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While all young people suffered in the Depression, black youth were the least likely to find a job. With his family on relief, food hard to come by, and economic prospects nil, young Joe Louis Barrow, like other young African Americans, seemed destined for a life of poverty, crime, or dissolution. While the economic catastrophe led to a profound change in political direction for the United States, in Germany, by contrast, it caused the abandonment of any semblance of a democratic system and the triumph of fascism.

The disillusion of the vast majority of the German population, moreover, was compounded by a series of prior political and economic disasters. With the nation devastated by war and its economy in ruins, German currency had proved worthless. Heavy reparation payments demanded by the allies drove prices up dramatically, and savings and national confidence were wiped out. Germans connected the inflation to the humiliating defeat on the battlefield and the Treaty of Versailles that blamed them for starting the war.

In , the Dawes Plan, initiated by the United States, spread out the reparation payments and helped reorganize the currency. Five short years of prosperity followed, a period when Max Schmeling and German boxing flourished as never before. The Great Depression, however, wiped out these years of prosperity and made them seem merely a short interval between periods of economic chaos and national crisis.

The Depression resurrected old fears of starvation, national humiliation, and a crushing sense of loss that historians have called a Culture of Defeat. It was in that period that Max Schmeling found himself at the lowest stage of his career, mirroring for a nation the shock and despair of constant defeat as he lost his heavyweight title and suffered through a series of ignominious losses from through most of He was faced with the possibility that his long career had ended.

With Schmeling as its leading proponent, German boxing should have stood at its acme.


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When he was born on September 28, , in the small town of Klein-Luckow in the eastern part of Germany, boxing had virtually no place in German sports. Prizefighting developed under international influences in the wake of World War I, as German prisoners of war brought the sport home from their British guards.

As a result, the sport remained confined to small circles and had a reputation as a disreputable endeavor. Because Max and his family moved to Hamburg shortly after his birth, he was in a perfect spot to be influenced by this and other foreign imports. He Down But Not Out 11 started school in , but proved a poor student. His interests lay in sports. Big and strong, he preferred playing goalie for the St. Georger Fussball-Club von His father served in the navy and in his absence the family experienced periods of hunger common to other Germans during the conflict.

For a time, Max was sent off to live with his grandparents in Brandenburg. For young Schmeling, as for all Germans, the end of the war ushered in a period of political chaos and economic uncertainty. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, the youngster found himself on the streets of Hamburg, as revolutionary leftists battled fiercely but unsuccessfully with police and the army for control of the city. In he began a three-year period of training as a salesman.

This was not a propitious time to start such a career, nor did he much like office work. More to the point, Max longed for a job that would relieve him of the burdens of lower-middle-class existence. After the lifting of the police bans on prizefighting in and the return of the POWs, the sport spread quickly. Young Max was alerted to the sport by another international influence— American fight films. In July he watched the movies of the championship match between the American Jack Dempsey and the Frenchman Georges Carpentier, which convinced him that boxing was a way to make something of himself far beyond his origins.

In addition, the continued occupation of the Rhineland by British troops made the area a hotbed of boxing, with numerous clubs and the opportunity to train and fight regularly. After learning his craft in the amateur ranks during and , he decided to turn professional at the age of nineteen in , ten years before Joe Louis would do the same, because times remained hard and his family needed the money.

The discovery that United States champions such as Jack Dempsey earned millions had a profound effect on both men. As a result, Max quit his construction job and moved to Cologne, where he undertook serious training for his professional debut. Fighting as a light heavyweight, he made 80 deutsche marks DM and was on his way. By the end of the year, he had had ten professional bouts, winning seven by knockout and two on points; one was a disqualification.

Although he still had much to learn, it became clear that the German slugger had a powerful right hand that potentially could earn him a good deal of money. It became a matter of pride that he was never out of shape. Starting at A. In this Spartan environment Schmeling soon rounded into top shape.


