There have been a lot of comeback, underdog stories and Cinderella stories in sports. The idea of rags to riches and sports has been played out in numerous different situations with a numerous different players. But while many may stake their claim as the best, I don’t think any can come close to the story of the man named The Cinderella Man; James Braddock. Here I will introduce the man himself and why he got this impressive nickname.
Braddock knew he was going to be a boxer from a very young age after choosing that over pursuing football. Braddock turned pro at the ripe age of 21 years old and after only three years as a pro, Braddock’s record was 44-2-2. Then, in 1928, he pulled off a huge upset and earned a chance to fight Tommy Loughran for the Light Heavyweight championship. Braddock ended up losing a close 15-round fight. The loss not only led to Braddock to fall into a deep depression, but also caused several fractures in his right hand during the fight. As a result of this loss, injur and depression, Braddock’s career in boxing took a huge nosedive. In fact, after his extremely impressive start, Braddock’s next 33 fights would see him earn a 11-20-2 record.
As a result of his losing ways and the Great Depression running rampant, his family began to fall into poverty. Needing to make more money, Braddock quit boxing for a while to work as a docker. His family was also so poor that he had to accept government relief money in addition to working. He decided to return to boxing and was given a fight in 1934, but one that not many thought he had a chance in.
His fight was against John Griffin, who was a rising star. It is believed that Braddock was intended as nothing other than a stepping stone and name for the resume of Griffin. However, this didn’t go as planned as Braddock won the fight by third round KO. After two more wins, Braddock had earned himself a title shot against Heavyweight champion Max Baer. Braddock was chosen by Baer’s people because he saw it as an easy pay day and Baer hardly even trained for this fight.
Baer walked into the ring a 10-1 favorite over Braddock and everyone expected him to decimate Braddock. While he did take some big shots from the younger Baer, Braddock’s ability to take a shot and his resilience allowed him to wear down Baer and eventually won the fight. He would lose his next fight to Joe Louis which basically ended his boxing career but even Louis called Braddock the bravest man he ever fought. Bravery, courage and perseverance are common words that come up when people speak about “The Cinderella Man”.
As you could expect with a story like this, Hollywood wanted a piece of it. The 2005 film called Cinderella Man (starring Russell Crowe as Braddock) was released and was based off of this heroic and unlikely comeback story.