100 years in the making, Hudson County officials unveiled the new James J. Braddock statue at the North Hudson park that bears his name earlier today.
“What better timing is this to erect the statue of the man that bears the name when you walk into this park on it’s 100th anniversary here year: 100 years ago this park was here,” exclaimed Board of Chosen Freeholders Chair Anthony Vainieri (D-8), who was repeatedly credited with spearheading the project.
Braddock, known as the “Bulldog of Bergen” before being a heavyweight contender in the ring, the North Bergen native became affectionately known as “The Cinderella Man” after defeating the heavily favored Max Bear for the championship belt on June 13th, 1935.
His career, culminating in his monumental upset at Madison Square Garden, were depicted in 2005s “Cinderella Man,” where he was played by Academy Award winner Russell Crowe.
Vainieri, who was first elected freeholder in 2014, added that getting a statue of Braddock built has been one of his pet projects since taking office.
“In history, heavyweight champions are some of the most popular and well-known people, and even unpopular people, in the entire world,” began County Executive Tom DeGise.
“And that goes down through history: whether it was Sullivan and Corbett, whether it was Jack Johnson and Jess Williard, or whether it was Dempsey and Tunney, Joe Lewis, Joe Walcott, Mike Tyson, all of the great names – and of course Muhammad Ali – that have gone down in history.”
Some of boxing’s big names of past and present, ranging from retired North Bergen middleweight Danny McDermott to “The Real Rocky” Chuck Wepner, made sure they were their for the unveiling.
“It was my grandfather’s actions and the humble way he led his life that are his legacy. James J. Braddock was a wiry Irishman who believed in himself when almost no one else did,” stated Tim Braddock, one of dozens of family members in attendance.
“He was an underdog, all the odds against him, and people telling him: you can’t win the heavyweight championship of the world against Max Baer. He choose to respond by working much, much harder.”
James J. Braddock grew up at 7712 Park Ave. and died at his North Bergen home on November 29th, 1974 at 69 years old.
The nearly hour-long ceremony streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: