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James J. Braddock: The “Cinderella Man.”

The movie of the life of James J. Braddock starts in a few weeks, titled the “Cinderella Man.” The big screen depicts Braddock and his family going through the hard times of the great depression. His struggles helped many unemployed rise above the poverty of the times. He gave them hope. Bankers and the rich looked up to Braddock as he hit James J Braddock James J. Braddock: The “Cinderella Man.”

hard to climb into the seat as world champion. The nation's economy placed over twenty percent of the population in bread lines. Rather than allow his family to starve, he boxed to win the heavyweight championship of the world. Mr. Ron Howard always makes movies true to life. The movie holds on to the facts of the real life hero Braddock. The Braddock family watched the filming on location at the very old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The Maple Leaf Gardens still shows athletic events, one of the oldest stadiums left standing today. Ron Howard found and decided to film on this location since it looks much like the former Madison Square Garden Bowl. Madison Square Garden Bowl held thousands of fight fans when Braddock won the heavyweight championship of the world from Max Baer in 1935. The Braddock family plans to take part as extras during the very exciting fight scenes in the movie.

Russell Crowe stars as Braddock. Rennee Zellweger plays Braddock's wife. Universal Pictures plans to make this realistic movie, and show how people suffered through the great depression. The previews show these two academy award winners bringing home an excellent movie to see. Crowe fights this time in the ring, again the gladiator that we love to watch. James J. Braddock earned his nickname, the Cinderella Man, from his seemingly fairytale like rise from a poor local fighter to the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Expect a movie as good as "Rocky" and "Raging Bull" with this cast and director.

James J. Braddock started out in birth in a small flat on West 48th Street in New York City on June 7, 1906. Weighing in at seventeen pounds, one of seven children brought into the world by his parents Joseph Braddock and Elizabeth O'Toole Braddock of Ireland. With five boys and two girls in tow, The Braddocks relocated their brood across the Hudson River into New Jersey and settled down in the peaceful township of West New York where Jimmy enjoyed playing marbles and baseball and loved hanging around the old swimming hole on the edge of the Hudson River or under the Hackensack River Bridge. He aspired to be a fireman or a train engineer someday. Braddock hit with a brawny right hand. Braddock quit school without the benefit of a diploma. From around the year 1919 to 1923, Braddock worked a series of jobs: A messenger boy for Western Union, a printer's devil, a teamster and an errand boy in a silk mill.

He successfully fought an amateur career. He turned professional in 1926. In his first fight, he knocked out George LaRocco in the fourth round. A few fights later, he licked a fellow by the name of Tony Griffiths who beat all the light heavyweights at the time. In the early days, Jim stood over six-feet-two-inches, but seldom weighed over 180-pounds. During this time, he fought and won against fighters that topped out the scales near 220-pounds. He needed an extra ten pounds to move into the heavyweight division. Braddock won triumphs over fighters like Jimmy Slattery and Pete Latzo.

Jim flew into the ring as a boxer-puncher and hit harder than most light heavyweights hit. When he went for the championship, he met a very fine boxer that out-classed him. Tommy dodged around faster, ducked, feigned, and moved away from Jim. Braddock never landed a clean hard punch during the fight. Braddock fought light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran in 1929 for the title, but he lost a heartbreaking fifteen-rounddecision. Following the Loughran fight, the stock market crashed taking Braddock and millions down. Everyone tried to find a way to provide for their families. Everyone fell to hard times and hard luck. Braddock struggled to win fights and put food on the table for his young family.

Eventually, Jim's luck began to change. In the rough years, Jim fought and lost sixteen out of twenty-two fights. Finally, at the bottom of the barrel, when all seemed lost, Braddock started to come back. A fellow by the name of Damon Runyon named him the "Cinderella Man." He came back from rags to riches. With three kids and a wife to support, he needed to make money. Things happen to fit together for some people, and others, not. Braddock kept going until his luck changed. He never quit and with the support of his wife, never gave up hope. Most of his losses occurred during this time.

