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BendtheBar 12-05-2009 10:03 AM

Tribute to a Strength Athlete–BERT ASSIRATI
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Tribute to a Strength Athlete–BERT ASSIRATI

Bert Assirati, one of history’s greatest
strength athletes and wrestlers died of
cancer of the bladder on August 31, 1990
at eight o’clock in the evening. So passed a
unique man, perhaps the greatest example of the
old-time strongman/mat artists of this century.
I knew Bert for more than 50 years. He
taught me to wrestle the hard way, breaking my
nose in the process. Bert was also a fine tumbler
and hand balancer, and one of the top
professional wrestlers in the game. Standing
about 5’7” and weighing as much as 250 pounds,
Bert could turn a back flip with ease. In fact, it
was his trademark after a match—which he
always won—to do a back flip.
I first met Bert at the gym attached to the old
Boxing and Wrestling arena—the “Ring”—in the
Blackfriars Road in London, England. At that
time Bert’s arms measured a full 18 inches, and
this was when 16 was considered big. It was in
the early thirties, when El Said Noseir, the
Egyptian heavyweight, held sway with a world
record clean and jerk of 363, a weight Bert was
said to have exceeced. At a time when the British
record in the straight arm pullover was held by
Alan P. Mead at 140 pounds, Bert did a straight
arm pullover of 200 with ease. He could curl 200
pounds and squat for reps with 550 when a 400
pound squat was regarded as extraordinary. He
also did a single-legged squat with 200 pounds
When he saw I needed extra bodyweight to
be able to wrestle more successfully, he sent me
to his cousin, Joe Assirati, under whose tutelage I
soon gained from 165 to 190. My meeting with
Joe was a happy one for, in addition to gaining a
teacher, I gained a lifelong friend and brother.
Bert was sui generis—one of a kind—and we
won’t see his like again.
Goodbye, Bert.
[Ed. note: Goodbye, Charles.]

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