Primo Carnera

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Primo Carnera
Primo Carnera.jpg
Primo Carnera
Rated atHeavyweight
Height2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)
Reach216 cm (85 in)
Born(1906-10-26)October 26, 1906
Sequals, Italy
DiedJune 29, 1967(1967-06-29) (aged 60)
Sequals, Italy
Boxing record
Total fights103
Wins by KO72
No contests0
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Primo Carnera
Primo Carnera.jpg
Primo Carnera
Rated atHeavyweight
Height2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)
Reach216 cm (85 in)
Born(1906-10-26)October 26, 1906
Sequals, Italy
DiedJune 29, 1967(1967-06-29) (aged 60)
Sequals, Italy
Boxing record
Total fights103
Wins by KO72
No contests0

Primo Carnera (Italian pronunciation: [ˈprimo karˈnɛra]; October 26, 1906 – June 29, 1967), nicknamed the Ambling Alp, was an Italian professional boxer and the World Heavyweight Champion from June 29, 1933 to June 14, 1934.

Personal life[edit]

Primo Carnera was born in Sequals, then in the Province of Udine, now in the Province of Pordenone, Friuli-Venezia Giulia (at the north-easternmost corner of Italy, bordering Slovenia).

On March 13, 1939, Carnera married Giuseppina Cavazzi (1913 - 1980).

In 1953 they became American citizens. They settled in Los Angeles, where Carnera opened a restaurant and a liquor store. They had two children, one of whom became a medical doctor.

Carnera died in 1967 in his native town of a combination of liver disease and complications from diabetes.


Carnera was touted in America as being 6' 7" tall and thus the tallest heavyweight in history (up until that time), but he was actually 6′ 5½″ tall (197 cm).[1] He fought at as much as 275 pounds (125 kg),.[2] Until December 19, 2005, when the 7' 1", 147 kg Nikolay Valuev won the WBA title, Jess Willard who stood 6' 6½" was the tallest champion in boxing history.

At a time when the average height in Italy was approximately 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) and in the United States 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m),[3] Carnera was considered a giant. Though an inch shorter than Willard, he was around 40 lbs heavier and was the heaviest champion before Valuev in boxing history.

He enjoyed a sizable reach advantage over most rivals, and when seen on fight footage, he seems like a towering giant compared to many heavyweights of his era, who were usually at least 60 pounds (27 kg) lighter and 7 inches (18 cm) shorter. One publicity release about him read in part: "For breakfast, Primo has a quart of orange juice, two quarts of milk, nineteen pieces of toast, fourteen eggs, a loaf of bread and half a pound of Virginia ham." [4] His size earned him the nickname "The Ambling Alp." Time Magazine called him "The Monster".

Boxing career[edit]

Primo Carnera silent newsreel 1933

September 12, 1928 was the date of Carnera's first professional fight, against Leon Sebilo, in Paris. Carnera won by knockout in round two. He won his first six bouts, then lost to Franz Diener by disqualification in round one at Leipzig. Then, he won seven more bouts in a row before meeting Young Stribling. He and Stribling exchanged disqualification wins, Carnera winning the first in four rounds, and Stribling winning the rematch in round seven. In Carnera's next bout he avenged his defeat to Diener with a knockout in round six.

In 1930, he moved to the United States, where he toured extensively, winning his first seventeen bouts there by knockout. George Godfrey broke the streak in Philadelphia by disqualification in the fifth round. Carnera lost a decision to Jim Maloney in Boston to finish 1930.

In 1932, Carnera faced the tallest heavyweight in history up to that point, Santa Camarão, a 6' 9" Portuguese fighter who was 312" taller. Carnera won the fight in a 6th-round decision

The year 1933 was one of the most important in Carnera's life. On February 10, he knocked out Ernie Schaaf in thirteen rounds in New York City. Schaaf died four days later. For his next fight, Carnera faced the world heavyweight champion Jack Sharkey. The championship date was June 29, at the Madison Square Garden Bowl at Long Island. Carnera became world champion by knocking out Sharkey in round six. The fight came under the eye of fans and sportswriters alike when the uppercut that KO'd Sharkey was believed[by whom?] not to have landed. Rumours[citation needed] of a mob fix were brought up causing some[who?] to maintain Sharkey threw the fight.