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  • On August 24, , he won the German Light Heavyweight Championship in Berlin, by knocking out the titleholder Max Diekmann in thirty seconds of the first round, the shortest German title match to date. A year later in June in Dortmund he took the European title at the same weight against the Belgian Fernand Delarge on a thirteenth round technical knockout TKO , making Schmeling the first German to become a European champion.

    Soon after, he moved up to the heavyweight division and won the German title on points against the champion, Fritz Diener, in the sporting event of the year. In fact, the sport resonated in popular culture far beyond any other, as it mixed both athletics and show business into a modern, hybrid form of popular entertainment. It is compulsory for the police of every city in Germany to take boxing lessons. When Schmeling defended his world title in New York in , listeners across Germany stayed up late to catch the broadcast. To some extent, its rise in popularity can be seen as a diversion after the war, part of the search for pleasure and experience long denied by the conflict.

    Many people had learned how transitory life is; they felt that life was there to be lived. Subconscious drives ruled them; they had returned from the land of the dead and sought life; they were open to adventure, for the old way offered them no chance. The body was in. In this sense, boxing counteracted the irrational violence of the war and the early s in Germany by allowing fans to express their aggressive impulses in a rational and ritualized form.

    Schmeling seemed to agree. He maintained that boxing expressed more than physical violence. Moreover, it was not just the body that led to success. He maintained that boxing was like a chess match. With tactics and strategy, even a less physically gifted boxer can outmaneuver a giant. In the past, respectable Germans had disdained boxing because they feared its power to foster working-class violence and rebellion against the established order.

    The various city bans against the sport did not target upper-class dueling and swordplay, suggesting a deep class bias against this much simpler and less expensive form of self defense. In the Weimar years, boxing provided the individual with the means to survive and Down But Not Out 15 succeed in a less hierarchical world. Perhaps this explains why Schmeling and other boxers were treated as American-style success stories.

    They were young men who had fought their way from the bottom of the social order to riches and fame, and they were admired and rewarded for their achievements. In a society still worried about the transformations in postwar Germany—the criticism of the class order, the emergence of a more assertive Modern Woman who attended the fights—boxing had the advantage of having well-defined rules and regulations for individual conduct. In his memoir, Schmeling recalled that artists and intellectuals often saw boxing as a theater of deadly individualism.

    So unmerciful, so angry the way you go at each other, that is how we all struggle for our own existence. But for you the matter is really one of life and death. Boxing is really not a sport. The chief reward was money, which was a much more fluid medium of status than the older markers of class identity. By the end of the decade, Max had become a wealthy man, and his purses were recorded in the daily press.

    In his championship match against Jack Sharkey in he made close to a million marks. By the end of the s, Schmeling lived the life of a rich man. While he was far from ostentatious, the press showed photos of his expensive new sports car and his thoroughbred racehorse. He also was pictured in front of his rural mansion just outside Berlin, which featured idyllic grounds and a private swimming pool. The successful boxer, in other words, had an opportunity to live the life of a movie star.

    Like his American counterpart, Jack Dempsey, Schmeling also had the opportunity to star in movies himself. During the s and early s, boxers and other athletes achieved new status as popular celebrities equivalent to movie stars in both Germany and the United States. In fact, the public idolized boxers more than other types of celebrities. In a poll taken of fourteen-year-olds in , world champion Schmeling proved better known than statesman Gustav Streseman, popular writer Karl May, or industrialist Henry Ford.

    Appearing half-clad, boxers had erotic appeal, which led various social observers and boxing commentators to warn that fighters unleashed the passions of women, who were drawn not only to bloodlust but also to the sexual possibilities of the male body. Berlin was the metropolis that drew ambitious young people—actors, directors, artists, musicians, and fighters from the provinces. Rather it was the people about whom everyone was talking: artists and showgirls, actors, journalists and authors, bicycle riders and intellectuals.

    They were the society; and this society was now clamoring for me. All of these outsiders, many sympathetic to leftist politics and artistic modernism, and a large number of them of Jewish descent, contributed to making Berlin the capital of a new, more cosmopolitan cultural life in which boxing and the body played central roles. As a student of the game, Schmeling early on modeled his bobbing and weaving on American models, and it was the links among boxing, modernity, and America that made him a cosmopolitan hero to the German intellectual and cultural avant-garde.

