Saturday, 6 September 2008

DeAgostini's Boxers: Jake LaMotta - DVD Review

This edition of The Two Sheds Review sees us taking another look at the rich history of professional boxing, with the help of DeAgostini’s Boxers DVD collection. This time we’re going to look at five fights from one of the most controversial fighters of the 20th century, and the subject of an Oscar-winning film - Jake LaMotta.

The first four fights on this disc take place in Detroit, the first being in September 1950, a World Middleweight Championship defence against Laurent Dauthuille. Sadly, only the 15th and final round survive here. By this time LaMotta is exhausted and way behind on points, be he manages to find enough energy to mount an awesome comeback, finishing his challenger off with an unanswered barrage of blows that send him down, with the referee stopping the fight immediately.

Fight two sees LaMotta taking on Eugene Hairston in March 1952. There’s only four rounds from various points of the fight here. LaMotta went into this one having been on a losing streak since his World title loss to “Sugar” Ray Robinson. It’s an interesting fight with Hairston, the deaf/mute fighter and a top middleweight contender at the time looking good against LaMotta. In fact things looked pretty even in the rounds that were shown, with LaMotta looking to finish things in the tenth and final round, only for Hairston to return in kind. At one point LaMotta looked like he was hurt, but it turned out he was playing possum, finishing the fight strongly. With both men having put in great performances, the fight was declared a draw.

Fight three was just one month later, with LaMotta facing Norman Hayes. Again, just a few rounds were shown. This was actually the second fight between these two, with Hayes having won their previous encounter the year before. The early rounds saw LaMotta employ his usual tactics, with Hayes rattling in the jab. A slug fest developed in the third which neither man won. Round six saw LaMotta up his game and stagger Hayes with a good shot to the jaw. The tenth and final round saw both men go all out for victory, each catching the other with good shots, with LaMotta getting the unanimous decision after the final bell.

Fight four sees us moving forward to June 1952, with LaMotta facing “Irish” Bob Murphy. As with the other fighters, only a few rounds are available for viewing. This was fought in the light-heavyweight division, with LaMotta looking for a title shot. This one looked like a really good fight, with diverse tactics, Murphy wanting to work inside all the time, and LaMotta wanting to keep the distance so he could unload with his big body shots. By round nine LaMotta began to look exhausted as Murphy went for the win, but he came back strongly and staggered the bigger fighter, with Murphy only saved by the bell. LaMotta continued his assault in the final round, before switching to southpaw to cause more confusion for Murphy. The crowd began to scream for a knockout, and LaMotta tried to give them what they wanted, but he couldn’t, with the fight going the distance, and LaMotta getting another unanimous decision.

Fight five sees us moving forward to April 1954, and on to Miami Beach, with LaMotta facing Billy Kilgore. Again, only a few rounds are shown. It’s another solid performance from LaMotta, always moving forward in an attempt to take the fight to Kilgore, who gave as much as he took. It was the same right through to the tenth round, with both men going for broke here. A close decision as the fight went the distance, as Kilgore got the decision.

But that’s not the end of the fight action. As well as the usual DVD extras featuring boxer bios and fight stats, there’s an extra fight, from June 1949, highlights of LaMotta’s World Middleweight title win against Marcel Cerdan.

In conclusion - there’s just something about watching these old fights that makes me realise how poor the current boxing product can be at times, and this DVD is another perfect example of that. Although all six fights were shown in highlight form, it was enough to show just what a great fighter LaMotta was. I really enjoyed this brief look at his career, and if, like me, you’re an old fashioned boxing fan, you should really try and get your hands on some of these DVDs.