry Lewis of Pheonix, Arizona to a three-fight contract, Johnston arranged for Lewis to face Braddock in what was supposed to be a showcase for Lewis in his New York debut. Two years earlier, the slick and swift Lewis won a clear cut ten-round decision over Braddock and was the heavy favorite for the rematch on November 16, 1934. Again Jimmy turned the tables. He outfought his younger opponent, even putting Lewis down. After ten rounds, Braddock was the winner and took the ten round decision. John Henry Lewis would go on to win the world's light heavyweight championship and establish credentials as a future hall of famer.

Now a surprise entry into the heavyweight contender rankings, Braddock was matched with fellow contender Art Lasky of Minneapolis. Lasky was being groomed for a title shot at heavyweight champion Max Baer, but needed a win over a name opponent in order to secure his chance. When they got into the ring together on March 22, 1935, at Madison Square Garden, Lasky outweighed Braddock by nearly fifteen pounds. Braddock, however, turned his size disadvantage into an advantage. He constantly circled the heavier man, using his work rate and punching accuracy to maintain a lead on the scorecards and keep Art from getting settled. In the eleventh round, Lasky managed to land a terrific punch that sent Jimmy's mouthpiece flying. But otherwise, the fight was all Braddock and, after fifteen rounds, the outcome was clear.

Braddock's 1934 to 1935 comeback had created a sensation in fight circles. Damon Runyon dubbed him the "Cinderella Man" because of his rags-to-riches story and The Ring magazine now rated him as the number two heavyweight contender, behind Germany?s Max Schmeling. When the Madison Square Garden Corporation, who virtually controlled the heavyweight championship at the time, demanded Schmeling face Braddock to determine who would get a chance at Max Baer?s title, Schmeling outright refused to fight Jimmy. As a result, Garden executives arranged a title shot for Braddock. Younger and much bigger, the hard-hitting, wild-brawling Baer came into the fight the favorite by eight-to-one. However, Max failed to take his challenger seriously and neglected to train properly for the match. On June 13, 1935, at Madison Square Garden, the champion found himself having an unexpected tough time. Braddock, meanwhile, fought the fight with determination and skill. He used constant movement and a stiff left jab to keep Max unsettled. Baer tried to throw his haymaker right hand, but Braddock knew to look out for it and the champion usually missed by a long distance. Unable to compete with Braddock's conditioning and technical precision, Baer could do little else but gasp for breath and make faces at his opponent. The champion fouled on occasion and, when warned by the referee, made theatrical gestures of apology to the crowd and Braddock. The result was a unanimous decision for Braddock in one of the great upsets in the annals of the heavyweight championship. In two years, Jim Braddock had gone from living off of government assistance to capturing the richest prize in sports.

The Louis Fight and Later Years

Jimmy and manager Joe Gould sought to make the most of the newfound fame and success. For two years, Braddock avoided professional competition. Instead, they froze the title, which allowed Braddock to earn money touring the country giving boxing exhibitions and public appearances. When it came time for him to return to the ring, Max Schmeling was still the standout heavyweight contender. A former champion himself and a future hall of famer, the German had recently scored his own upset victory of note by knocking out the undefeated Brown Bomber of Detroit, Joe Louis, in twelve rounds. Though the recent political activities inside Schmeling?s native country promised controversy surrounding an international title bout, arrangements for a Braddock-Schmeling fight were put into the works by Jimmy Johnston and the Madison Square Garden Corporation. When Braddock claimed a hand injury in training, however, those plans were postponed. Whether or not the champ truly suffered the injury is not known for sure, but the delay allowed Gould time to weasel out of the Schmeling match. Mike Jacobs, promoter for the Twentieth Century Sporting Club (the Garden?s top rival), offered Gould ten percent of all of the ring earnings of Joe Louis for the next decade if Braddock would sign to fight Louis instead. Over the vehement protests of Schmeling and the Garden, Braddock signed to face Louis for the championship.

The Louis fight, held at Chicago's Comiskey Park on June 22, 1937, was Jimmy's first in two years. His challenger, nine years his junior, had fought a dozen times in that period, winning eleven of those bouts, ten by knockout. In a rare case of the challenger being the favorite over the champion, Louis was made the 10-to-1 favorite. At first, it appeared that Jimmy would pull off the upset. In the first round, he fired a short right hand that put Louis on the seat of his pants. Stunned but not hurt, Louis rose at the count of two and dealt a brutal beating to the champion. Jimmy did well to last into the eighth round, when a right hand caught him directly on the chin. Braddock's knees sagged and then, with a delayed reaction, he crumbled to the floor, blood spilling out of his nose onto the floor. He was counted out and the title transferred to Louis.

Feeling he had enough in the tank for one more win, Jimmy next fought on January 21, 1938. His opponent, Welsh Tommy Farr, was a clever boxer who had gone fifteen rounds in a losing title shot at Louis. Again Braddock scored a noteworthy upset, rallying in the later rounds to take a ten round decision. With that, Jimmy retired, focusing instead on a career as a manager of younger fighters. He invested the money won in his comeback well and ran several successful business in later life. He passed away on November 29, 1974 at age 69 and was inducted posthumously into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001. Four years later, he legend was revitalized with the biopic "Cinderella Man"", with Russell Crowe playing the role of Jim.

Sources


Cinderella Man: James Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History

Factoids

Inducted into the following Halls of Fame:

Braddock reportedly fought a 4-round pro fight under the name Jimmy Ryan in 1923, before he started his amateur career.

Further Reading and Media

Books include:

External Links


Preceded by:
Max Baer
World Heavyweight Champion
NBA World Heavyweight Champion
NYSAC World Heavyweight Champion

1935 Jun 13 – 1937 Jun 22
Succeeded by:
Joe Louis