The Schmeling/louis Matches
With his victory over Baer, Joe Louis was widely seen as the best fighter, and his drawing power eclipsed that of the hapless James Braddock. But there was another white hope on the horizon. Former heavyweight champion Max Schmeling, a German, was looking for an American comeback after years of successfully boxing in Europe. Naturally, he wanted a shot at the title, but the boxing commission informed him he'd have to fight Louis first. Unfortunately, Joe Louis was too busy enjoying his newfound wealth and fame to train seriously for the Schmeling match. On June 11, 1936, Joe Louis lost his first professional boxing match, in a twelfthround knockout by Max Schmeling.
Louis and his fans were devastated, but not for long. The next year, it was Louis, not Schmeling, who got a shot at the championship. Partly this was due to events in Schmeling's homeland. Many Americans had been disgusted by Hitler's attempt to use sporting events, such as the 1936 Berlin Olympics, as a showcase for Nazism and Aryan superiority.
Everyone knew a Schmeling rematch was the next order of business if Louis' title was to be seen as fully legitimate. A year later, on June 22, 1938, it came. The buildup to the match was incredible, even by the standards of the most famous black man in America. The world was on the verge of war with Nazism, and Max Schmeling was seen as an Aryan poster boy. For the first time, white and black America were united behind Joe Louis, proof that America's best could defeat Germany's. Louis had a simple strategy for the fight: unrelenting attack. From the beginning Louis came out swinging, landing an overhead right that stunned Schmeling, breaking two of his verterbrae with a roundhouse right, and knocking him down three times in rapid
succession. Two minutes and four seconds into the match, Schmeling's trainer threw in the towel. Seventy-thousand fans hailed Joe Louis as an American hero.