Born in New York City in 1905 to Domenico and Palmina LaBarba, Gold Medal Olympian Fidel LaBarba was raised in the heart of Los Angeles’ Little Italy where he sold newspapers for the Los Angeles Express and learned to fight on street corners. In 1914, Fidel’s mother died, leaving the eleven-year old, his four brothers and two sisters to fend for themselves while their father worked construction jobs, often far away.
LaBarba, who stood only five feet, five inches tall, began boxing at age 12 at venues including the Elks Club and the Selig Zoo. Discovered at age 14 while attending Central Junior High School, LaBarba then embarked on an amateur career, winning flyweight division medals and becoming a regular at Los Angeles Athletic Club throughout the 1920s. He qualified for the United States Olympic team in 1924 while attending Lincoln High School. Two years later, LaBarba claimed the World Flyweight title. La Barba retired from boxing in 1927 to enter Stanford University and pursued a career as a professional writer, working for Colliers Magazine and 20th Century Fox Studios. LaBarba died in Los Angeles in 1981.
This is one of the thousands of rare and one-of-a-kind photographs in the Italian American Museum’s collection, the only of its kind in the region.