When one thinks of the Bronx in relation to sports and athletics, people naturally turn their minds to the Yankees. Yet the neighborhood has produced sporting greats in virtually every league from the MLB in hall of famer Hank Greenburg, to NBA luminary Nate Archibald and defensive NFL tackler Art “the Bulldog” Donovan. If there is one area in particular that the Bronx seems to produce consistent talent in however, it is fight sports. Below we are taking a look at some of the greatest fighters to ever emerge from the Bronx, a rap sheet that makes it clear as day that the borough punches well above its weight when it comes to producing top tier pugilists.
Jake “Raging Bull” LaMotta
Giacobbe “Jake” LaMotta has been immortalized on the silver screen thanks to his story being told in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film Raging Bull, in which he was played by Oscar winning star Robert De Niro. LaMotta acquired the nicknames “raging bull” and “the Bronx bull” due to his aggressive, advancing style in the ring that would see him overpowering much larger opponents through the application of constant pressure.
LaMotta is not remembered as a particularly artful boxer, with his technique frequently referred to nowadays as being that of a slugger, or brawler. Yet his genius lay in his ability to both pay out, and soak up, the damage necessary to go the distance. This ultimately led to him achieving his dream of becoming the World Middleweight Champion in 1949 by defeating the Frenchman Marcel Cerdan in a 9th round stoppage. He went on to successfully defend his title twice, before losing out to his arch rival Sugar Ray Robison in February 1951. With a fighting record of 83 wins, with 30 by KO, 19 defeats and 4 draws, he remains one of the all-time greats of the sport.
Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira
Although his honorary inclusion in this list may perturb the literal minded, no fighter has carried the name of the Bronx itself to greater heights of fame and prestige in recent years than UFC Lightweight Champion Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira. His fighting style is a combination of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and a form of kickboxing known as Muay Thai. In Thailand where it originates, Muay Thai is among the most popular sports in the country, and as such, Thai fight fans make extensive use of platforms such as Asiabet in order to get the best odds and predictions on upcoming bouts. In recent years, Muay Thai has achieved international recognition for its utility in MMA fighting tournaments such as the UFC, as demonstrated by Oliveira. With the growth in popularity of mixed martial arts and the UFC in the states, it is no wonder that gyms focused on training these methods are now popping up all over the five boroughs.
Charles’ nickname, “do Bronx” or “from the Bronx”, came about due to comparisons made between his hometown of São Paulo, and NYC. His local neighborhood has come to be known as the Bronx in recognition of the shared experience of locals with the traditionally blue collar New York borough. On top of this, the gym that Oliveira trained in was known as the Bronx. As such, his nickname is a statement of pride in his origins, something any Bronx resident, be it stateside or Brazilian, can resonate with.
Iran “The Blade” Barkley
Bronx native Iran Barkley was a pro-boxer active over two decades spanning much of the 80s and 90s. He is remembered for successfully holding world championship belts across three distinct weight classes during his career. After a commendable amateur career that peaked in a bronze medal win in the 1982 World Championship’s middleweight division, Barkley turned pro and began to make a name for himself, and the Bronx, on the world stage.
He held the WBC middleweight title from 1988 to 1989, the IBF super middleweight title from 1992 to 1993, and the World Boxing Association light heavyweight title in 1992, proving definitively that he could fight at a world class level at multiple weights and conditions. His overall record was 43 wins, with 27 by KO, 19 defeats and just one draw. Barkley still lives in Morrisania and, after recent falling on hard times, is back to participating in the local boxing scene and training up the borough’s next generation of fighters.