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Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in New York City, New York, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA
Height 5' 3" (1.6 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Fidel LaBarba was born on September 29th, Bronx New York. Named after St. Fidelis, commonly referred to as "Semper Fidelis" or always faithful in the Catholic religion. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1910 to pursue more gainful employment and to be near relatives.

At age nine, Fidel and his two younger brothers were living mostly on the streets, due to the untimely death of their 42-year-old mother. It was during this time that Fidel started picking up his fighting skills. While working for The Los Angels Express as a paperboy, little Fidel was used in establishing street corner domination from rival newspapers.

They would drop him off on a corner where the Herald or the Times was being peddled. Crowding in as potential customers approached, a pushing match ultimately resulted with Fidel punching the other peddler (usually a taller boy), knocking him down. "After that, the guy would leave us alone." Fidel often said.

By age 12 he was fighting in little amateur cards (AKA "Smokers") held weekly at the Elks club, and other small establishments. Bob Howard, the boxing instructor at Central Junior High saw Fidel's potential. It wasn't long before he met life long friend & manager George Blake.

Fidel was naturally left handed, (AKA: "South Paw") but was forced to learn boxing in a right hand stance. This gave him a somewhat different weaving style of fighting, and was why his left jab was his most powerful punch. He was fast, accurate, and great at defense.

Ultimately it was referee and manager Blake that got him to the 1924 Olympic games in Paris, France. Fidel had lost only one out of over 30 fights as an amateur. This string of victories continued as he not only won the Gold Metal, but his winning match brought home the Gold Metal for the US boxing team on July 15th, 1924.

Returning from the games, he decided to defer his college education and turn professional. Fighting against top names of the day, it took 26 professional bouts and close to two and one half years for him to realize his dream. On January 21, 1927, he won the Flyweight Championship of the world by defeating Elky Clark of England.

Fidel fought 12 more non-title fights and then stunned the boxing world when he renounced his title to attend Stanford University. After successfully completing his freshman year, he returned to Los Angeles to help with the burial of his father. He then returned to the ring for six more years. Fighting 58 fights, beating such boxing greats as Bud Taylor, Kid Chocolate, Kid Francis, and Bushy Graham.

Fidel was known as a clean, honorable, gentleman of the ring. A role model for the Italian Americans in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This was during a time when the media portrayed most Italians as gangsters. Ironically, it was this very thing that inspired underworld king pin Al Capone to offer and provide limousine service from the hotel to the arena during one of Fidel's two 1930s Chicago fights. The "ride" consisted of a motorcade of mob owned vehicles which was said to have included Capone's own 1930 armor plated Cadillac.

Fidel was never knocked out during his fighting career Then on December 6, 1932 fate virtually ended his boxing career. While training for the title fight against Kid Chocolate, an elbow to the eye detached his retina, ultimately causing removal of the eye.

Against the wishes of both his manager and doctor, Fidel fought the title fight three days later, concealing his injury by the use of continual hot and cold compresses. With over 50% loss to his left eye, Fidel fought a convincing 15 rounds losing the decision to Chocolate. But according to the New York Times, "the majority of the 14,000 who witnessed the battle disagreed." After three more fights with his impaired vision, Fidel threw in the towel. He fell back on a second career he had already started while boxing, writing. One of his earliest published articles was for the July 1926 Ring Magazine titled "LaBarba's Hardest Fights". In 1928 he was published in Coilers Magazine.

After a chance meeting on the polo fields of LA, Fidel secured a career working under studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck in the early 1930s. During his stay at 20th Century Fox Studios; Fidel co-wrote the stories for two films. 'Susannah of the Mounties' (1939) starring Shirley Temple and Randolph Scott, and 'Footlight Serenade' (1942) starring Betty Grable, Victor Mature, and Phil Silvers. The latter coming from a story named "Kid Dynamite" loosely based on Fidel's own life.

Fidel's final writing career was as a sports writer for the Outlook newspaper, located in Santa Monica, California. One of his most notable articles was for the November 1957 Boxing and Wrestling magazine titled "My toughest Fight" where he wrote about the torment a fighter goes through hours before the match, and a brutal bout he fought with Filipino fighter Pedro Villa.

Fidel was forced to retire from his final job working for the California State Athletic Commission due to poor health in 1966.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: F. John LaBarba / Son of Fidel LaBarba

Spouse (2)

Betty Lou Howard (29 June 1935 - ?)
Marion (? - ?) ( divorced)

Trivia (7)

Professional boxer, 1924-1933.
Won 1924 Olympic gold medal in boxing, flyweight division.
World flyweight boxing champion, 1927.
Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, 1996.
Inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame, 1987.
Inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall Of Fame 1981, located in Chicago, Illinois.
Younger Brother of Joe La Barba. Studio lighting technician, and actor.

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