A Classic Boxing Rivalry



Rights Drop the Loser Thrice and Trainer Tosses In Towel


Challenger Says He Was Fouled With a Kidney Punch – The Gate Tops $900,000

The New York Times, June 23, 1938

The exploding fists of Joe Louis crushed Max Schmeling last night in the ring at the Yankee Stadium and kept sacred that time-worn legend of boxing that no former heavyweight champion has ever regained the title.

The Brown Bomber from Detroit, with the most furious early assault he has ever exhibited here, knocked out Schmeling in the first round of what was to have been a fifteen-round battle to retain the title he won last year from James J. Braddock. He has now defended it successfully four times.

In exactly 2 minutes and 4 seconds of fighting Louis polished off the Black Uhlan from the Rhine, but, though the battle was short, it was furious and savage while it lasted, packed with thrills that held three knockdowns of the ambitious ex-champion, every moment tense for a crowd of about 80,000.

A Representative Gathering

This gathering, truly representative and comparing favorably with the largest crowds in boxing’s history, paid receipts estimated at between $900,000 and $1,000,000 to see whether Schmeling could repeat the knockout he administered to Louis just two years ago here and be the first ex-heavyweight champion to come back into the title, or whether the Bomber could avenge this defeat as he promised.

As far as the length of the battle was concerned, the investment in seats, which ran to $30 each, was a poor one. But for excitement, for drama, for pulse-throbs, those who came from near and far felt themselves well repaid because they saw a fight that, though it was one of the shortest heavyweight championships on record, was surpassed by few for thrills.

With the right hand that Schmeling held in contempt Louis knocked out his foe. Three times under its impact the German fighter hit the ring floor. The first time Schmeling regained his feet laboriously at the count of three. From the second knockdown Schmeling, dazed but game, bounced up instinctively before the count had gone beyond one.

On the third knockdown Schmeling’s trainer and closest friend, Max Machon, hurled a towel into the ring, European fashion, admitting defeat for his man. The towel sailed through the air when the count on the prostrate Max had reached three.

Ignored in Boxing Here

The signal is ignored in American boxing, has been for years, and Referee Arthur Donovan, before he had a chance to pick up the count in unison with knockdown timekeeper Eddie Josephs, who was outside the ring, gathered the white emblem in a ball and hurled it through the ropes.

Returning to Schmeling’s crumpled figure, Donovan took one look and signaled an end of the battle. The count at that time was five on the third knockdown. Further counting was useless. Donovan could have counted off a century and Max could not have regained his feet. The German was thoroughly “out.”

It was as if he had been pole-axed. His brain was awhirl, his body, his head, his jaws ached and pained, his senses were numbed from that furious, paralyzing punching he had taken even in the short space of time the battle consumed.

Following the bout, Schmeling claimed he was fouled. He said that he was hit a kidney punch, a devastating right, which so shocked his nervous system that he was dazed and his vision was blurred. To observers at the ringside, however, with all due respect to Schmeling’s thoughts on the subject, the punches which dazed him were thundering blows to the head, jaw and body in bewildering succession, blows of the old Alabama Assassin reincarnate last night for a special occasion.

Louis wanted to erase the memory of that 1936 knockout he suffered in twelve rounds. It was the one blot on his brilliant record. He aimed to square the account and he did.

Because of the excitement attending the finish, Louis, in the records, will be deprived of a clean-cut knockout. It will appear as a technical knockout because Referee Donovan didn’t complete the full ten-second count over Schmeling. But this is merely a technicality. No fighter ever was more thoroughly knocked out than was Max lasts night.

Thrilling to the spectacle of this short, savage victory which held so much significance was a gathering that included a member of President Roosevelt’s Cabinet, Postmaster General James A. Farley; Governors of several States, Mayors of cities in the East, South and Middle West, Representatives and Senators, judges and lawyers, politicians, doctors, figures of prominence in the professional world, leaders of banking, industry and commerce, stars of the stage and screen, ring champions of the past and present, leaders in other sports and other fields – all assembled eagerly awaiting the struggle whose appeal drew them from distant parts of the country and from Europe.

Millions Hear Fight

In addition to those looking on at the spectacle, there were millions listening in virtually all over the world, for this battle was broadcast in four languages, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese, so intense was the interest in its outcome.

Louis, hero of one of the greatest stories ever written in the ring, owner of a record of thirty-eight victories, in thirty-nine bouts spread over four years, entered the ring the favorite to win at odds of 1 to 2. He won like a 1-to10 shot. The knockout betting was at even money, take your pick. It could have been on Louis at 1 to 10, for Schmeling never had a chance. His number was up from the clang of the opening gong.

Schmeling, 32-year-old campaigner over a period of fourteen years, aspired to the unparalleled distinction of being the first man to regain the heavyweight crown. He suffered, instead, the fate that overtook Jim Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Jim Jeffries and Jack Dempsey, ring immortals all, who tried and failed.

