Primo Carnera, the good hero of Italy
Discover the strongest man in the world.
On June 29, 1967 he died in his Sequals, where he was born on October 25, 1906 as Primo Carnera, the one who was defined “the strongest man in the world”. Son of Giovanna Mazzon and Isidoro Sante Carnera, a mosaic worker, his childhood was already marked by extraordinary physical changes, which were also the result of a pituitary dysfunction that highlighted the typical characteristics ofAcromegalywith enlargement of the skull and extremities of the body.
At nine years old, Primo was already 1.50 m tall; at sixteen 1.90; When he came of age, he reached i 2.06 tall and 126 kg Weight, fifty centimeters neck circumference and shoe size fifty-two.
In the foothills around Sequals Rumors and legends spread about this miracle of nature, about his incredible strength coupled with a surprising kindness of heart. And yes, because Primo, well, he really was, with the goodness of heart typical of simple and sincere people, always ready to help others in sudden outbursts of generosity. After a few years in elementary school, Primo, who knew a few words of Italian and spoke only the Friulian dialect, became a carpenter’s boy while doing other odd jobs in his free time, receiving generous rations of milk and polenta, necessary to satisfy his insatiable hunger.
His teenage years were marked by extreme povertySuffice it to say that he only managed to own a pair of shoes after removing them from an Austrian soldier who was found dead. After the war he emigrated to France. It is June 29, 1920: a date that marks the time of his life. Carnera joined the Italian community of Le Mans, where relatives lived after he had to leave the village, his friends and, above all, his beloved mother, with whom he shared deep love.
Beyond the Alps he worked as a bricklayer, but his size, which certainly did not go unnoticed, was noticed by Adolphe Ledudal, the owner of a hiking hut. Ledudal convinced him to attend his fair in exchange for room and board. Primo accepted. Everything to prevent stones from breaking from morning to night. At the amusement park, Carnera appeared as a strong man, who challenged those in the audience who were willing to risk their physical safety for two hundred francs. Basically a freak show. Or to put it better: a “circus performer”.
With the Ledudal Mass he traveled through the cities under the nickname Jean “Le Terrible”, and on these long journeys his only companion was Fauquette, a mutt with whom Primo spent all his time. It was at one of these appearances that Carnera was noticed by Paul Jounée, “Le grand Paul”, a humble professional of the ring who convinced him to give up the exhibition shows. Jounèe reported Italian Leon See, a former boxer turned manager. And the wise See, seeing in the Italian giant a potential source of investment, decided to turn him into a professional boxer, marking the beginning of Carnera’s brilliant boxing career.
The strenuous gym sessions with See sculpted his amazing but rugged physique, who emerged in perfect form after the hard training in which he learned the basics of boxing. The first rather difficult matches came with Franz Diener, Marcel Nilles and Jack Stanley, all of whom were beaten without undue effort. In London he became a star at the Alhambra, the famous music hall. With a fee of a thousand pounds, Carnera performed for two weeks and fell in love with Emilia, a waitress from Soho, for whom he literally lost his head, and who managed to take £4,000 from the naive Friulian by inventing a broken wedding promise. Then it was finally time to try out the adventure abroad.
Carnera landed in New York on the last day of the year 1929. Exactly two months had passed since the catastrophic collapse of the Wall Street stock market, which had driven countless families into bankruptcy and left millions unemployed.
On American soil, Leon See worked with Bill “Broadway” Duffy, a shady nightclub manager, and Walter Friedman. They both belonged to the “Labor union”the criminal organization controlled by the Jewish Mafia and Lucky Luciano’s “Cosa Nostra”. All sports bets went through their hands. You see, Duffy and Friedman “matched” Carnera’s first meetings, facilitating his rise. Everything always happened without the knowledge of the Friulian boxer, who, in his almost childlike naivety, believed himself to be invincible. The meetings with George Godfrey, Paolo Uzcudum and Jim Maloney took place before the cursed match.
On February 10, 1933, in his fight for the title of challenger to the world heavyweight championship, Carnera met Ernie Schaaf in the semifinals and defeated him by knockout in the thirteenth round. A few months earlier, Schaaf had suffered irreversible brain damage after a wild fight with Max Baer and was no longer allowed to enter the ring. After the knockout Carnera Shaaf inflicted on him regained consciousness for a few minutes in the hospital, and then fall asleep forever.