He retained the title against Paulino Uzcudun (who was attempting to become the first Basque world heavyweight champion) and Tommy Loughran, both by decision in 15 rounds, but in his next fight on June 14, 1934 against Max Baer, Carnera was knocked down 11 times and was defeated in 11 rounds.

After that, Carnera won his next four fights, three of them as part of a South American tour that took him to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, as well as two exhibitions in the southern American continent. But then, in his next fight of importance, on June 25, 1935, he was knocked out in six rounds by Joe Louis, who would become world heavyweight champion in 1937.

For the next two and a half years, he had a rather ordinary record, winning five and losing three of eight total fights. But in 1938, Carnera, a diabetic, had to have a kidney removed, which forced him into retirement by 1944.

Carnera's record was 89 wins and 14 losses. His 72 wins by knockout made him a member of the exclusive club of boxers that won 50 or more bouts by knockout.

Acting career[edit]

Carnera appeared in a short film in 1931 and had a role as himself in 1933 movie The Prizefighter and the Lady, which starred Max Baer and Myrna Loy.

During his tenure as worldchampion he played a fictional version of himself in the 1933 film The Prizefighter and the Lady starring Max Baer and Myrna Loy. Here he plays the heavyweight champion who barely holds onto his title with a draw decision after a furious fight with Baer. The film, ironically, was made just the year before Carnera fought Baer for real, in a bout that was as wild as the film version, but ended with a KO loss for Carnera.

Carnera had a non-speaking bit part in the 1949 movie Mighty Joe Young. He played himself in the tug-of-war scene with the giant gorilla. After being pulled by the ape into a pool of water, Carnera throws a couple of futile punches to Joe's chin.

He also played a bully boy wrestler in Carol Reed's film A Kid for Two Farthings (1955) based around London's Petticoat Lane Market where he has a match against a local bodybuilder who is getting married to Diana Dors.

Moreover Primo appeared in at least 10 Italian films between 1939 and 1943,[5] as well as several in the 1950s, like Prince Valiant,[6] in the role of Sligon. His last screen role was as the giant Antaeus alongside Steve Reeves in Hercules Unchained (USA Title, filmed in Italy, 1959, original title Ercole e la regina di Lidia).[5]

Wrestling career[edit]

In 1945 he returned temporarily to boxing and won two fights. But the next year, after three losses against Luigi Musina his talent for wrestling was discovered. In 1946, he became a professional wrestler and was immediately a huge success at the box office. For several years, he was one of the top draws in wrestling. Carnera continued to be an attraction into the 1960s. Max Baer attended at least one of Carnera's wrestling matches.[7]

Carnera wrestled from 1946 to 1962. He won his debut on August 22, 1946, when he defeated Tommy O'Toole in California. On October 23, 1946, Carnera won his 41st consecutive wrestling match by defeating Jules Strongbow. On November 19, 1946, Carnera beat Harry Kruskamp to remain undefeated at 65-0-0.

Primo Carnera won 120 straight wrestling matches (119-0-1) before suffering his first defeat to Yvon Robert in Montreal, Canada, on August 20, 1947. Carnera's greatest victory took place on December 7, 1947 when he defeated former world heavyweight champion Ed "Strangler" Lewis.

In May 1948, Carnera took a 143-1-1 record against world heavyweight champion Lou Thesz. Thesz defeated Carnera in a world title defense.

In Ring Magazine, August 1962, page 38, Carnera "flattened" Ox Anderson in a heavyweight wrestling match in Los Angeles, California.