The fury of Louis’s attack explains the result in a nutshell. The defending champion came into the ring geared on high. He never stopped punching until his rival was a crumpled, inert, helpless figure, diving headlong into the resined canvas, rolling over there spasmodically, instinctively, trying to come erect, his spirit willing to return to the attack, his flesh weak, for mind and muscle could not be expected to function harmoniously under the terrific battering Schmeling absorbed in those fleeting two minutes.

Max Throws Two Punches

Emphasizing the savagery with which Louis went after this victory was Schmeling’s feeble effort at retaliation. The German ex-champion threw exactly two punches. That is how completely the Bomber established his mastery in this second struggle with the Black Uhlan.

With the opening gong, Louis crept softly out of his corner, pantherlike, eyes alert, arms poised, fists cocked to strike from any angle as he met Schmeling short of the ring’s center. Max backed carefully toward his own corner, watching Louis intently, his right, the right which thudded so punishingly against Joe’s jaw and temple two years ago, ready to strike over or under a left guard. At least, that was Schmeling’s pre-arranged plan.

But Louis wasted only a few seconds in studying his foe, menacing Max meanwhile with a spearing left before quickly going to work.

Like flashes from the blue, the Bomber’s sharp, powerful left started suddenly pumping into Schmeling’s face. The blows tilted Max’s head back, made his eyes blink, unquestionably stung him. The German’s head was going backward as if on hinges.

Max’s face was exposed to a left-hook attack and Louis interspersed his onslaught with a few of these blows, gradually forcing Schmeling back to the ropes and preventing the German from making an offensive or counter move, so fast and sharp and true was the opening fire of the defending champion.

Schmeling suddenly shot a right over Louis’s left for the jaw, but the blow was short and they went close. At long range again, Joe stuck and stabbed with his left to the face, trying to open a lane through Schmeling’s protecting arms and gloves for a more forceful shot from the right.

Again Lunges Forward

But the opening didn’t come immediately. Instead Schmeling again lunged forward, his right arching as it drove for Louis’s jaw, and it landed on the champion’s head as the Schmeling admirers in the tremendous crowd roared encouragement.

Louis, however, only scowled and stepped forward, this time with a terrific right to Schmeling’s jaw which banged Max against the ropes, his body partly turned toward the right from Louis.

Schmeling shook to his heels under the impact of that blow, but he gave no sign of toppling. And Joe, like a tiger, leaped upon him, driving a right to the ribs as Schmeling half turned – apparently the blow Schmeling later claimed was a foul – swinging with might and main, lefts and rights, that thudded against Schmeling’s bobbing head, grazed or cracked on Max’s jaw and swishing murderous looking left hooks into Schmeling’s stomach as the crumpling ex-champion grimaced in pain, his face wearing the expression of a fighter protesting “foul.”

Shaken when he first landed against the ropes, Schmeling was rendered groggy under the furious assault to which Louis subjected him while he stood there trying unsuccessfully to avoid the blows or grasp a chance to clinch.

Suddenly the Bomber’s right, sharp and true with the weight of his 198 ¾ pounds back of it, as well as his knack of driving it home, landed cleanly on Schmeling’s jaw. Max toppled forward and down. He was hurt and stunned, but gamely the German came erect at the count of three.

Louis was on him in a jiffy, with the fury of a jungle beast. After propping the tottering Schmeling with a jolting left to the face, the Bomber’s deadly right fist again exploded in Max’s face, and under another crack on the jaw, Schmeling went down. This time, however, the German regained his feet before the count progressed beyond one.

Crowd in an Uproar

But Schmeling was helpless. He staggered drunkenly for a few backward steps, the crowd in and uproar as Louis stealthily followed and measured his man. Max was an open target. His jaw was unprotected and inviting. His mid-section was a mark for punches. The kill was within Louis’s grasp. He lost no time in ceremony.

Spearing Schmeling with blinding straight lefts, numbing Max with powerful left hooks that were sharp, true and destructive, Louis set the stage for one finishing right to the jaw, released the blow and landed in a flash, and the German toppled over in a headlong dive, completely unconscious.

The din of the crowd echoed over the arena, cheers for the conquering Louis, shrieks of entreaty and shouts of advice for Schmeling. But this thunderous roar was unheard by the befogged Schmeling and was ignored by the Bomber, intent only on the destruction of his foe.

In routine fashion, Eddie Josephs, a licensed referee converted into a knockdown timekeeper, started the count over the stricken Schmeling. He counted one, then two, as Referee Donovan went about the duty of signaling Louis to the farthest neutral corner.

Machon Hurls Towel

At “three” a white towel sailed aloft form Schmeling’s corner, hurled by the ever-faithful Machon, who realized, as did every one else in the vast gathering, that Schmeling was knocked out, if he was not, indeed, badly hurt.

The towel fell in the ring a few feet from Schmeling. It is the custom in European rings to recognize this gesture as a concession of defeat. It used to be recognized here. But for many years now it has been banned, and Referee Donovan, disregarding the emblem of surrender, tossed it through the ropes and out of the ring.

