Nevada prison coach dead

The only boxer to knock down Jake LaMotta has died in Sacramento at age 85. For 15 years, Daniel Nardico was recreation director and boxing coach at the medium security prison in Carson City.

Nevada historian Guy Louis Rocha, who boxed an inmate in a bout at Northern Nevada Correctional Center during Nardico’s tenure, later wrote, “I remember seeing the yellowed newspaper clippings of the LaMotta fight and other Nardico memorabilia outside his office at … NNCC in 1977.”

LaMotta wrote in his autobiography that no one had ever knocked him down, and screenwriters Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin apparently bought into that claim without checking it out when they wrote the script for the movie Raging Bull. It wasn’t a difficult claim to check—the Associated Press report of the New Years Eve 1951 bout—La Motta’s 102d fight—read that “A smashing right knocked LaMotta down for the first time in his career early in the seventh and when the round ended, the ‘Bronx Bull’ was hanging helplessly to the ropes, his eyes glazed, as Nardico beat him with merciless rights and lefts.” The knockdown can be seen on YouTube. (After the Nardico fight, New York sportswriter Whitney Martin wrote that it was the third fight in which he’d seen LaMotta knocked down.)

Nardico went into the nationally televised fight with LaMotta—who was nearing the end of his career—as an 11 to 5 underdog. He not only knocked LaMotta down, but also won the fight on a TKO when LaMotta failed to answer the bell in the eighth round. Nardico hoped his upset of LaMotta would give him a shot at light heavyweight champ Archie Moore, but it was not to be, at least partly because Nardico had recently been badly beaten by another rising contender, Harry Matthews.