In Love Again With:
...The Real Cinderella Man
Man," one of the most acclaimed movies of 2005, was NOT
nominated for the Best Picture award in the upcoming Academy
However, it did receive three nominations--for makeup, for film
for Paul Giamatti's supporting performance as Braddock's fight
The film, starring Russell Crowe as Braddock, is now available
Will there ever
hero like Jimmy Braddock?
By AUDREY YEAGER
Boxing is my least
favorite sport in the whole world. Before recently learning about
James Braddock, the Cinderella Man of the boxing world, I couldnt
imagine spending five minutes on the subject.
Braddock put on his first pair of gloves before I was born, and
yet there is something personally powerful and magnetic about
his story. I read the book Marc Cerasini put together and had
the DVD practically before the disc had hardened. It was one
of the rare times when the movie was extremely close to being
true to the book. Of course, it wasnt possible to flesh
the story out with all of the true, but painful details
of a country nearly without hope; of citizens whose one burning
thought always was how to wipe the look of starvation from their
It was at a time when our country was down and all but out that
one sturdy, noble, faithful and loyal Irishman began to draw
the interest of boxing fans. If I had been in my twenties and
Jimmy hadnt had a wife, I would have been the first boxing,
Groupie. He just appealed to me somethin
In the beginning, the promise of greatness was there in every
swing of Braddocks sledgehammer right. He was Up
and definitely Comin. Then ,through a number of losses,
he found himself forced into an early retirement. It couldnt
have come at a worse time. Although Jim Braddock had an understanding
wife, he also had three children to provide for, as the Great
Depression of the '30s spread like a smothering miasma from New
York to California. Those tough years set America on her ear
and kept her AND Jim from rising for a long while.
What made the man so unique; so memorable? I suppose all us fans
will have lots of adjectives covering the career of Braddock--all
of them deserved. But his story also reflects a riveting, true
to life struggle of men and women on the brink of despair, praying
that a day's work might yield up a couple of bucks, if there
WAS any work at the docks that day, which there usually wasnt.
But, earlier on, the steady, Nice Guy boxer had stood
in the ring and heard the following announcement, And from
the great State of New Jersey, by technical knockout, tonights
light heavyweight winner
Jim Braddock! (Jim, however,
was born in New York.)
He had taken the 175-pound title away from Tuffy Griffiths and
slipped over into big-time boxing. It should have stayed that
way, but the best intentions, plans and talents often have a
way of going in the opposite directions from where we think we're
pointing. The boxer thought he was heading down the same road
as former heavyweight champs Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, but
that isnt what happened to Jimmy Braddock.
Somehow, someway, the losses began to stick to Jim, with his
fragile, severely damaged hands, and after awhile he reached
a forced retirement. No more paychecks from that quarter. He
had been up with the big guys and now he and his family barely
existed in a cold-water flat where the lights had been turned
off and there was no money for coal to heat their poor tenement.
Cinderella Man, a name given to Braddock by the reporters--some
say it was newsman Drew Pearson-- was back in the ashes, traveling
many miles daily, begging for any kind of work he could get.
And, either he or his wife, Mae, stood in the interminable lines
at the soup kitchens on a regular basis.
Braddock watched as a close friend deserted the family he couldnt
support and ended up dead among the homeless in the parks. Mae
fought her own kind of battles, bouying up her husband, except
when she watched him leave in the dark mornings to rent himself
out for a loaf of bread, or a quart of milk. He never knew it,
but she sobbed then, quietly, so as not to wake the children.
Almost miraculously Jimmy began to get a fight now and then,
and he won them all. His manager, Joe Gould, began to notice
the interest the general public was showing in his boy--people
who were, by and large, down to their last dime, their last few
pieces of coal, the last piece of furniture or jewelry to sell.
Hope had all but left them; and then they heard there was a possibility
that their own Jimmy Braddock might be going to fight the heavyweight
champion of the world, Max Baer.
Baer was infamous for killing two men in
the ring, and he was bragging about making it three.
Mae, for once in their marriage, told Jimmy,
"No." Yet it almost seemed as if he had to do it anyway.
Just that one more fight could set him up for good. No more welfare
payments for his family--which, by the way, he paid back as soon
as he could. Yes, he had to do it, even though it threatened
to ruin the special bond between him and Mae.
Jim Braddock beat Max Baer and held the title for two years until
the Brown Bomber, Joe Louis, did something no one else had been
able to do. For the first time in his 84 fights, Braddock was
knocked out. It took eight rounds for Louis to get him.
Yet the fight with Max Baer is the climax of the story as far
as Im concerned. It is something I never want to watch
again, yet Im glad I DID see it.
Braddocks story will not easily be put aside. Its
about the corny stuff like sacrifice, responsibility
and love--the four-letter word for that thing that
probably holds up the Universe.
Im hoping there are more men out there like Jim Braddock
than not. What do you think?
©2006 by Audrey Yeager.
The caricature of Audrey Yeager is ©2001 by Jim Hummel.
This column first posted Feb. 13, 2006.
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