In 1946, I went to Newark’s Laurel Gardens to see heavily favored Bronx middleweight contender Joey La Motta fight Freddy Flores, a 3 to 1 underdog from Puerto Rico. Joey’s brother, middleweight contender Jake “Raging Bull,’ was not scheduled to appear on the card that night but that didn’t stop him from entering the ring, throwing a few blows and taking the major role in the ring while 2500 boxing fans witnessed a small riot.
Joey suffered a cut under his right eye in the second round of the featured bout. By the end of the fourth round, Joey was bleeding so profusely, that Referee Paul Cavalier called Dr. John Staknevich to inspect the damaged eye. Dr. Staknevich “ordered the fight stopped.” An angry Jake leaped into the ring, his eyes blazing and began swinging at the doctor. Several plainclothesmen and Newark Patrolman Peter Farley jumped in the ring to aid the doctor. They were followed into the ring by two Bronx friends of La Motta. The fans were evenly divided in yelling for the police and La Motta, as punches were thrown by both sides. Order was finally restored and the two friends of La Motta were arrested, held for arraignment before Newark Police Judge Joseph Sugrue, on charges of attempting a riot and resisting arrest. In the excitement, the La Motta brothers slipped away.
Joey wasn’t miffed by the post-fight fracas, but rather because he had been previously undefeated in 30 fights. It “sent him into a burn” and a demand for revenge. Only a return fight with Flores would cool him off. The Newark bout had caused so much controversy that the rematch held shortly thereafter at New York’s Park Arena was completely sold out. Flores was Joey’s stepping stone to the title but, he got stopped instead. Joey had 39 fights in 21 months; usually a fight a week. He once had two fights in two days. His record was 32 wins (22 KOs), 5 losses, and 2 draws. An Aventura resident, Joey has been one of our Turnberry-Diplomat tennis buddies for the past 20 years.