Carnera's wrestling career came to an end in October 1962.[8] On October 17, he lost to Jess Ortega in Los Angeles, and on October 25 Carnera lost to The Destroyer. Consequently Carnera retired from professional sports.


According to boxing historian Herbert Goldman, Carnera was "very much mob controlled."[9] Carnera met his first serious heavyweight contender, Young Stribling, in 1929, and won when Stribling fouled him. In a rematch, he fouled Stribling. His 1930 fight against California club fighter Bombo Chevalier in Emeryville was considered fixed, and Carnera was banned from fighting in California.[10] His 1930 match against George Godfrey was controversial, as Godfrey was disqualified in the sixth round when he was clearly getting the better of Carnera.[11]

Time Magazine, in an October 5, 1931 cover story on Carnera before he won the heavyweight title, commented on his odd career.

"Since his arrival in the U. S., backed by a group of prosperous but shady entrepreneurs, Carnera's career has been less glorious than fantastic. His first opponents—Big Boy Peterson, Elzear Rioux, Cowboy Owens—were known to be incompetent but their feeble opposition to Carnera suggested that they had been bribed to lose. Suspicion concerning the Monster's abilities became almost universal when another adversary, Bombo Chevalier, stated that one of his own seconds had threatened to kill him unless he lost to Carnera. Against the huge, lazy, amiable Negro George Godfrey (249 lb.), he won on a foul. But only one of 33 U. S. opponents has defeated Monster Carnera—fat, slovenly Jimmy Maloney, whom Sharkey beat five years ago. In a return fight, at Miami last March, Carnera managed to outpoint Maloney."

Depictions in popular culture[edit]

In film[edit]

Requiem for a Heavyweight, Rod Serling's 1956 Emmy Award-winning teleplay for Playhouse 90 directed by Ralph Nelson (who also won an Emmy), focused on down-and-out former heavyweight boxer Harlan "Mountain" McClintock. The travails of McClintock, who was played by Jack Palance (Sean Connery played the part on British television and Anthony Quinn essayed the role in the 1962 film), was thought by many boxing fans to resemble Carnera's life.

In his 1933 collection of short stories entitled "Mulliner Nights," P.G. Wodehouse wrote "He was built on large lines, and seemed to fill the room to overflowing. In physique he was not unlike what Primo Carnera would have been if Carnera hadn't stunted his growth by smoking cigarettes when a boy." [12]

In 1947, fighting aficionado Budd Schulberg wrote his novel, The Harder They Fall, a story about a boxer whose fights are fixed. In 1956 a movie with the same name, and based on the novel, was released by Columbia Pictures. In response, Carnera unsuccessfully sued the movie company.

Primo features in the 2005 film Cinderella Man, a film about the life of fellow boxer James J. Braddock.

In 2008 the actor Andrea Iaia played Carnera in the Italian biographical film Carnera - The Walking Mountain, directed by Renzo Martinelli.

In 2013, Emporio Elaborazioni Meccaniche named a motorbike, the 1983 BMW R80RT Carnera, in honor of Primo.[13]

In Music[edit]

The Yeasayer song, "Ambling Alp," from their 2010 album Odd Blood references Carnera by his nickname in the title and second verse. Both Carnera and German boxer Max Schmeling are referenced for their bouts with American Joe Louis.

Professional boxing record[edit]