    In his view, they offered a means to energize an older, stiffer German culture. It was the commercialization of sport that Socialists and National Socialists found most disturbing. Money and fame were the result of capitalist corruption of sport and hence were part of the new economic order that Socialists found deeply disturbing in Weimar Germany. Instead of national greatness, sporting figures were being lured toward the love of money and individual accomplishment. When he won the European Light Heavyweight title from the Belgian Fernand Delarge in , for example, a German newspaper charted the tremendous shouts of joy by the fans at the match in Dortmund.

    The Champion of Europe. When he traveled to New York City in May to contend for the world championship in the capital of world boxing, he continued to break boundaries as he had in Berlin. While Jacobs knew little about boxing, he did know how to negotiate a good deal. The two got along well and Jacobs worked hard to get him fights and build up his name in New York, where now Schmeling was not just a figure in society but a hero on the street. In order to fight in New York, moreover, Schmeling made frequent transatlantic crossings.

    As a result, he was one of the best-traveled figures of the day. These factors contributed to a cosmopolitan identity that moderated his nationalist associations. In part, this goes back to the long history of transatlantic openness in the sporting world of the United States. British and Irish boxers had brought the sport to the United States in the early nineteenth century, and over the years European, Australian, Canadian, and South American prizefighters had made their way to America to take advantage of the lucrative rewards and worldwide acclaim possible only in the United States.

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    When champion Gene Tunney retired in after taking the title from and defending against Jack Dempsey in two of the million-dollar matches of the era, American boxing was desperate for a box office draw. The promoters were thrilled as 80, fans filled the stadium, among them 30, German Americans.

    The match started slowly, which often happened when Schmeling fought, because he preferred to take his time to figure out his opponent before unleashing his deadly arsenal. In fact, both fighters seemed hesitant. Only in the third round did things pick up. Sharkey began rushing in and pummeling his opponent with a flurry of punches. Schmeling remained cool, but in the fourth he began to unload too. Suddenly Sharkey floored the German, who lay writhing on the canvas. His seconds dragged him to his corner where he sat in a crumpled state while the referee tolled the count.

    Why you should care

    Joe Jacobs started yelling at the referee and the judges that the blow was low. After minutes of indecision and uncertainty while fight officials conferred, and with the crowd growing restless, the judges declared Schmeling the winner on a foul. As a result, Schmeling became the first heavyweight champion to win the crown while sitting on the canvas. Only half-conscious, he was carried out of the ring.

    Although he became the first European to win the heavyweight championship, his reputation was damaged and the sport of boxing tarnished. As the first heavyweight champion to win the title on a foul, Schmeling found that both Germans and Americans were suspicious of his right to hold the championship. Max wins the heavyweight crown against Jack Sharkey on a foul in , tarnishing his championship and presaging the decline of boxing in the United States and Germany.

    When he avoided a return match with Sharkey, despite contract obligations, and waited a year to defend his title for the first time against a lesser opponent, Young Stribling, he did not help his reputation or that of the prizefight game. Audience attendance fell drastically, and for the next several years Schmeling and boxing on both sides of the Atlantic continued their downward slide.

    On June 21, , at the Madison Square Bowl on Long Island, he finally defended his title against Jack Sharkey, only to lose the rematch on a disputed fifteen-round decision that raised doubts about the honesty and fairness of the New York boxing world. Still, the commission got what they wanted—an American champion who they hoped would fight on a regular and more lucrative basis and bring back fan interest and bigger gates. As for Schmeling, it appeared that the old boxing adage had proven true: they never come back after losing the title.

    Yet his prospects did not look good either. He and his family were mired in the Depression that struck African Americans with special ferocity. In the absence of other opportunities during the s about 8, poor black and ethnic working-class young men took up the sport of boxing. Eager to make a name for themselves while seeking economic sustenance, they also searched for an outlet for the anger and frustration associated with trying to make their way during the economic crisis. Louis was one of these young men. Like so many others, his family was part of the Great Migration from southern slavery, segregation, and sharecropping to the urban industrial world of Detroit.

