World Heavyweight Champion: 1933-1934
An overactive pituitary gland was responsible for turning Primo Camera into a 6ft 6in, 2801b man-mountain. Despite his intimidating physical presence, Camera was a simple soul, a true gentle giant. At 13 he left his alpine village to join a travelling circus. He might have stayed there, taking on all-comers in wrestling and boxing bouts had it not been for Leon See, a Frenchman who realised that Camera’s physical prowess could be deployed more profitably on the bigger stage.
See had his work cut out to turn Camera into a fighting machine. He couldn’t punch anywhere near his weight; he couldn’t take a punch, either. But with his sheer bulk and strength Camera had natural assets which would make him a dangerous customer when he learned the tricks of the boxing trade.
Exploited by mobsters
Camera was indeed tutored in the noble art, although that hardly mattered in the early days. See wasn’t about to risk any opponent making contact with his man’s glass jaw, and duly paid them off to ensure the desired outcome. After ‘conquering’ Europe in this manner in the late 1920s, the pair headed off to the United States. The sham continued, with some of the era’s infamous mobsters getting in on the act. A veritable production-line of fighters was set up for Camera. He disposed of most of them in double-quick time, earning himself a big reputation, and the dubious figures behind him a healthy amount in prize money. Camera was almost certainly unaware of the underhand dealings which were propelling him to the forefront of the heavyweight boxing scene.
On 29 June 1933, Camera faced Jack Sharkey at Long Island, in the latter’s first defence of his crown. The champion scored heavily in the opening five rounds, beating Camera’s defences on numerous occasions with head and body shots.
In the sixth round, however, Camera caught Sharkey with a terrific right uppercut. Sharkey was sent reeling to the canvas and was counted out. There was suspicion as to whether this was yet another stage-managed affair. Sharkey ought to have been too cute to lose to the likes of Camera. On the other hand, the blow which ended the contest is widely regarded as the best the Ambling Alp ever landed.
Camera won two unedifying contests in his year-long tenure as heavyweight champion. His first opponent was the giant Basque Paulino Uzcudun. What ought to have been a clash of the titans was in fact a tedious affair, won on points by Camera. His second defence matched him against former light-heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran. Despite a weight advantage of more than six stones, Camera couldn’t put Loughran away. Instead, he had to settle for yet another uninspiring points decision.
Three months later, on 14 June 1934, Camera came up against a man who was more than a match for him, and someone from whom his gangster managers couldn’t protect him. That man was Max Baer. It was a fight which finally put Camera’s nominally impressive record into true context.
Ambling Alp toppled
The Italian had risen to the top in an era which was indifferent as far as heavyweights were concerned, and then only on the back of some blatantly corrupt contests. None of which was the fault of Camera, who was a victim of the most egregious exploitation. But on that June day in 1934, the Ambling Alp was felled and humbled in dramatic style. He would also soon be discarded by the unsavoury characters who now saw him as a liability instead of a cash cow. Only then would Italy’s sole heavyweight champion begin to realise the extent to which he had been manipulated and exploited, and, worse still, that his place in boxing history was forever tainted.
N ickname: ‘The Ambling Alp’
Sequals, Italy. October 26,1906
Camera down eleven times as he loses title
Opposite top: Baer sends Camera crashing to the canvas, one of eleven knockdowns on his way to winning the world crown. The referee delighted the crowd but offended good taste by allowing the contest to go as far as the eleventh round.
Opposite bottom: Baer loses his balance after putting Camera down in the second round, and both men end up on the canvas.
June 29,1967 6’6’
World Heavyweight Champion: 1933-34
Won88(69KOs) Lost 14