Loss88–14Italy Musina, LuigiLuigi MusinaUD8May 12, 1946Gorizia, Italy
Loss88–13Italy Musina, LuigiLuigi MusinaPTS8March 19, 1946Trieste, Italy
Loss88–12Italy Musina, LuigiLuigi MusinaTKO7November 21, 1945Milan, Italy
Win88–11 Sam GardnerKO1September 25, 1945Trieste, Italy
Win87–11 Michel BlevensKO3July 22, 1945Udine, Italy
Win86–11Kingdom of Yugoslavia Joseph ZupanKO2 (10)December 4, 1937Zirkus, Budapest, Hungary
Loss85–11Argentina Albert di MeglioPTS10November 18, 1937Salle Wagram, Paris, France
Loss85–10United States Leroy HaynesTKO3 (10)May 27, 1936Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, New York, USA
Loss85–9United States Leroy HaynesTKO3 (10)March 16, 1936Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Win85–8Spain Isidoro GastanagaTKO5 (10)March 6, 1936Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, USA
Win84–8United States Big Boy BrackeyTKO4 (10)1:06December 9, 1935Broadway Auditorium, Buffalo, New York, USA
Win83–8United States Ford SmithUD10November 25, 1935Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Win82–8Germany Walter NeuselTKO4 (15)November 1, 1935Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, USA
Loss81–8United States Louis, JoeJoe LouisTKO6 (15)2:32June 25, 1935Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, New York, USA
Win81–7Estonia Erwin KlausnerKO6 (12)January 22, 1935Estádio Manuel Schwartz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Win80–7United States Harris, SealSeal HarrisKO7 (10)January 13, 1935Estádio da Floresta, São Paulo, Brazil
Win79–7Argentina Victorio CampoloPTS12December 1, 1934Club Atlético Independiente, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Loss78–7United States Max BaerTKO11 (15)2:16June 14, 1934Madison Square Garden Bowl, Long Island City, New York, USALost NBA and NYSAC World Heavyweight titles.
Win78–6United States Loughran, TommyTommy LoughranUD15March 1, 1934Madison Square Garden Stadium, Miami, Florida, USARetained NBA and NYSAC World Heavyweight titles.
Win77–6Spain Uzcudun, PaulinoPaulino UzcudunUD15October 22, 1933Piazza di Siena, Rome, ItalyWon IBU Heavyweight title.
Win76–6United States Sharkey, JackJack SharkeyKO6 (15)2:27June 29, 1933 Madison Square Garden Bowl, Long Island City, New York, USA Won NBA and NYSAC World Heavyweight titles.
Win75–6United States Schaaf, ErnieErnie SchaafKO13 (15)February 10, 1933Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, USA
Win74–6United States Young SpenceKO1 (10)December 30, 1932Fair Park Arena, Dallas, Texas, USA
Win73–6United States James MerriottKO1 (10)December 20, 1932City Auditorium, Galveston, Texas, USA
Win72–6United States Joe RiceKO2 (10)December 19, 1932Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Win71–6United States KO ChristnerKO4 (10)December 15, 1932City Auditorium, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Win70–6United States Big Boy PetersonTKO2 (10)December 13, 1932Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Win69–6United States Levinsky, KingKing LevinskyPTS10December 9, 1932Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Win68–6United States John SchwakeKO7 (10)2:16December 2, 1932Coliseum, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Win67–6Portugal Jose SantaTKO6 (10)November 18, 1932Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, USA
Win66–6United States Les KennedyKO3 (10)November 4, 1932Arena, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Win65–6United States Jack TaylorKO2 (10)October 17, 1932Jefferson County Armory, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Win64–6United States Gene StantonKO6 (10)October 13, 1932114th Infantry Armory, Camden, New Jersey, USA
Win63–6United States Ted SandwinaKO4 (10)October 7, 1932Benjamin Field Arena, Tampa, Florida, USA
Win62–6United States Art LaskyNWS10September 1, 1932Auditorium, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Win61–6Canada Jack GagnonKO1 (10)1:35August 19, 1932Tiverton, Rhode Island, USA