    For blacks whose unemployment figures and rates of poverty belied their dreams of a better life in the North, Louis embodied their experience and their aspirations. Born on May 13, , in a sharecropper shack in rural Alabama about six miles from the nearest hamlet, Louis was the seventh son in a family of eight children headed by Munrow and Lillie Reese Barrow.

    Descended from African slaves, white plantation owners, and Blackfoot and Cherokee Indians, his family rented and sharecropped cotton in the Buckalew Mountains of Alabama. Broken under the strain of supporting a large family on the stingy red Down But Not Out 23 clay soil of the area, his father deserted when Joe was two years old and was later committed to an insane asylum. Believed dead, he was never seen by his family again. Together, Pat and Lillie had even more children.

    Struggling to survive, the family moved farther into the mountains, near Mt. Sinai, where they lived in an unheated cabin, the children went without shoes, and Louis shared a bed with two of his older brothers. As was common in poor sharecropping families, the children were expected to work in the fields when they were old enough, and young Joe was no exception.

    School consisted of one room for fifteen to sixteen youngsters, with an outhouse out back. Joe attended only intermittently and found school discouraging. He had a speech impediment that made it hard for him to speak clearly. Big and strong like his parents Louis seemed destined for life as an uneducated sharecropper living in a segregated world of limited opportunities and aspirations. On his northward journey, which like so many other southern blacks he made by train, Joe witnessed out the window a scene emblematic of the life he was leaving behind: black prisoners on an Alabama chain gang.

    After living with relatives, the family moved to a frame tenement on Catherine Street that had indoor plumbing and electric lights. For a youngster, the city offered endless excitement. I never saw so many people in one place, so many cars at one time. I had never seen a trolley car before.

    While not all white ethnics had left their neighborhood or fled the schools, downtown Detroit was segregated. Movie theaters, restaurants, and places of public accommodation were off limits to African Americans. The Depression, moreover, delivered a major blow to their fortunes. Last hired and first fired, blacks in Detroit experienced the hard realities of the Depression before other groups. When automobile sales fell badly in the late s, the economic boom turned to bust. Moreover, he had left Duffield elementary school after the fourth grade.

    A dreamy child who liked to be by himself, Joe still suffered from the speech impediment that made him reluctant to speak up in class, especially in Detroit as there were better educated and better dressed white and black students in his classroom. It was easy for teachers and fellow students to conclude that the shy youngster, who mumbled when called upon, was slow and probably mentally deficient.

    Already bigger and older than everyone else in his class, Joe would have had to repeat the fourth grade. As it was, he could hardly write his name, and he could barely read. On the advice of a teacher, Joe transferred to Bronson Trade School, to educate his hands rather than his head. At Bronson, he learned to make cabinets and tables, which came in handy because his family could afford little furniture on their own. When he left school at seventeen in , however, there was little call for cabinetmakers or for anything else. Crime was always an option for a poor urban boy, and he might have continued to run with the street gang that dominated his neighborhood, the Catherine Street gang, where his street fighting skills were prized.

    This would have landed him in the illegal world of violence and gambling that flourished in black ghettoes during the Depression. With his family on relief, he needed money quick, and he was raised to work hard. However, he longed for an outlet for his power, a sense of developing a craft, as well as a way to earn money quickly. Boxing offered all of those opportunities. Aware that music offered a potential career for black men, she painfully put aside small amounts of money so that Joe could take violin lessons. In general, amateur boxing in the North was relatively open to black and ethnic workingclass young men, and Louis used the money that his mother had set aside for him to study violin for boxing lessons.

    The CYO stressed a Catholic Americanization that was less concerned with imposing a Protestant model of assimilation and more open to boys regardless of religion, race, or ethnic background. Boxing proved a key part of its mission. Those kids love to fight. In the Depression, fighting for what one got seemed a realistic metaphor for daily life. Similar to Max Schmeling who found the sport a means to a more exciting life, Louis from the start took to amateur boxing as a calling.