In 1934, five years later, he upset Corn Griffin. Corn Griffin and he fought during the Carnera and Baer, as an under card. Corn liked to left hook, and Jim loved to counter with a right hand. He tagged Corn a number of times. Corn sparred with Carnera before the fight, and licked Primo Carnera during the play matches. Corn Griffin actually ranked high in the standing when he fought Braddock. John Henry Lewis and Art Lasky went down for the long count soon afterwards. With these two wins, Braddock set himself up for a shot at the title against heavyweight champion Max Baer. When he fought Lasky, he later told a reporter, "So they matched Lasky and I. There was no talk about the heavyweight championship fight because they figured Lasky'd lick me. When I beat him in fifteen rounds, I hit him with everything. I mean, wherever his kisser was, I had a punch there, a left hook, a right cross, it was one of them nights."

Tommy Loughran beat Max Baer in the Garden a few years back, and therefore the managers thought of the entertainment value. Braddock planned to jab with the left, stick and move. All night long, Jim stuck and moved. Max Baer received the reputation as a dynamite puncher and possibly the hardest hitter of all time. If Baer tagged you, you flew into the third row, and woke up tomorrow. During the fight, Braddock took a chance to tease Baer and said, "Hey, Max, you better get going. You're way behind."

He kept sticking Max the rest of the evening. Max was a nice guy with a better temperament as a movie actor than a boxer, he seldom got angry in the ring. When he lost his temper, he hit so hard, he actually killed a few fighters in the ring (Frankie Campbell, to mention one). On June 13, 1935, in Long Island City, N.Y., Braddock, as a ten-to-one underdog when he won the heavyweight championship of the world from Max Baer. The general reaction in most quarters was described as, "the greatest fistic upset since the defeat of John L. Sullivan by Jim Corbett."

Braddock would lose his heavyweight title two years later in an eight round KO to "The Brown Bomber," Joe Louis. Joe Louis, according to Jim threw more punches than Baer, far more punches. Baer murdered you with his power shots. With some managers, they take you for a ride, not with Jim's manager Joe Gould. Joe Gould struck up a deal with Mike Jacobs before the fight with Louis. The deal papered out to give Braddock 10% of the gross with Louis for the next ten years. Therefore, from 1937 to 1939, Braddock received over $150,000, a lot of money in those days (nearly half a million now). This annuity kept the Braddocks well heeled in the very lean years.

Few knew that during the fight for Louis, Braddock actually received medication for arthritis. Jim Braddock barely lifted his left while he fought Louis, since the medicine numbed him like a muscle relaxant. His only lucky punch happened in an uppercut, simply since he failed to raise his left over his head. His follow up punch missed Louis's chin, and slammed into Joe's chest. The punch cracked around the auditorium. Only an inch short kept Jim from retaining the title. After this round, Joe Louis worked over Jim Braddock in the subsequent rounds, added twenty-three stitches, and moving a tooth right through the mouthpiece into his lip. Everyone enjoyed the fight that night, and even though a loss, it was perhaps Braddock’s best fight. Even over thirty and old for the fight game, not able to backpedal, Jim gave the best performance of his life.

He retired after a final win over Tommy Farr in 1938. He realized after the fight with Tommy, he needed to retire. His arthritis continued to grow up his left side. He gave it up before the ring made him a cripple. After he retired, he worked as a marine equipment surplus supplier, running generators and welding equipment. He and his wife lived in the same house across the river from Manhattan and where he fought. He received his induction into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1964, the Hudson County Hall of Fame in 1991 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001. After eighty-five fights with fifty-one victories, James J. Braddock died on November 29, 1974. With the movie due out soon, the celluloid preserves the "Cinderella Man" in his best form and action, long after his passing.

Joseph de Beauchamp can be reached at joedebo@wfnn.info

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