Loss60–6United States Poreda, StanleyStanley PoredaPTS10August 16, 1932Dreamland Park, Newark, New Jersey, USA
Win60–5Weimar Republic Hans BirkiePTS10August 2, 1932Queensboro Stadium, Long Island City, New York, USA
Win59–5United States Jerry PavelecTKO5 (10)0:51July 28, 1932Playground Arena, West New York, New Jersey, USA
Win58–5United States Jack GrossTKO7 (10)2:50July 20, 1932Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, New York, USA
Loss57–5Canada Larry GainsPTS10May 30, 1932White City Stadium, London, England, UK
Win57–4Weimar Republic Hans SchoenrathTKO3 (10)May 15, 1932San Siro, Milan, Italy
Win56–4France Maurice GriselleTKO10 (10)April 29, 1932Palais des Sports, Paris, France
Win55–4South Africa Don McCorkindalePTS10April 7, 1932Royal Albert Hall, London, England, UK
Win54–4Australia George CookKO4 (10)March 23, 1932Royal Albert Hall, London, England, UK
Win53–4Belgium Pierre CharlesPTS10February 29, 1932Palais des Sports, Paris, France
Win52–4Weimar Republic Ernst GühringTKO5 (10)February 5, 1932Sportpalast, Berlin, Germany
Win51–4France Moise BouquillonTKO2 (10)January 25, 1932Palais des Sports, Paris, France
Win50–4Argentina Victorio CampoloKO2 (15)1:27November 27, 1931Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, USA
Win49–4United States Levinsky, KingKing LevinskyPTS10November 19, 1931Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Loss48–4United States Sharkey, JackJack SharkeyUD15October 12, 1931Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, New York, USAThis match was billed as being for the American Heavyweight title.
Win48–3Italy Armando de CarolisKO2 (10)1:08August 6, 1931Shellpot Park, Brandywine Hundred, Delaware, USA
Win47–3Italy Roberto RobertiTKO3 (10)2:25August 4, 1931Dreamland Park, Newark, New Jersey, USA
Win46–3Denmark Knute HansenKO1 (10)2:10July 24, 1931Edgerton Park Arena, Rochester, New York, USA
Win45–3United States Bud GormanKO2 (10)2:35June 30, 1931Mutual Street Arena, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Win44–3Italy Umberto TorrianiKO2 (10)0:43June 26, 1931Broadway Auditorium, Buffalo, New York, USA
Win43–3United States Pat RedmondKO1 (10)2:24June 15, 1931Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, New York, USA
Win42–3United States Jim MaloneyPTS10March 5, 1931Madison Square Garden Stadium, Miami, Florida, USA
Win41–3United Kingdom Reggie MeenTKO2 (6)December 18, 1930Royal Albert Hall, London, England, UK
Win40–3Spain Uzcudun, PaulinoPaulino UzcudunSD10November 30, 1930Estadio Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain
Loss39–3United States Jim MaloneyPTS10October 7, 1930Boston Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Win39–2United States Jack GrossKO4 (10)September 17, 1930Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Win38–2United States Pat McCarthyKO2 (10)1:16September 8, 1930Velodrome, Newark, New Jersey, USA
Win37–2Italy Riccardo BertazzoloTKO3 (15)August 30, 1930Auditorium, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA
Win36–2Australia George CookKO2 (10)July 29, 1930Taylor Bowl, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Win35–2United States Bearcat WrightKO4 (10)July 17, 1930Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Win34–2United States George GodfreyDQ5 (10)1:13June 23, 1930Shibe Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Win33–2United States KO ChristnerKO4 (10)1:20June 5, 1930Fairgrounds Coliseum, Detroit, Michigan, USA
Win32–2United States Sam BakerKO1 (10)April 22, 1930Ice Coliseum, Portland, Oregon, USA
Win31–2United States Leon ChevalierTKO6 (10)April 14, 1930Oaks Park, Emeryville, California, USA
Win30–2United States Neal ClisbyKO2 (10)0:40April 8, 1930Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, USA
Win29–2United States Jack McAuliffe IIKO1 (10)2:18March 28, 1930Stockyards Stadium, Denver, Colorado, USA
