On this day in 1935, James J. Braddock held his arms aloft after fifteen rounds at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City, Queens as World Heavyweight Champion in one of boxing’s biggest of upsets as he outpointed the great Max Baer.
It was the pinnacle of a career which for the most part was a rollercoaster ride, starting at middleweight before gaining a title shot at Light Heavyweight which he would come up short against Tommy Doughran, afterwards it looked like a once-promising career at imploded, his career descending into free fall until a broken hand against Abe Feldman on Sept. 25, 1933 meant his retirement from the boxing ring.
James took a job as a longshoreman. forced to apply for relief to support his wife and three children but in 1934, opportunity came knocking, a fighter by the name of Corn Griffin was being built up as a championship contender who was looking for a local heavyweight to get some rounds in before his own eventual title challenge, Braddock’s name was thrown into the hat by his friend and manager Joe Gould, to most Braddock represented a soft touch of a challenge for Griffin which ultimately would come back to haunt him.
The Preliminary bout was to the championship fight between Max Baer and Primo Carnero, Braddock on the night upset the odds to knock out Griffin in three rounds, much to the astonishment of many.
Braddock followed the victory with wins over John Henry Lewis and Art Lasky to put himself in front of the pack for a shot at the hard-hitting German.
Max Baer was totally undeterred by his possible challenger, coming off wins over Max Schmelling which was voted the fight of the year in 1933, he dropped Primo Carnero eleven times on route to winning the heavyweight crown, looking every bit as dominant as the press at the time was quick to headline.
There was a sense of an easy nights work for Baer with odds thrown around of more than 10-1 for Braddock, Plain James or the Cinderella Man as he was dubbed by Damon Runyon was the proverbial underdog in every sense of the word.
Baer came in with a smile beaming, his fans baying for another knockout whilst Braddock wore the same facial expression as always, a clean-cut, non-menacing look but like the old saying goes, looks can be deceiving.
On the night of June 13th, 1935, James J.Braddock boxed beautifully to pull off a boxing miracle, Baer looked bewildered, throwing every shot in the hope of stemming the tide, rocking Braddock in the seventh but the challenger had emerged from the depths to give a crafty boxing lesson to Baer on route to a fifteen round decision win, a true Cinderella story.