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Jake LaMotta and the only fighter to knock him down in 106 figthts

Jake LaMota was only once sent to the canvas in 106 fights, and that came in New Year's Eve 1952. Bettmann / Getty Images

Jake LaMotta, who died earlier this year aged 95, had a headache before New Year's Eve 1952 was over after he was knocked off his feet for the first time in his career.

Although the Bronx Bull had suffered previous defeats and bad beatings, LaMotta had never gone down before his light-heavyweight title eliminator with Danny Nardico.

Former world middleweight champion LaMotta, 31, looked as finished as the outgoing year as he was beaten by eighth round technical knockout at the Coliseum, Coral Gables, in Florida, with Nardico ahead 69-62 on the three scorecards when LaMotta's corner waved the fight off.

LaMotta, whose life was later the subject of the 1980 film Raging Bull starring Robert De Niro, was floored at the start of the seventh round after a flurry of shots from Nardico, including an overhand right-handed smash to the jaw. It was the first time LaMotta had been sent to the canvas in 102 fights.

After a count of nine, Nardico pounded LaMotta furiously in a corner for a minute, with the the Bronx Bull holding on to the top rope for support and then staggered back to his corner at the end of the round.

LaMotta was out on his feet and it was no surprise that his corner -- featuring brother Al -- signalled to the referee that was it, and the fight was stopped before the start of the eighth round.

It was clear to the crowd of 3,318 that there would be no new dawns in LaMotta's career in the new year. To make matters worse for LaMotta, the fight was screened live to millions on CBS in the first sports show to be telecast from Florida.

Victory would supposedly have earned LaMotta a shot at the new world light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore in a title fight in February in St Louis.

LaMotta, who had a record of 81-17-4 at the time, was ranked No. 9 in the world light-heavyweight rankings -- four places behind 25-year-old Nardico who had lost his previous fight and had a record of 42-8-4.

LaMotta paid the price for not fighting for six months and had weighed in the heaviest of his career -- 173 pounds -- to Nardico's 177 pounds.

With the excess weight LaMotta was slow, allowing Nardico to set the pace and out slug him.

Nardico, described in newspaper reports as "the fighting marine", landed some big left hooks in the fourth as the fight became a brawl.

The punishment took its toll on LaMotta by the seventh and after getting up at the count of nine, his senses were well and truly scrambled. But he refused to go down again despite a sickening beating for the last minute of the round.

"I'll go home, rest up and analyse things," LaMotta told The Miami News after the fight. "I should have had a few warm-up fights before this one. I was in condition all right, but not fighting condition."

Of the experience of being knocked down for the first time, LaMotta said: "You don't feel anything, it just happens. My head was spinning, but I knew what was going on. A funny experience."

How much had LaMotta's last and most famous fight with Sugar Ray Robinson taken out of him and contributed to this crushing defeat?

LaMotta, who won the world middleweight crown from France's Marcel Cerdan in 1949, fought Robinson six times and became the first man to beat boxing's best ever with a 10-round decision win in 1943.

LaMotta then lost the world middleweight title to Robinson during a savage beating -- known as the St Valentine's Day Massacre -- in 1951. Since that 13-round battering, LaMotta had won half of the six fights he had before facing Nardico.

But victory on New Year's Eve 1952 was supposed to reward the winner with a shot at Moore's title.

"That's what I want, they told me I would get Moore if I won this one," Nardico was reported to have said after the fight in The Miami News.

But Nardico never got to fight for the title -- his greatest moment was to be the LaMotta knockdown -- and instead faced Joe Maxim in his next fight and lost on points. He retired in 1956 with 50 wins, 13 losses and four draws and died in 2010.

After losing to Nardico, LaMotta retired before returning for three more fights in 1954.

LaMotta retired for good in 1954 with a record of 83 victories, including 30 by knockout, with 19 defeats and four draws. He was only once sent to the canvas in 106 fights. After boxing, LaMotta worked as a bar and nightclub owner and appeared in 15 films. He died at a hospital near Miami on Sep. 19.