The images at the time documented the desperation of the Italian boxer, who, after delivering the knockout blow to his opponent, tried to give the German boxer first aid for fear of having caused him serious injuries. To the funeral, Carnera sent a 6-foot-tall wreath of roses, violets and orchids, accompanied by a touching message. The Friulian boxer thought at this point Never step foot in a place again. He was comforted for a long time by his friends, but what was crucial was a telegram from Lucy: she was Schaaf’s mother, who encouraged him to pursue his career, expressing her compassion and any lack of resentment.
Then finally, on June 29th, 1933, his big chance presented itself to him and the Friulian boxer didn’t miss it. Primo Carnera met defending champion Jack Sharkey, the terrible boxer of Lithuanian origin, nicknamed “the Boston Killer”, defeated him by knockout in the sixth round and became world heavyweight champion, the first Italian in the history of boxing. As soon as he returned to the dressing room, he immediately wrote a telegram to his mother: “I owe you everything, Mom.” And in a spirit that was anything but individualistic, he declared:
“But I didn’t want to win for myself for the Duce and for Italy».
In the collective imagination of a nation, Carnera became the “strongest man in the world,” the idol of the masses. AND Fascism left its mark on the heroand chose him as a symbol of their propaganda. On October 22 of the same year, a one-day event was organized in Rome, where Carnera defended his new title against his old acquaintance Uzcudum. Against the backdrop of the Piazza di Siena, which was filled with more than 60,000 enthusiastic people, the a celebration of the regime, which glorified its hero by flexing his muscles for the world to see. On the stage of honor, Benito Mussolini witnessed the Friulian giant’s victory over the Spaniard at the end of fifteen hard-fought rounds.
After the crowd in the Piazza di Siena, the ring again. And once again the Madison of New York. This time, Courage was not enough against the provocateur Max Baer. Carnera was knocked down ten times and got back up ten times. However, the eleventh knockdown proved fatal. It was June 14, 1934. Then he fought in Buenos Aires, where he defeated local idol Vittorio Campolo. By now, however, his career was in decline and his loss to rising star Joe Louis on June 25, 1935 effectively marked the end of his boxing adventure.
Then he came Hollywood – Carnera appeared in seventeen films, from Mr Broadway in 1931 to Hercules and the Queen of Lydia in 1959 – the return to Italy, the war and the fear, but the real one. Not in the ring, but on the street, on a cold morning in 1944, when he was found guilty by an improvised tribunal because of his friendship with Mussolini and led to a tree to be shot. He was saved at the last minute by the leader of the partisans, convinced by the champion’s wife.
Then America again. And this fight, the wrestling, which he liked so much and reminded him of the times of Ledudal and the amusement park. Carnera experienced a true renaissance in wrestling, American wrestling. Thanks also to the wise help of his wife, who acted as his agent, he managed to earn the money that the cunning managers of his boxing days had almost completely stolen from him. With the money provided from 1946 to 1960, he was finally able to realize his dream: to enable his children Umberto and Maria Giovanna to study in the United States.
“Fists are clenched, punches are received. This is boxing, this is life. And I’ve taken a lot of hits in life, a lot… but I would do it again because all the hits I’ve taken have served to help my children learn.”
Carnera then also managed to open a restaurant in Glandale, California.But above all, he showed his generosity numerous donations for aid organizations in Italy. When he returned to the sporting side, he also became a world champion in wrestling. It happened on February 18, 1957 in Melbourne, where he defeated the local idol who called himself “King Kong”.
Then came the commercials and television appearances: his famous participation in the show hosted by Mario Riva, The musicianin the unusual role of the singer. Finally the illness. Relentless liver cirrhosis. And the decision to return to Italy to die in its sequels. It was sweltering on Thursday, June 29 (the date returns), 1967. At 10:47 a.m. the tolling of the bells announced the death of Primo Carnera. And not just Sequals, but an entire country mourned the death ofstrongest man in the worldbut still before his Gentle Giant.