LaMotta was able to absorb a flurry of punches only to unload a more brutal barrage on an opponent. He would, as he wrote in his memoir, “charge out of the corner, punch, punch, punch, never give up, take all the punishment the other guy could hand out but stay in there, slug and slug and slug.”
Ray Arcel, one of boxing’s most renowned trainers, said of LaMotta, “When he was in the ring, it was like he was in a cage fighting for his life.”
Best remembered for his six bouts with Sugar Ray Robinson, LaMotta won 83 fights (30 by knockouts) and lost 19 (including a “fix” to which he belatedly confessed, telling a congressional panel that he had been promised that if he lost that fight he would get a title shot). He also fought four draws. He captured the middleweight championship in June 1949, stopping the titleholder, Marcel Cerdan, at Briggs Stadium in Detroit, and was knocked down only once in his 106 fights.
Mr. Scorsese made his film long after LaMotta had squandered his money — he said he made $1 million in the ring — and had gone through a series of stormy marriages, been sent to prison once more and ballooned into obesity.
“I would think that Jake thinks it’s a movie about himself,” Mr. Scorsese told The New York Times shortly after “Raging Bull” was released. “But those who think it’s a boxing picture would be out of their minds. It’s brutal, sure, but it’s a brutality that could take place not only in the boxing ring but in the bedroom or in an office. Jake is an elemental man.”
LaMotta boxed more than a thousand rounds with Mr. De Niro, tutoring him for a role that brought him the Oscar for best actor. Cathy Moriarty, in her professional acting debut, played LaMotta’s second wife, Vikki, a beautiful blonde who endured a chaotic marriage, and was nominated for a supporting-actress Oscar.
LaMotta had mixed feelings about the film. “I kind of look bad in it,” he told The Times. “Then I realized it was true. That’s the way it was. I was a no-good bastard. It’s not the way I am now, but the way I was then.”