No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is never permitted to prove himself. Seneca
Aurelius said that a man must stand erect and not be kept erect by others. He said this, yet he was the Emperor of Rome, a man in no danger of starvation or poverty and likely dependent on others for things that most take for granted.
It’s in Braddock that we get the man we can relate to. A fighter. A man thrust into poverty not necessarily of his own doing but of the result of an economic collapse that he could never have predicted. A man unable to find work, unable to feed his family, and a man willing to do anything to help them survive and to stay together.
Braddock was a rising start in the light heavyweight division prior to the Great Depression. He was on the rise and enjoying the money that came with it. When the crash hit it coincided with injuries and a few losses and Braddock had to move his family from their nice home in New York to what was essentially a project, a slum.
Work didn’t come. When it did it was on the docks where he’d have to hide the hand he broke in the ring from foreman’s by coloring his cast black in order to not get kicked off the dock no matter how much it hurt.
Eventually the bone healed, even got stronger from the constant use. So he went to his manager and begged him for a fight. That fight led to another, and being seen as old and past his prime worked to his advantage as younger up and comers didn’t fear an old man, though they would when their backs were on the canvas and he was standing above them in victory.
Braddock’s run to the heavyweight title that he’d claim over one of the most feared men in the history of the ring, Max Baer, was incredibly improbable. When you read the book you have to question what’s fact and what’s fiction. It all seems too good to be true. His family was starving.
There’s a scene in the movie starring Russell Crow where Braddock – played by Crowe – and his family are at the dinner table of their shotty, broken down and barely heated apartment eating “dinner”. The meal was tiny, not enough to filled the stomachs of his 3 children. So, Braddock, seeing the hunger in his kids eyes pretended to be full, unable to eat the scraps on his plate even though he’d just finished a day long shift at the docs and was clearly in need of nourishment.