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Cinderella Man

Cinderella Man by Marc Cerasini
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Set in New York in the Depression, this is the story of Jim Braddock, who takes up boxing to make money to feed his family, and eventually goes up against champ Max Baer, notorious for having killed two men in the ring.

James J. Braddock, born in New York City, was known locally for his thunderous right hand and successful amateur boxing career. After turning professional, he defeated foe after foe, and his rapid rise from obscurity earnt him the nickname, the Cinderella Man. He was given a shot at the world light heavyweight title against champion Tommy Loughran in 1929, but lost in a 15–round decision. Following that defeat and the stock market crash of 1929, Jim Braddock struggled to win fights and provide for his young family.

Eventually Jim's luck turned. In 1934 he had upset wins against Corn Griffin and John Henry Lewis. With these two wins, Braddock set himself up for another shot at the world title – against heavyweight champion, Max Baer. On 13 June 1935, as a 10 to 1 underdog, Jim took the world title from Max Baer in what 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. Jim was inducted 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.

HarperCollins; Read online
Title: Cinderella Man
Author: Marc Cerasini

Round One

When the bell rings, you're in there to win.

-- James J. Braddock,

as quoted by Peter Heller in In This Corner

Madison Square Garden

November 30, 1928

Boxing is a game of half steps and half inches, of timing,

nerve, pain, endurance, and sometimes chance.

Around the center ring of the Garden arena, nineteen

thousand fight fans rose in a spiraling incline -- too far

to notice inches, too removed to notice chance. Most

spectators simply waited for one gladiator to murder

the other, in tonight's case, for the wiry Jim Braddock

to be flattened by Gerald "Tuffy" Griffiths, the "Terror

from out West."

With round one's clang, the bulked-up, corn-fed

Griffiths roared out of his corner like an unstoppable

cyclone. Under the broiling hot lights, Braddock stood

firm and watched him come. Tuffy had blown into

town claiming more than fifty consecutive wins, the last with a stunning first-round knockout. Seven-to-one

Braddock was just another Tuffy KO. A sacrificial

lamb. Everyone knew it -- the promoters, the oddsmakers,

the sportswriters. Everyone knew it except Braddock

himself and Joe Gould, his excitable little

round-faced manager, punching the smoky air in Jim's


Whenever a reporter asked Gould why he thought

his fighter was worth a plug nickel, he'd grab the man's

lapels and bark, "What do you know about Braddock?

What? Were you on that Jersey Hillside when Jimmy

was just a scrawny teenager, forcing his older, bigger,

golden gloves-winning brother to eat punch after

punch? Did you watch him rise through one hundred

amateur bouts to win his own pair of golden gloves

against Frank Zavita -- a giant stovemaker who'd outweighed

him by fifty-three pounds? Were you with me

that day in Joe Jeannette's gym when I offered some

kid, a total nobody, five dollars to get smacked around

by my top-ranked welterweight, never expecting it

would be the kid, Jimmy Braddock, who'd do the


Tonight, like every night, Joe Gould stood in Braddock's

corner, close enough to see the half steps and

half inches. Close enough to know that when Tuffy

Griffiths launched himself across the ring, Jim was

never more ready.

Braddock's sharp, solid jab surprised the charging

Griffiths, sending the confident hulk back on his heels.

The boxers advanced and retreated, hooking, blocking,

and counterpunching, as they slipped and pivoted

across the springy canvas. When Griffiths saw an

opening, he launched again. His shoulders rippled through a flurry of combinations -- jabs, hooks, body

shots. These same fistic flurries had taken out Tony

Marullo in Chicago, Jon Anderson in Detroit, Jim Mahoney

in Sioux City, Jackie Williams in Davenport,

even Mike McTigue, the former world's light heavyweight


Blood flowed and sweat streamed, soaking Jim's

brow, burning his eyes. Blows felt like thunderclaps

and lightning together, exposing Jim's guard, splitting

his head. But Braddock failed to hit the deck as Grif-

fiths'othe r opponents had. Jim stayed on his feet,

weathered the storm.

At ringside, reporters in straw boaters and fedoras

sat chomping cigars, their fingers pounding the stiff

keys of heavy typewriters. Every blow of the first

round's action was recorded, and nobody thought the

New Jersey boxer would last a second round.

But by round two, Braddock had timed his rival's

rushes, and inside of a minute his power punch

detonated -- Jim's golden right cross. Griffiths went

down. The crowd rose up. A deafening din.

On three, the Terror was up again. The count didn't


By now Jim's adrenaline-rich world had turned

hyper-real. Colors exploded, sounds spiked, awareness

was dagger sharp. Time stretched for Jim, as it does for

all good fighters, slowing in the face of violence. Inside

the ropes, the slightest movement of his opponent's

arm swept bigger than an Atlantic wave.

Jim blotted out everything then: the wild screams of

the crowd, the contemptuous stares of the sports writers,

the shooting pain in his injured and taped ankle,

the hysterical yells from his corner. All Braddock knew was this chance to put away the great Griffiths. He

cocked his right again, timed it just right, and let fly.

Tuffy reeled.

"One . . . Two . . . Three . . . Four . . ."

Glassy-eyed, Griffiths rose once more, shutting

down the ref 's ten count.

Braddock was ready. He vaulted close and hurled a

nonstop bombardment to his opponent's face. Shoulder

muscles, slick with sweat, were primed and loaded.

Leather slammed forward at breakneck speed, then

came the jab, jab, cross, and Braddock's famous right

connected for the last time, smashing into Griffiths'

chin like an Irish freight train.

The fighter's jaw distended at an impossible angle,

his eyes rolled back. Listing like a torpedoed ship, Griffiths

sank a third time to the canvas. On three, Tuffy

tried to stand with rubber legs. He staggered, and

without another glove on him hit the deck for the last


"And from the great State of New Jersey, by technical

knockout, tonight's light heavyweight winner . . .

Jim Braddock!"

The announcer's bellow brought the capacity crowd

to its feet. The hometown boy had done it -- and just a

stone's throw from the Hell's Kitchen tenement where

he'd been born. Sweat dripping from his shock of

black hair, Braddock pumped his fist in the smoky air,

his bulky leather glove threatening to KO the Ga rden's

high, steel-trussed ceiling. With an explosion of insane

screaming, thousands of fight-mad fans cheered the

"Bulldog of Bergen."

Jim took in the hooting, hollering faces -- clerks and tycoons alike sporting double-breasted suits and diamond

tiepins; flappers and floozies with bobbed hair

and fox furs. It was Friday night, the world was throwing

a party, and Jersey Jim's victory was one more reason

to celebrate.

Griffiths was Jim's eighteenth knockout since he'd

turned pro in 1926. His twenty-seventh win. And that's

how Braddock wanted to see himself -- as a winner --

not a Catholic-school dropout or punk kid scraper, not

a Western Union messenger, printer's devil, or silk mill

errand boy. Tonight those former lives had sloughed

off Jim like dead skin ...

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