During my twenty five years in boxing I was fortunate to interview Jake Lamotta a half a dozen times. This was our last conversation, which took place at a comedy club in New York City five years ago.
Scoop Malinowski: Why were you so good at boxing?
Jake Lamotta: “I worked hard. I worked harder than anybody. When they used to box in the gym, three or four rounds, I used to box 10-20 rounds.”
Scoop: What fight were you at your very best?
Jake Lamotta: “Oh, when I beat Robinson. And when I defended my title to a Frenchman Laurent Dauthuille (1950) who had previously beaten me (L10 in 1949). With 23 seconds left in the 15th round I could not win the fight. But I knocked him down and they counted ten. There was 13 seconds left. I was very lucky to win that fight. I was determined not to lose. You can do it yourself in different ways. All you gotta do is believe. All you gotta do is believe, no matter what you do. When you find it’s hard to do – don’t believe it. You could do it. Anything. I did it with other things in my life. And it works.”
Scoop: Did any boxers try to imitate you?
Jake Lamotta: “You’re gonna have to have a strange personality to explain what I did. You gotta be strange if you ever did something that’s unique. I can’t explain it to you. I worked. That’s all I can say. It’s drive. It’s a drive that you can’t explain. I can’t explain. Do you know what I mean?”
Scoop: Were you good at other sports?
Jake Lamotta: “I played hard ball baseball. I had my own team Lamotta All-Stars. And I won a couple of games with a home run.”
Scoop: What was the best, most memorable punch you ever landed?
Jake Lamotta: “Oh I landed a lot of good blows. Lot of good blows. I landed a lot of good blows. I can’t think of one.”
Scoop: What made you so tough?
Jake Lamotta: “I can’t explain to you. It was natural. Either you’re tough or you’re not.”
Scoop: Before what fight were you most concerned or worried about?
Jake Lamotta: “I felt I could win all the time.”
Scoop: Who were some of your celebrity fans who loved you?
Jake Lamotta: “Frank Sinatra. And he took my wife away from me. He was at about ten of my fights.”
Scoop: What was a funny memory from boxing that made you laugh?
Jake Lamotta: “When a fighter came into the ring without his trunks on. He took his robe off and he’s naked.”
Scoop: What inspired you as a boxer?
Jake Lamotta: “Money. Making a living at it. Because I had to support my whole family. They were on welfare. I had to support them.”
Scoop: Memory of Mike Tyson?
Jake Lamotta: “He’s not such a bright boy. He makes a lot of mistakes. He does stupid things. He could have gone down as one of the greats of all time. But he blew it.”
Scoop: Which boxers to you like today?
Jake Lamotta: “Not really. There’s nobody around.”
Scoop: Do you remember your first fight (W 4 Charley Mackley in NYC on March 3, 1941)?
Jake Lamotta: “Vaguely. I don’t remember too much. I don’t see his picture in my head.”
Scoop: Do you remember your last fight (L 10 Billy Kilgore in Miami Beach in 1954)?
Jake Lamotta: “Of course. I had 106 fights. But I can’t remember all of them.”