    Got to admit I strutted a little. Athletes had the opportunity to travel beyond the narrow constraints of family and neighborhood, and to express themselves in action. For working class and black youth, sports and music offered a means to assert themselves in the world, to become active agents rather than merely being controlled by others. In boxing, Louis strove to test himself against others and to discipline himself in order to achieve a measure of perfection in one of the few areas of life open to him.

    While it entailed a great deal of hard work, athletics allowed him to work at something that was under his own control compared to the ordinary man who was out of work or stuck in a dead-end job. Louis, for instance, took jobs in the auto industry several times. Just after leaving Bronson in , he heard that the Briggs automobile factory was hiring.

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    The Greatest Fight of Our Generation: Louis Vs. Schmeling - Lewis A. Erenberg - Google Books

    The work was monotonous, however, and even more important, it cut into his training. He was too tired to work out seriously. However, pushing truck bodies to a conveyer belt was no fun. This proved to be the factor that decided Louis against the violin and in favor of boxing. His friend McKinney convinced him that the violin required years of education before Joe could get in a band and make any money. Louis certainly could not have done this had he pursued his first love, baseball, a sport more segregated than boxing. At least at fighting you might make a few bucks. Coming up through the amateurs Louis learned of the money made by previous champions.

    No more welfare, no more worrying about simple things like food. Perhaps Louis took this male role of family mainstay from the movie westerns he loved. At the end of or the beginning of , he fought Johnny Miler at a stag event at the Edison Athletic Club in Detroit. Miler, a white boy, had boxed for a number of years, held several amateur titles, and the previous summer had fought in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

    The novice Louis, weighing pounds, was clearly overmatched. Although discouraged, he listened to his mother and his friends and kept trying to master his craft at the gym. Soon he was knocking out other amateur light heavyweights with abandon and making a name for himself around Detroit. Nor could he afford to eat right. This pattern must have been a common experience for boxers who came from impoverished backgrounds. Henry Armstrong, a black champion who held three world titles during the late s, often had to fight on bread and beans until he hooked up with decent management.

    He had trained hard and was looking forward to the event. A Gary, Indiana, man had seen his Golden Gloves picture and charged that Louis had killed his wife back in When he got to Gary, the authorities realized Louis was much too young to have committed the crime and that it was all a mistake. Still, he missed the tournament, and in a society in which whites had a hard time distinguishing individual African Americans, he might have ended up as just one more jailed black boy similar to the black convicts he had seen on his way north.

    John Roxborough first saw Joe during the Detroit Inter-City Golden Gloves tryouts in , where he won two bouts that night, both by knockout. Properly impressed, Roxborough began a long relationship with the shy young man. His father, a lawyer from New Orleans, settled in an all-white neighborhood. The family was solidly middle class, and his older brother Charles, also a lawyer and a Republican, became the first black member of the Michigan state legislature and a prominent figure in the Urban League and the Young Negroes Professional Association.

    John Roxborough, however, soon learned about the color line in the North. After one year of college at the University of Detroit, he realized the limited job opportunities for black college graduates as Detroit increasingly underwent segregation in response to the influx of masses of black migrants. He decided to take another path.

    What good would it do me? I would avoid embarrassing situations, like asking for a job when I was qualified. People in jail would take money from anyone who could get them out. Through this line of work, the ambitious go-getter found the key to his fortune when he was called to bail out a black man who ran the policy, or numbers gambling operation, in Kansas City.

    The latter invited him to his hometown, instructed Down But Not Out 29 him on the workings of the policy racket and advised him that a similar operation in Detroit would be lucrative since the Ford Company was hiring so many blacks. Roxborough was a quick study. He created his own policy bank, the Big Four, and his territory was the growing black slum called Paradise Valley. His operations soon spread throughout Wayne County and included the publication of guidebooks to winning numbers—dream books that interpreted dreams and omens as a source of winning numbers. To protect his business, he also began contributing to political campaigns and forming alliances with prominent local politicians.