When he returned to the prostrate figure of Schmeling, moving convulsively on the ring floor doubtless with that instinctive impulse to arise, the count had reached “five.” One look was enough for Donovan. Instantly he spread his arms in a signal that meant the end of the bout, although Time-keeper Josephs, as he is duty bound to do, continued counting outside the ring.

This led to confusion at the finish. Some thought the third knock-down count was eight. Actually, the bout was ended at the count of five, the three seconds beyond that time being a gesture against emergency that was superfluous. Schmeling could not have arisen inside the legal ten-second stretch. His hopes wee blasted. He was a thoroughly beaten man.

In a few moments, however, as police swarmed into the ring and his handlers worked over him in the corner to which he was assisted, Schmeling returned to consciousness. He was able to smile bravely as he walked across the ring to shake the hand of the conquering Louis, a gesture that carried the impression, somehow, that Max realized at long last that Louis is his master now and for all time.

Bout Described Blow by Blow

Louis came out of his corner quickly and wasted little time springing at his foe. He lashed out with two lefts to the face and cracked a right to the jaw. Schmeling tagged the jaw with a right but the punch seemingly had no effect on the champion.

The challenger hooked a left to the head and took a left to the body in return. Louis drove Schmeling to the ropes with a fusillade of rights and lefts to the head. The latter was absorbing punishment about the body without being able to lift a hand in his own defense.

Referee Donovan stepped between them, as if to stop the slaughter, but did nothing but wave Louis back to mid-ring.

Puzzled for a second or two, Louis returned to the attack on shouts from his corner and crashed a right to Schmeling’s jaw, flooring him for a count of three. The German arose shakily and was submitted to a heavy body fire before taking another right to the jaw, a paunch which put him down for only one second.

Rubber-legged and glassy-eyed, the gallant German sought to hold off his tormentor, but Louis shot both hands to the body with crushing force, drove a sharp left hook to the jaw, then fired a right to the chin that felled Schmeling once more. The challenger’s instinct drove him to drag himself to all fours, but further he could not move.

The count had reached three when Max Machon, Schmeling’s trainer, tossed in the towel to signal defeat. At five Referee Donovan waved his hands to signal the end of the battle. The round had gone 2 minutes 4 seconds.


Gay Radio Parties in Berlin Stunned by Louis’s Quick Knockout Triumph

BERLIN, Thursday, June 23 (AP). – All Germany, clustered about it short-wave radio sets in the early morning hours, was thunderstruck and almost unbelieving at the unexpected news that “Unser Maxe” Schmeling had failed in his heavyweight comeback try, and failed by the knockout route.

Their high hopes of hearing black-browed Schmeling had fought his way back to the heavyweight championship were dashed so suddenly that the ardor of radio parties and café gatherings was quickly dampened.

Heavy-lidded Germans, who had stayed up till 3 A. M. for the short-wave broadcast only to hear a 2:04 minute fight end with dramatic dispatch, climbed into bed a saddened lot at Joe Louis’s victory.

All over the Reich they had clustered in homes, restaurants and cafes to hear the fight they hoped would bring the world’s championship to Germany.

It was said Adolf Hitler at his Bavarian mountain retreat was among those who heard the disheartening news.

Keeps News From Wife

The maid at Schmeling’s Berlin home was so disappointed by the knockout she said she would not awaken Maxie’s movie actress wife, Anny Ondra, who left instructions not to be aroused until after the fight.

“I think morning will be time enough to tell her,” said the maid, who had stayed up in hope of being able to bear her good news.

The Sportsbar, where Schmeling and his cronies have a regularly reserved table, was “like a tomb,” a waiter lamented after the radio told the sad story to patrons looking glumly into their beer steins.

Schmeling’s German pals said their only comment was an echo of what the German announcer said at the close of his broadcast from the Yankee Stadium ringside:

“We sympathize with you, Max, although you lost as a fair sportsman.

“We will show you on your return that reports in foreign newspapers that you would be thrown into jail are untrue.”

Officials Listen In

K. Metzner, head of the German Boxing Federation, who listened to the broadcast with members of the International European Boxing Federation (FIFA), believed the fight, because of its sudden end, did not give a clear picture of whether Louis or Schmeling was the better fighter.

He said Louis undoubtedly was in excellent form. Schmeling, he thought, watched Louis’s left hand too closely, whereas since their last meeting two years ago Louis had developed a powerful right.

He said it was hard to judge whether Trainer Machon’s action in throwing in the towel was the proper move, thus making the fight end as a technical knockout.

He added Schmeling could be sure of as hearty a reception at home as ever.

Statistics on Fight

Attendance – 80,000 Estimated gross receipts – $900,000 Federal tax – $90,000 State tax – $45,000 Louis’s share (40 per cent of net) – $306,000 Schmeling’s share (20 per cent of net) – $153,000 Promoter’s share, from which all other expenses are deducted – $306,000.