It's hard to see how this fight never ended up happening. Jake LaMotta and Rocky Graziano were two of the top middleweights, both briefly world champions, during the division's true golden age.
The two Italian-Americans shared similar backgrounds, having grown up in the New York City ghettos. LaMotta was a native of the Bronx, and Graziano represented Manhattan's Lower East Side. One story I've often read or heard repeated among boxing fans was that the two never fought, due to their friendship.
That strikes me as unlikely. I don't doubt they were pals, but both gave every appearance of being the type of guy who is perfectly willing to throw down with a chum.
A lot of shady stuff went on behind the scenes in boxing in the 1940s and '50s, so there's no way to know for sure why such an obvious fight didn't get made.
But it's also possible a date that made sense for both guys never lined up. Like I've already pointed out, this was an era of terrific middleweights, and both men stayed busy.
Graziano traded the world title with fellow Hall of Famer Tony Zale. From everything I've read about it and the little bit of film I've been able to see, they conducted the post-World War II version of Hagler-Hearns, but in three installments.
LaMotta had his legendary six-fight rivalry with pound-for-pound king Sugar Ray Robinson. LaMotta won the title off from Marcel Cerdan, the greatest French boxer who ever lived.
Graziano and LaMotta were larger-than-life ring warriors, from an era when boxing was a major sport. Both these guys had critically acclaimed biopics done about them, starring Oscar-winning actors.
It's hard not to think wistfully about how epic it would have been, had they ever fought.
From an historical perspective, LaMotta would seem the much better technical boxer. "The Bronx Bull" is the only man to ever beat Sugar Ray Robinson in his prime, and he gave Robinson a lot of trouble in most of the five other fights, which Robinson won.
LaMotta also had the better chin—or at least the better defense to protect his chin. Graziano would have attacked with abandon, but I find it very unlikely he would have been able to knock LaMotta out.
At the same time, LaMotta was much more of a grinder than a power puncher. I don't think he would have stopped Graziano either.
I think LaMotta would have won a unanimous decision. But it might have ranked among the greatest fights of all time.