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Primo Carnera (1906-1967)

Real NamePrimo Carnera

Lifespan - 10/26/1906 - 6/29/1967

6’6” 270 lbs. - Sequals, Italy

Athletic Background - Boxing [Professional - World Heavyweight Champion] 

Teacher(s) - n/a

Aliases - none

Peak Years - 1940s

Place in HistoryThe ties between boxing and pro-wrestling run deep.  Most of the top boxers of twentieth century had some involvement in pro-wrestling in various, but none more than Primo Carnera.  A towering circus strongman who was taken in by a French boxing promoter who broke him into boxing.  Standing around 6-foot-6 and having a 85” reach, Carnera’s physical gifts overshadowed his inexperience.  He toured around Europe building up his record and was brought to America, where he fell under the management of New York mobsters.  He met a mixture of legitimate contenders and overmatched fighters.  In 1933, Primo Carnera defeated contender Ernie Schaaf, who died from injuries.  Stories about that fight have floated around for years, but Carnera went up against champion Jack Sharkey and defeated him.  Again, people speculate about Sharkey taking a dive or if “Da Preem” just caught him with a lucky shot.  He held the championship for a year before finally being matched with Max Baer who beat him decisively.  Carnera had one more big fight, a loss to Joe Louis, but he was still a well-known sports celebrity who was physically impressive.  While back home in Northern Italy, he found himself in the middle of conflicts between Nazis, Fascists and Antifascists.  After the war, he returned to the States and pursued a second career in pro-wrestling.  The worked nature of the sport combined with his notoriety allowed him to be a success.  While Primo squashed smaller competitors to the delight of fans, he also battled the likes of Strangler Lewis, Yvon Robert and Lou Thesz.  Primo Carnera wrestled off and on for a decade and all over the United States.  He also had parts in several movies.  In an era where the heavyweight boxing champion was one of the biggest sports celebrities in the world, Primo Carnera was able to achieve that fame and maintain it to some extent for years.  Many boxers dabbled in pro-wrestling, but none more so than Carnera.