The Italian Almanac

Primo Carnera

Italian News - July 14

Italy's only world heavyweight boxing champ, giant 1930s slugger Primo Carnera, has been feted in a new documentary. The film - part of celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Carnera's birth - will be presented by directors Daniela Vigoriti and Flaminia Cardini in Carnera's northeastern Italian home town this weekend. "We wanted to set the record straight about a figure who was once regarded as a figure of fun," they said in presenting the work, Me, Primo Carnera.

The documentary on Carnera (1906-'67) uses newsreel footage as well as fragments of his brief film strongman career - including The King of Africa and Casanova's Great Night - and features a montage of contemporary press headlines both eulogising and vilifying the big man. Top sports journalist Emanuela Audisio and Carnera's daughter Giovanna Maria worked on the documentary for the last two years, making it a surprisingly female-flavoured project for such a male-dominated sport.

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 even more ferocious 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.