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Sports Then and Now



Two Days In June: Max Schmeling vs. Joe Louis 1

Posted on June 19, 2010 by Dean Hybl

Max Schmeling and Joe Louis met in two historic boxing matches in the 1930s.

It is hard now more than 70 years later to fully appreciate the social and global significance of two boxing matches in June of 1936 and 1938 between a black man from Detroit, Michigan and a white man from Germany. However, at the time, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling were prominent figures on the global stage and represented very polarizing situations within the social consciousness of the day.

When they met for the first time on June 19, 1936, Joe Louis was the 22-year-old Louis was 27-0 and considered the number one contender for the Heavyweight Championship. At 30-years-old, Schmeling, a former Heavyweight Champion was thought to be on the downside of his career and given little chance to defeat the powerful Louis.

However, Schmeling claimed before the match that he had noticed a flaw in Louis’ style specifically in how he dropped his guard after throwing a punch. Sure enough, Schmeling stayed close and in the 12th round knocked out Louis.

The victory made Schmeling a hero in Hitler’s Germany of the mid-1930s while the loss was felt hard by blacks in America who had seen Louis as more than just a good fighter, but as a champion for the cause of black Americans at a time when there were very few black heroes. Schmeling’s victory was touted by Nazi officials as proof of their doctrine of Aryan superiority.

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