Jean-Paul Belmondo: “Sport saved me”

Paris VIe, March 19, 2018. Jean-Paul Belmondo, movie star, has done a lot of sports, including boxing or football as goalkeeper. LP / Olivier Corsan

Jean-Paul Belmondo is 85 on Monday. The legend of French cinema has given the Parisian an exceptional interview to talk about the other passion that has accompanied his life: the sport.

Jean-Paul Belmondo shot a film called “The Magnificent”. Forty-five years later, we understand why. The one who was “The Man of Rio”, “The Animal”, “The Guignolo” and to summarize all “The Ace of Aces” is really “Beautiful” . He is even more so when a broad smile illuminates his face as an old captain who has gone through an incredibly rich life, even though the vascular accident that diminished him in 2001 made his speech difficult.

At the table of a large Parisian brewery, around a slice of Tart Tatin, Belmondo, accompanied by Michel Godest, his lawyer and old accomplice for more than 30 years, agreed to talk at length about his passion for sport. He remembered the boxing matches of his youth, his football matches or his days at Roland Garros. “Bebel”, which celebrates its 85 spring this Monday, makes us share a rare, precious, unique moment. As his look.

What is your first memory of boxing?

JEAN-PAUL BELMONDO. I came here thanks to the greatest champion, for me, of all time: Marcel Cerdan. I loved his technique, his temper, his courage and his life in general. I read everything about him. I was behind the radio when he beat Tony Zale ( note: 21 September 1948 in Jersey City for the World Middleweight Belt ). I lived in Denfert-Rochereau with my parents.

You became a boxer after this fight?

The next morning, I went to the Avia Club Porte Saint-Martin. I met a great coach, Mr. Dupain, who taught me the finer points of a sport he rightly considered as noble art. I have fifteen fights to my name. I fought at Pantin, the Elysee-Montmartre. There was a real atmosphere at that time for this sport.


Jean-Paul Belmondo came to the Palais des Sports on April 7th to attend the boxing match between Tony Yoka and Cyril Leont. THE PARISIAN / Olivier CorsanHe tells himself that your parents never knew that you were a boxer …

That is true. They would have been sad to know it so I avoided telling them.

Your friend Charles Gerard says that people liked to see you in the ring while you were still unknown?

Charlot exaggerates a lot. It’s thanks to boxing that I met him. He did four fights and lost all four by knockout (laughs)

Could you have done a professional career?

No, because I did not like to take shots, which is annoying anyway, right? (He laughs.) It hurt. I loved boxing, football too. But I stopped because I wanted to devote myself entirely to the theater. At 10, I played with the clowns and I always had this desire for the show and the theater especially at the beginning. I could not lead both careers head-on.

Are you nostalgic of Parisian boxing nights of the 70s and 80s?

Yes. There was more atmosphere at the time and many more people who were interested in this sport. It was warm.

We have seen you several times support the Olympic champion Tony Yoka. Are you a fan?

In boxing, there is only Yoka , although I also love Souleymane Cissokho.

You also played football, as goalkeeper. Why this post?

Thanks to René Vignal ( note: the legendary goalkeeper of Racing ). He was my model. I plunged like him. There were many good goalkeepers in the 50s: Marcel Domingo, Julien Darui, César Ruminski. They were better than today. They are not blocking bullets anymore. It is because of the balloons: they are given more effect. There was also the Reims team with Kopa. The younger generations no longer know all these great players. It’s too bad.

Your mother pushed you to be goalkeeper …

Oh yes, that’s right. I was at school in high school Pascal which still exists next to the Bois de Boulogne. My mother once said to the director of this school, “My son is bad. So, put the goalkeeper! ”

You played with “Polymusclés”, a team of show biz personalities …

It happened well after. With this team, I played with Kopa and Fontaine. It was rather against them and the Stade de Reims for a match in favor of the Red Cross. I do not remember the score. Maybe it’s better …

People do not know it but without you, Neymar would not be at PSG …

What are you telling ?

You are not one of the founders of the club?

I was very friends with a bunch of friends. The one who died, what was his name? Oh yes, Francis Borelli. There was also Daniel Hechter and Jacky Bloch, a good boy. They asked me to set up this PSG . Like them, I put money to start the adventure, but I did not stay long. It was not compatible with my schedule.

Are you still a supporter of PSG?

Yes always.

What do you think of Neymar, Cavani or Mbappé?

(He sighs.) They make too much money . They have too much money. It’s immoral. It kills sportsmanship. In the past, Kopa won nothing at all while playing Real Madrid! We did not see football on TV. We just sometimes had results at the “news” as we said.

Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar are they as strong as Pele?

We can not compare times. But a champion like Pelé made me dream more than those of now. It may be a question related to money.

Will you follow the World Cup in Russia?

I hope France will win, that’s it!


Jean-Paul Belmondo is also a tennis player. SIPAYou have also been a hard tennis player …

Ah, tennis … It’s my brother Alain who says about me that I’m a child of the ball and so it made sense that I come to tennis one day. I have to say that and write it down. First, it is the truth and then it will make him very happy.

Which player were you?

A zero! (Laughter)

You were the first great personality to interest you at Roland-Garros. What did you like?

(After a wicked nod to Mr. Godest.) The girls …! (Laughter)

Which players did you like to watch?

I remember Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzalez, Lew Hoad. I liked Ilie Nastase very much. John Mc Enroe was a bacon head but what a player! I also liked Connors a lot. Today, I am very appreciative of what Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are doing. I like the brawling side of it. And Federer, what player and what mental!


The bike was also a passion of Jean-Paul Belmondo. Here, in Antibes, in 1987.SIPAYou also did a lot of cycling …

I liked that a lot. I loved riding with friends in Longchamp. Do you remember Michel (Godest)? You were with us, with Paul (his son) too.

Who are your favorite runners?

Copi, Bobet, Hinault, Merckx: they were great champions and the races with them were much more interesting than those of now.

What do you think of the return of the Olympic Games to Paris in 2024?

I am very happy. When I shot “Ace’s Ace”, I carried the flame and coached two boxers who won the gold medal. I hope there will be more in Paris.

Is there a sport you do not like?

There are few. Volleyball, cricket and more …

Who deserves to be on the highest step of your Sports Hall of Fame?

Oh there … Cerdan is in number 1 without discussion. (He reflects.) I also put Ray Sugar Robinson and Mohamed Ali. I saw them boxing both. There is also René Vignal. Not to mention Julien Darui, the goalkeeper.

Did the sport help you during your stroke in 2001?

Yes, many, many, many. (He insists.) Sport saved me more in relation to the state of mind it provides than in relation to the physical state in which I was. Sport requires resistance. It’s like in boxing: I did not like getting shots, but when I got it, I had to close it to keep fighting. It was the same thing at that time.

Originally Published on leparisien

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