    He contributed to the Urban League and the Young Negroes Progressive Association, for example, invested in black businesses, and acted as a patron of the race. On a personal level, he handed out money for rent, food, and coal, and he supported a number of promising young black men through the University of Michigan.

    Equally important, during the Depression he promoted sports for black youngsters, and in this capacity played an enormously important role in the life of Joe Louis. Louis loved the gracious living. He took his boxing very seriously and trained like a beaver. The raw material of a champion was there.

    At first, Roxborough resisted. Roxborough, I want the money. A native of Wisconsin, Black was another enterprising African American who viewed the illegal world as more lucrative and accepting than the realm of respectable business. Black proved crucial for operating in the gangstercontrolled world of American boxing. He had been close enough to the top of the Chicago syndicate run by Al Capone to expect protection against other parties who might want to muscle in on their young prospect. Together, their criminal backgrounds and business skill gave him and Roxborough the confidence that they could navigate through the murky world of shark-like promoters and greedy gangsters who traditionally had treated black fighters as mere cannon fodder for promising young white boxers.

    The press emphasized the smart African American businessmen who guided the young man from a successful amateur career to the heavyweight title. His Apex nightclub served as the watering hole for local black sportsmen, and from among the wealth of talent Black tapped the former boxer and veteran trainer Jack Blackburn.

    After several weeks of intense training, Blackburn announced that Louis was ready. In his first professional bout, he scored a one-round knockout over Jack Kracken on July 4, In the pit of the Depression, fans turned away from boxing.

    PDF The Greatest Fight of Our Generation: Louis vs. Schmeling Read Online

    As long as a man has only enough to keep him alive by watching his pennies, he is not going to give much thought to watching two lads knock each other around in the ring. While Germans bemoaned the fate of their top heavyweight prospect, American fight fans increasingly saw the dismal heavyweight picture that Schmeling symbolized as symptomatic of a deeply flawed sport and society.


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    • Boxing champions of only modest ability and limited stature turned over with depressing rapidity, and in fights whose outcomes, boxing experts and fans agreed, were fixed in advance. It seemed to many boxing fans and observers that American boxing officials made sure that Sharkey won in order to dethrone an unpopular and inactive champion. Charges of fraud in subsequent championships abounded. After Sharkey lost the title to Primo Carnera, observers again charged that the fight was fixed.

      Braddock, a beloved champion in the Depression but one who did not defend the title for two years. A carnival strongman of average skills, the Italian boxer was discovered in by an American boxing establishment desperate for heavyweight gate attractions. It was his size, not his boxing skill, that desperate boxing managers and promoters hoped would turn him into a popular draw. With the mob behind him, Carnera went through a series of setups and fixed fights. Because of the suspicion of fraud and criminal influence, only 10, fans turned out for the bout, which Carnera won with a dubious punch.

      In his second defense he was knocked down eleven times by Max Baer in Many fans believed that the sport could not sink much lower. Crooked managers and fixed fights subverted fair play and honest sportsmanship. Champions seemed hollow. This was the blatant racial segregation of the heavyweight division and the extensive discrimination against all black fighters in American boxing. You have to really be something to get anywhere. They let you put up a good fight, but you dare not better [sic] look better than some of the worst white boxers you were supposed to be fighting.

      This was the only way for a black fighter to make a buck. As a result of these practices, black boxers usually found it difficult to get title bouts, and their reputations did not stand very high. They ended up having to fight each other in an unofficial Negro boxing circuit.

      When he wrested the title from Tommy Burns in Australia in , his success precipitated a crisis that revealed the white supremacist nature of the sport. Never as fully segregated as professional team sports, boxing nevertheless was an arena where white manhood dominated unfairly. From John L. Sullivan in , white heavyweight champions refused to allow black contenders to battle for the crown, signaling the onset of segregation in all areas of American sports.

