The Italian Almanac

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Primo Carnera

Italian News / Movies - January 27

Italy is to make a film about its only world heavyweight boxing champ, giant 1930s slugger Primo Carnera. The film - part of celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Carnera's birth - will be directed by Renzo Martinelli, whose credits include Vajont (2001) and Five Moons Plaza (2003).

At first the film was supposed to be a TV movie for the Italian market only but Martinelli has managed to get backing for an English-language feature. The cast includes Joe Pesci and Giancarlo Giannini. "This exceptional cast will make sure Carnera gets the international exposure he deserves," Martinelli said on Thursday as the centenary celebrations were unveiled here.

Carnera will be remembered at two of this year's major domestic boxing events, a Milan night for up-and-coming talent and a Rome world title bout for cruiserweight Vincenzo Cantatore. Carnera was a 2.02 metre immigrant who got into the fight game to support his two children in the Depression years and rose to wrest the greatest crown of all from the fearsome Jack Sharkey in June 1933. He lost his title the following year to the fearsome Jewish American boxer Max Baer.

Nicknamed the Ambling Alp, Carnera had an unfair reputation as a lumbering pugilist with massive strength, few skills and a shortlived career. In fact he fought from 1925 to 1945 - interrupted by wartime service in the Italian Resistance - and had a respectable 88-15 record including 68 knock-outs - 15 of them in the first round. He won 18 straight fights by KO between December 1929 and June 1930.

He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.