Jean-Paul Belmondo died Monday, September 6 at the age of 88. A star of French cinema who will no longer shine behind the screen, but who will be remembered as his work was so sparkling. In addition to being an outstanding actor, the man nicknamed Bébel had a second passion: sport. Boxer, goalkeeper, PSG fan… A look back at the very sporting aspects of the life of the “Magnifique”.
If he had a very great career in the world of cinema, the one who could go from Marginal to Guignolo in a snap of his fingers, has never forgotten the other passion of his life. Jean-Paul Belmondo was drawn to sport from an early age. An undisciplined student, the young Jean-Paul quickly turned to boxing. At ten he enrolled at the Alsatian School in Paris, but it was on September 12, 1948 that he knew the real trigger.
Then sixteen years old, Belmondo attends, on the radio, the incredible victory of the French boxer Marcel Cerdan over the American Tony Zale which allows him to become world champion of the middleweight. A few days later, Belmondo enrolled in the Avia Club, a famous boxing hall at Porte Saint-Martin and began a small career as an amateur. He will have nine fights to his credit with seven wins, one draw and one defeat.
“The bullies are not always what you think! Me, I like boxing because it made me dream as a teenager. Then, I pushed the doors of the Avia Club to never leave this sport again, to make people dream, like Cerdan! Except that I did not have his talent. But I did not waste my time, I built myself. This sport has enchanted my life“, confided Jean-Paul Belmondo to the Belgian version of Paris Match, in January 2018.
From boxing to cinema
If he had to put aside his practice of boxing to devote himself to the cinema, Jean-Paul Belmondo did not draw a line on this sport, on the contrary. The actor contributed to the notoriety of the noble art in many films. He himself played the role of a boxer in the film The elder of Ferchaux (1963), or a coach in The Ace of Aces (1982). For his contributions, the actor even received a Glove of Honor at the Golden Boxing Gloves ceremony on October 19, 2019.
“I always gave nods to boxing in my films because, in my eyes, boxers inspire respect by their courage”, he had declared following the ceremony. More than a sport, boxing instilled a real philosophy of life in the actor. In 2001, while suffering from a stroke, Belmondo clung to his boxing mentality to get by.
“Sport saved me, more in relation to the state of mind it provides than in relation to the physical state I was in.”Jean-Paul Belmondo
“Sport requires resistance. It’s like in boxing: I didn’t like receiving blows, but when I did, you had to close it to continue fighting. It was the same with that. moment “, had he admitted in an interview with Parisian in April 2018.
From the round ball to the little yellow ball
Boxing fan but not that, Jean-Paul Belmondo was a real sports addict. A fervent supporter of PSG, he did not hide it. The actor even participated financially in the creation of the club in the 1970s. Younger he also rubbed the lawns when he was appointed goalkeeper of his school at ten years. A position that he will continue to love thereafter.
“Often on Sundays I play football, all that is more amateur […] I play goalkeeper because I like to dive. With the dives we make a bit of cinema “, he explained in a interview for the show Behind the scenes of the feat, in 1964.
He was also the goalkeeper of the Polymusclés, a team bringing together personalities from the world of entertainment and cinema for the pleasure of kicking the ball. But his pleasure was rather to catch it. “Jean Paul is the leaping fool, he was doing good all over the place and was always on the ball”, explained his friend Michel Godest in an interview with France 2.
In addition to being a fan of the round ball, Bébel also liked the little yellow ball. He was even one of the first personalities to take an interest in Roland-Garros in the 1970s. He was present every year in the stands, and not just for the final poster or to make a simple public appearance.
Belmondo liked to follow the tournament from start to finish as he explained to the channel at the time, TF1, in June 1980: “I think it’s good to see the games from the start, because if you take them in the semi-finals or the final it’s not as good. It’s good to have followed the course of all the fighters. “
The stunt athlete
If he liked to risk his life by performing incredible stunts for his films, the actor practiced sports regularly to stay in shape. This passion for stunts represented the perfect cohesion between the professional sportsman that Bébel would have liked to be and the actor he had become.
Hitting a punching bag or fighting with his longtime friend Maurice Auzel, who defined him as someone from “very skilful who hit very hard” , allowed him to keep a good physical condition to be at his best on the sets in order to perform stunts that will be forever remembered.
He also enjoyed cycling with his friends and followed the Tour de France closely. As often, he liked to quote great elders (Coppi, Bobet, Merckx, Hinault) as his models. In summary Jean-Paul Belmondo was a multi-sport man. He said it himself in an interview with The team in February 2016: “There are sports that I have never played, but there are none that I don’t like.”
If the world of cinema is in mourning after losing one of its legends, the world of sport is also in mourning after losing one of its biggest fans.