      This represented a change from the early period of boxing. The first real, though unacknowledged, American heavyweight champion was Tom Molineaux, who was born in slavery in Virginia. He went to England, claiming the American championship, where he fought two losing battles with the British champion Tom Crib in and When black Australian Peter Jackson challenged Sullivan to put his title on the line in , the racial situation in the United States had changed.

      During the s and s, slavery was gone, Reconstruction was over, and whites now feared that black people did not know their proper place. In sports as diverse as baseball, horse racing, and prizefighting, where black athletes had participated on an equal basis, whites drew the color line to reinforce the inferior position of African Americans. Jackson had managed to fight white contenders. After Corbett beat Sullivan for the championship, he too refused a return match with Jackson.

      While blacks in the lesser weights still managed to contend for titles, the heavyweight crown was now reserved for white men. For an audience dominated by the white working class, boxing elevated poor white men to full manhood while excluding blacks whom they considered less than full men, morally weak, and physically and sexually indulgent. Fans believed that prizefighting embodied the Anglo-Saxon virtues of individual will, aggression, and conquest, and they had contempt for the humiliation of submission.

      In an era of Social Darwinism, it was assumed that the strongest male individual represented the best race. If a black man won, then the white race had lost. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page.

      Schmeling by Lewis A. Held on June 22, , in Yankee Stadium, the second Louis-Schmeling fight sparked excitement around the globe. For all its length--the fight lasted but two minutes--it remains one of the most memorable events in boxing history and, indeed, one of the most significant sporting events ever. In this superb account, Lewis A. Erenberg offers a vivid portrait of Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, their individual careers, and their two epic fights, shedding light on what these fighters represented to their nations, and why their second bout took on such international importance.

      Erenberg shows how in the first fight Schmeling shocked everyone with a dramatic twelfth-round knockout of Louis, becoming a German national hero and a unwilling symbol of Aryan superiority.

      Joe Louis: A Multifarious Historical Figure

      In fact, the second fight was seen around the world in symbolic terms--as a match between Nazism and American democracy. Erenberg discusses how Louis' dramatic first-round victory was a devastating blow to Hitler, who turned on Schmeling and, during the war, had the boxer then serving as a paratrooper sent on a series of dangerous missions.

      Louis, meanwhile, went from being a hero of his race--"Our Joe"--to the first black champion embraced by all Americans, black and white, an important step forward in United States race relations. Erenberg also describes how, after the war, the two boxers became symbols of German-American reconciliation. With Schmeling as a Coca Cola executive, and Louis down on his luck, the former foes became friends, and when Louis died, Schmeling helped pay for his funeral.

      Here then is a stirring and insightful account of one of the great moments in boxing history, a confrontation that provided global theater on an epic scale. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Erenberg Paperback, Be the first to write a review. For all its length-the fight lasted but two minutes-it remains one of the most memorable events in boxing history and, indeed, one of the most significant sporting events ever. In this superb account, Lewis A. Erenberg offers a vivid portrait of Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, their individual careers, and their two epic fights, shedding light on what these fighters represented to their nations, and why their second bout took on such international importance.

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      Erenberg shows how in the first fight Schmeling shocked everyone with a dramatic twelfth-round kckout of Louis, becoming a German national hero and a unwilling symbol of Aryan superiority. In fact, the second fight was seen around the world in symbolic terms-as a match between Nazism and American democracy. Erenberg discusses how Louis' dramatic first-round victory was a devastating blow to Hitler, who turned on Schmeling and, during the war, had the boxer then serving as a paratrooper sent on a series of dangerous missions.

      Louis, meanwhile, went from being a hero of his race- Our Joe -to the first black champion embraced by all Americans, black and white, an important step forward in United States race relations. Erenberg also describes how, after the war, the two boxers became symbols of German-American reconciliation. With Schmeling as a Coca Cola executive, and Louis down on his luck, the former foes became friends, and when Louis died, Schmeling helped pay for his funeral. Here then is a stirring and insightful account of one of the great moments in boxing history, a confrontation that provided global theater on an epic scale.

      Additional Product Features Author s. Lewis A. Show more Show less.