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Marcel Cerdan

Marcel Cerdan (July 22, 1916 - October 27, 1949) was a French world boxing champion who was considered by many boxing experts and fans to be France's and Europe's greatest boxer, and by many more fans to be one of the best to come out of those regions.

Marcel Cerdan was born in Sidi Bel-Abbes, Algeria. He would have a life that was marked by his sporting achievements, social lifestyle, and ultimately, his own, personal tragedy.

Cerdan began boxing professionally on November 4, 1934 in Meknes, Morocco, by beating Marcel Bucchianeri by a decision in six. He ran a streak of 47 wins in a row between that first bout and January 4 of 1939, when he lost for the first time, to Harry Cresner by a disqualification in five rounds at London, England. Among the fighters he beat during that streak were Al Baker, and Aisa Attaf, beaten twice by knockout. Cerdan campaigned heavily in Morocco and Algeria during that part of his career, and began to campaign also at his parent's home country of France. In 1938, in what could perhaps be considered a territorial oddity, he beat Omar Kouidri by a decision in 12 at Casablanca to claim the French welterweight title.

After his first loss, Cerdan put up a string of 5 wins that led him to challenge Saviello Turiello for Europe's welterweight tile in Milan, Italy. He won the European title by a decision in 15 to continue his ascent towards the championship (back then, it was considered essential to own at least, a continental title belt to earn a world title shot, nowadays, even though having a continental belt does help get a world title try, having a continental belt isn't considered as important as before).

That winning streak eventually grew to reach 23 wins in a row, but then, he suffered a defeat to Victor Buttin by a disqualification in eight in Algiers.

For his next bout he put the title on the line against a boxer who is the namesake of a Hollywood star: (boxer) Jose Ferrer. He knocked out Ferrer in one round, and won four more bouts in a row before facing another guy with a namesake: James Toney, who shared that name with another boxer who would become world Middleweight champion five decades later. Cerdan knocked out this James Toney in two rounds to keep this new win streak alive. The new streak would reach 37 wins before being stopped. In between, he joined the American allies in World War II during 1944 and he won the inter-allied championship. He also went up in weight to the Middleweight division, and won the French title by beating Assane Douf by a knockout in three. He later claimed the European title by beating Leon Foquet by a knockout in one for the vacant title. He retained that title a couple of times before losing it to Cyrille Delannoit by a decision in 15 at Brussels, Belgium. Soon, he went back to Belgium and re-took the title by beating Delannoit, also by decision.

Finally, after the rematch with Delannoit, Cerdan was given a world title opportunity and he travelled to the United States, where he beat world Middleweight champion Tony Zale. Cerdan became a world champion by knocking Zale out in the 12th round at New Jersey on September 21 of 1948.

During his short period as a world champion, Cerdan became a popular figure of the Paris scene. Although married with three children, he had an affair with the famous singer Edith Piaf, a legend on her own.

For his first defense, Cerdan returned to the States, where he fought Jake LaMotta in Detroit. Cerdan was knocked down in round one and his shoulder was dislocated, having to surrender after the tenth round. It would sadly be the last fight of Cerdan's life: A contract was signed for a rematch and Cerdan went to training camp for it, but while flying to the United States to fight the rematch, Cerdan's Air France flight, flown on a SuperConstellation, went down in the Azores and everybody in it died including the famous violinist Ginette Neveu (1919-1949). Days later, LaMotta expressed words of condolences, praising Cerdan as a human being.

LaMotta later shocked the sports world by declaring during a hearing with the FBI, that in order to get a chance at Cerdan's title, he had to throw a fight for the mafia to make a big monetary hit on the betting lines, when he was asked by mafia associates to throw his fight versus Billy Fox.

Their fight was one of a handful of fights depicted on LaMotta's biographical movie Raging Bull in 1980.

In 1983, Cerdan and Piaf had their own lives turned into a big screen biography. The movie, titled Edith and Marcel starred Marcel Cerdan Jr. in the role of his father.

Cerdan's record was 106 wins and 4 losses, with 61 wins by knockout.

He is a member, along with LaMotta and Zale, of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame

Following his death on October 27, 1949, Marcel Cerdan was interred in the Cimetière du Sud, Perpignan, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.