Marcel Cerdan

Marcellin "Marcel" Cerdan (French pronunciation: ​[maʁsɛl sɛʁdɑ̃]; 22 July 1916 – 28 October 1949[1]) was a French professional boxer and world middleweight champion who was considered by many boxing experts and fans to be France's greatest boxer, and beyond to be one of the best to have learned his craft in Africa. His life was marked by his sporting achievements, social lifestyle and ultimately, tragedy, being killed in an airplane crash.

Marcel Cerdan
Marcel Cerdan.jpg
Real nameMarcellin Cerdan
Nickname(s)Le bombardier marocain (The Moroccan Bomber)
Casablanca Clouter
Born22 July 1916
Sidi Bel Abbès, French Algeria (now Algeria)
Died28 October 1949(1949-10-28) (aged 33)
São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal
Boxing record
Total fights117
Wins by KO66
No contests0

Early lifeEdit

Marcellin Cerdan was born at 9:00pm on 22 July 1916 in the "Little Paris" neighbourhood of Sidi Bel Abbès in Algeria. He was the fourth son of Antonio Cerdán (1880-1946), a day labourer, and Asunción Cascales (1886-1942), pied-noirs of Spanish origin.[2]

Boxing careerEdit

Marcel Cerdan on a 1969 UAE stamp

He began boxing professionally on 4 November 1934 in Meknes, Morocco, beating Marcel Bucchianeri by a decision in six rounds. Cerdan then ran a streak of 47 wins in a row between that first bout and 4 January 1939, when he lost for the first time, to Harry Craster by a disqualification in five rounds in London. Cerdan campaigned heavily in the French territories of Algeria and Morocco during that part of his career, as well as in metropolitan France. In 1938, he beat Omar Kouidri in a 12-round decision at Casablanca to claim the French welterweight title.

After his first loss, Cerdan recorded five consecutive wins, which led him to challenge Saviello Turiello for Europe's welterweight title in Milan, Italy. He won the European title by a decision in 15 rounds to continue his ascent towards the championship (back then, it was considered essential to own at least a Continental title belt to earn a world title shot; nowadays, it is not considered as important).

Cerdan's winning streak eventually reached 23 bouts before he suffered a defeat to Victor Buttin by disqualification for a second time, in eight rounds in Algiers in 1942. They would later re-match in 1945, and Cerdan would avenge the defeat by knocking Buttin out in the third round.

For his next bout after the first fight with Buttin though, Cerdan put his title on the line against José Ferrer (namesake of the Hollywood star). He knocked out Ferrer in one round,[3] and won four more bouts in a row before facing another boxer with a namesake: James Toney, who shared that name with another boxer who would become world Middleweight champion five decades later. Cerdan knocked out Toney in two rounds to keep this new winning streak alive. The new streak would reach 37 wins. In between, he joined the American allies in World War II during 1944, and he won the Inter-Allied Championship.

He also went up in weight to the Middleweight division, and won the French title by beating Assane Douf by a knockout in three rounds. He later claimed the vacant European title by beating Léon Foquet by a knockout in one round. He retained that title a couple of times before losing it to rugged Belgian Cyrille Delannoit by a decision in 15 at Brussels, Belgium. Soon, he went back to Belgium and re-took the title by beating Delannoit, also by decision.

Finally, after the rematch with Delannoit, Cerdan was given a world title opportunity and he travelled to the United States, where he beat World Middleweight champion Tony Zale.[4] Cerdan became a world champion by knocking Zale out in the 12th round in Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, New Jersey on 21 September 1948.

Death and fameEdit

During his short period as a world champion, Cerdan became a popular figure of the Paris scene. Although married with three children, he had an affair with the famous singer Édith Piaf. The affair lasted from summer 1948 until his death in autumn 1949. They were very devoted to each other and Piaf dedicated one of her most famous songs, Hymne à l'amour, to Cerdan.

For his first defense Cerdan returned to the United States, where he fought Jake LaMotta in Detroit. Cerdan was knocked down in round one, his shoulder was dislocated, and he had to give up after the tenth round.[5] It would be the last fight of Cerdan's life. A contract was signed for a rematch and Cerdan went to training camp for it, but before camp began he boarded an Air France flight to visit Piaf in New York, where she was singing. The Lockheed L-749 Constellation crashed into Monte Redondo (São Miguel Island, Azores), killing all 11 crew members and 37 passengers on board, including Cerdan and the famous French violinist Ginette Neveu, while approaching the intermediate stop airport at Santa Maria.[6][7] Days later, LaMotta lauded Cerdan as a great sportsman.[8] Cerdan was interred in the Cimetière du Sud, Perpignan, Pyrénées- Orientales, France.


Cerdan's record was 113 wins and 4 losses, with 66 wins by knockout.[9]

He is a member, along with LaMotta and Zale, of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

In 1983, Cerdan and Piaf had their lives turned into a big screen biography by Claude Lelouch. The film, Édith et Marcel, starred Marcel Cerdan, Jr. in the role of his father and Évelyne Bouix as Piaf. He is portrayed by actor Jean-Pierre Martins in the 2007 Piaf biopic La Môme (entitled La Vie en Rose in English-speaking countries).

In 1991, a sports arena, the Palais des sports Marcel-Cerdan, was named in his honor.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Birth and death certificate". Archived from the original on 15 October 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  2. ^ Systems, eZ. "Les origines familiales de Marcel Cerdan". La revue française de Généalogie (in French). Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  3. ^ Marcel Cerdan vs José Ferrer in 1942 on YouTube
  4. ^ "The Lineal Middleweight Champions". The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia.
  5. ^ Marcel Cerdan vs Jake LaMotta in 1949 on YouTube
  6. ^ Lockheed L-749-79-46 Constellation F-BAZN's accident description and causes (Flight Safety Foundation). (28 October 1949). Retrieved on 6 August 2014.
  7. ^ Marcel Cerdan's tragic disappearance (1949) Archived 23 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine – Marcel Cerdan Heritage
  8. ^ LaMotta lauds Cerdan for great sportsmanship. (28 October 1949). Retrieved on 6 August 2014.
  9. ^ Marcel Cerdan official website: Biography – scorecard (French: biographie – son palmarès) Archived 2 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine

External linksEdit

Sporting positions
Regional boxing titles
Title last held by
Jupp Besselmann
European Middleweight Champion
February 2, 1947 – May 23, 1948
Succeeded by
Cyrille Dellanoit
Preceded by
Cyrille Dellanoit
European Middleweight Champion
July 10 – September 21, 1948
Won world title
Title next held by
Cyrille Dellanoit
World boxing titles
Preceded by
Tony Zale
World Middleweight Champion
21 September 1948 – 16 June 1949
Succeeded by
Jake LaMotta
Middleweight status
Preceded by
Tiger Flowers
Latest born world champion to die
October 29, 1949 – December 14, 1971
Succeeded by
Randolph Turpin