James J. Braddock was born as James Walter on June 8, 1905 to Joseph Braddock and Elizabeth O’Toole, both of Irish descent.1 Braddock was one of seven children being raised by both parents in North Bergen, New Jersey. According to Jeremy Schaap, “It was on the St. Joseph’s playground that James J. Braddock developed both his skills and his passion for boxing…there were thirty-five boys in my class, and every one of them could fight a bit.”2
On November 27, 1923, Braddock got his first chance to fight in the ring.3 From 1924 to 1929, Braddock was a light heavyweight champion that stunned both his competition and boxing spectators with his unexpected knock-outs and wins.
In 1929, after Braddock’s legendary loss to Tommy Loughran, his career began to decline; ironically, a few months later the Stock Market crashed leaving millions of Americans unemployed, homeless, and without any money, including Braddock.4 The only positive event happening in his life was his marriage to Mae Fox in January of 1930.5 They went on to have three children, James, Howard and Rosemarie.6 In 1934 Braddock got lucky, his long time manager Jim Gould set up a match between Braddock and John “Corn” Griffin. This unexpected win gave Braddock not only a good amount of money to pay all his bills, but also another chance at boxing. Braddock went on to win several matches to many people’s surprise, ultimately leading to his fight with the heavyweight champion Max Baer. After winning the Heavyweight Championship, Braddock’s finances became more stable and he was winning the fight against the economic depression. Braddock boxed on and off for another 5 years until his last match in 1941.7 Braddock died on November 29, 1974. He continues to be known as “Cinderella Man” for the hope and inspiration he provided the American people in the 1930s.
1 Jeremy Schaap, Cinderella Man: And the Greatest Upset in Boxing History (Boston: Houghlin Mifflin, 2005, 4.
2 Ibid., 6.
3. Ibid., 12
4. A.J. Liebling, The Sweet Science (New York: North Point Press: 1951), 26.
5. Schaap, Cinderella Man, 35.
7. Ibid., 21.