Win28–2United States George TraftonKO1 (10)0:54March 26, 1930Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Win27–2United States Frank ZavetaKO1 (10)1:51March 20, 1930Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Win26–2United States Chuck WigginsKO2 (10)March 17, 1930Arena, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Win25–2United States Sully MontgomeryKO2 (10)1:15March 11, 1930Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Win24–2United States Roy Ace ClarkKO6 (10)2:38March 3, 1930Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Win23–2United States Farmer LodgeKO2 (10)1:22February 24, 1930Heinemann Park, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Win22–2Sweden Johnny EricksonKO2 (10)1:45February 17, 1930Coliseum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA
Win21–2United States Jim SigmanKO1 (8)1:35February 14, 1930Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Win20–2United States Buster MartinKO2 (10)0:56February 11, 1930Arena, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Win19–2United States Billy OwensKO2 (10)2:22February 6, 1930Armory, Newark, New Jersey, USA
Win18–2Canada Elzear RiouxKO1 (10)0:47January 31, 1930Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Win17–2United States Big Boy PetersonKO1 (10)1:10January 24, 1930Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, USA
Win16–2Weimar Republic Franz DienerTKO6 (15)December 17, 1929Royal Albert Hall, London, England, UK
Loss15–2United States Stribling, YoungYoung StriblingDQ7 (10)December 7, 1929Vélodrome d'hiver, Paris, France
Win15–1United States Stribling, YoungYoung StriblingDQ4 (15)November 18, 1929Royal Albert Hall, London, England, UK
Win14–1United Kingdom Jack StanleyTKO1 (8)1:45October 17, 1929Royal Albert Hall, London, England, UK
Win13–1Weimar Republic Hermann JaspersKO3 (10)September 18, 1929Salle Wagram, Paris, France
Win12–1Soviet Union Feodor NikolaeffKO1August 30, 1929Dieppe, Seine-Maritime, France
Win11–1France Joe ThomasTKO4August 25, 1929Arènes du Prado, Marseille, France
Win10–1Spain José LetéUD10August 14, 1929Atocha, San Sebastián, Spain
Win9–1Belgium Jack HumbeeckTKO6 (10)June 26, 1929Salle Wagram, Paris, France
Win8–1France Marcel NillesTKO3 (10)May 30, 1929Cirque de Paris, Paris, France
Win7–1France Moise BouquillonPTS10May 22, 1929Salle Wagram, Paris, France
Loss6–1Weimar Republic Franz DienerDQ1 (10)April 28, 1929Leipzig, Germany
Win6–0Weimar Republic Ernst RoesemannTKO5 (8)January 18, 1929Sportpalast, Berlin, Germany
Win5–0France Constant BarrickKO3December 1, 1928Vélodrome d'hiver, Paris, France
Win4–0Argentina Epifanio IslasUD10November 25, 1928Palazzo Dello Sport, Milan, Italy
Win3–0Italy Salvatore RuggirelloTKO4 (10)October 30, 1928Cirque de Paris, Paris, France
Win2–0France Joe ThomasKO3September 25, 1928Cirque de Paris, Paris, France
Win1–0France Leon SebiloTKO2September 12, 1928Salle Wagram, Paris, FranceCarnera's professional debut.

Championships and accomplishments[edit]


Professional wrestling[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Primo Carnera - Boxrec Boxing Encyclopaedia". Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  2. ^ better weight
  3. ^ Steckel, Richard H. "A History of the Standard of Living in the United States". Retrieved  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. ^ Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in ... - Jeremy Schaap - Google Boeken. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Strange Case of Carnera, By Jack Sher, Sport, February 1948
  8. ^ "Primo Carnera". Retrieved 2015-10-03. 
  9. ^ Bodner, Alan (1997). When Boxing Was a Jewish Sport. Praeger Publishers. p. 133. ISBN 978-0275953539. 
  10. ^ Johnston, Chuck. "Famous 'fixes' in boxing history....". BoxRec. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 
  11. ^ "Primo Carnera vs. George Godfrey". BoxingRec. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 
  12. ^ Sherrin, Ned (Ed.), The Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations, Oxford University Press, 2012.
  13. ^

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Jack Sharkey
World Heavyweight Champion
June 29, 1933 – June 14, 1934
Succeeded by
Max Baer