Cinderella Man

“The struggle that you’re in today is developing the strength that you’ll need for tomorrow.” – Robert Tew


A few weeks ago, I watched a documentary about James Braddock, the man whose life inspired the movie “Cinderella Man”.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  Braddock was a boxer from New Jersey, who turned pro at 21, and after 3 years, his record was an impressive 42-2-2, with 21 knockouts.  In 1929, he fought for the light heavyweight championship of the world, but tragically lost to Tommy Loughlin, breaking his hand in several places in the process.  Injured and depressed, Braddock’s boxing career suffered, as he won only 11 of his next 33 fights. So with his career failing and his family slipping into poverty with the onset of the Great Depression, he had to quit boxing and work as a longshoreman, doing hard manual labor for $5/day – quite a contrast to the $20,000 per fight he had received at the height of his boxing career.  Because his right hand was injured, the very survival of his family depended upon him learning to use his left hand so he could do all the lifting and manual labor required of a longshoreman. But after a while this grueling labor physically changed him.  His left hand became stronger than his right.

In 1934, Braddock was given an opportunity to fight what was expected to be a one and done deal…a stepping stone for a rising star named John “Corn” Griffin.  But in a huge upset, Braddock knocked Corn Griffin out in the third round. He continued to beat top ranked fighters and was given a fight for the Heavyweight Championship against Max Baer, a formidable opponent who had killed a man in the ring.  But on June 13, 1935, James J. Braddock, the “Bulldog of Bergen”, a 10 – 1 underdog fought 15 rounds at Madison Square Gardens, and delivered one of the most incredible upsets in boxing history.

Before having to put a hold on his boxing career, one of the criticisms was that he “had no left hand”.  It was said that his time as an injured longshoreman was the best thing that could have happened to him as a boxer because it did two things – it gave him a left hand to fight with, and it gave him a reason to fight. Before fighting Max Baer, Braddock said this, “When you’ve been through what I’ve had to face in the last two years, a Max Baer or a Bengal tiger looks like a house pet. He might come at me with a cannon and a blackjack and he would still be a picnic compared to what I’ve had to face.”

None of us want the hard times, the injuries, or the weeks, months or years in the dark valley.  But sometimes those valleys prepare us for what lies ahead. Sometimes, they’re a necessary part of our own Cinderella story.  “…let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” – Galatians 6:9