Schmeling, Max

Schmeling, Max
▪ 2006
Maximilian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling  German heavyweight boxer (b. Sept. 28, 1905, Klein Luckow, Ger.—d. Feb. 2, 2005, Hollenstedt, Ger.), became the first European boxer to become heavyweight champion of the world when he captured the title with a win by disqualification over Jack Sharkey on June 12, 1930. Schmeling held the championship until June 21, 1932, when he lost a rematch with Sharkey on a highly controversial split decision. Schmeling's two most notable fights, however, came against emerging heavyweight great Joe Louis. A 10–1 underdog in his first fight with Louis on June 19, 1936, Schmeling achieved a stunning upset with a 12th-round knockout of a fighter whom many had regarded as unbeatable. The victory made Schmeling a hero in his native Germany. Although he was never a member of the Nazi Party, he was lionized by the Nazis as a symbol of Aryan supremacy. The German and American press corps invested his rematch with the African American Louis with nationalist and racial implications. The bout, which took place on June 22, 1938, ended in the first round with Louis completely overwhelming Schmeling, knocking him out in 124 seconds. Schmeling returned to Germany and the following year won the European heavyweight title. The devastating loss to Louis and, more significantly, Schmeling's refusal to abandon his Jewish friends and associates, had resulted in his falling out of favour with the Nazi regime, which saw to it that he was drafted into the German army during World War II despite his having passed the age of conscription. After the war Schmeling staged a short-lived comeback, winning three of five fights in 1947–48 before retiring with a career record of 56 wins (40 by knockout), 10 losses, and 4 draws. In 1957 he acquired the Coca-Cola bottling and distribution franchise for the Federal Republic of Germany, and this business eventually made him a wealthy man. Over the years he also forged a strong friendship with Louis, helping his former nemesis financially and paying for Louis's funeral in 1981. Schmeling was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992. His memoirs, Erinnerungen, appeared in 1977; a translation, Max Schmeling: An Autobiography, was published in 1998.

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▪ German boxer
byname of  Maximilian Schmeling  
born September 28, 1905, Klein Luckow, Brandenburg, Germany
died February 2, 2005, Hollenstedt
 German heavyweight boxer who, from June 12, 1930, when Jack Sharkey (Sharkey, Jack) lost to him by disqualification, until June 21, 1932, when he was outpointed by Sharkey in 15 rounds, held the world heavyweight boxing title, the first European to do so.

      Schmeling became interested in boxing in 1921 and turned professional three years later. He won the German light heavyweight title in 1926 and added the heavyweight title in 1928. He pursued more challenging fights in the United Sates, where victories over top heavyweights Johnny Risko and Paolino Uzcudun in 1929 led to the 1930 fight against Sharkey.

      Schmeling's most notable victory, however, was a 12th-round knockout of Joe Louis (Louis, Joe) on June 19, 1936. While studying slow-motion films of Louis's fights, Schmeling had noticed Louis's tendency to drop his guard after a series of left jabs. Schmeling took advantage of this weakness to defeat his heavily favoured opponent.

      The rematch between Schmeling and Louis became a stage for international politics. After his stunning victory, the Nazi Party attempted to capitalize on Schmeling's propaganda value. The apolitical Schmeling, who was never a member of the party, was promoted as an “Aryan” representative of Nazi ideology. In fact, both Adolf Hitler and Franklin Roosevelt met with their respective fighters before the second bout on June 22, 1938, and the press corps of both nations invested the fight with nationalist and racial implications.

      Louis was dominant, knocking out Schmeling two minutes into the first round of their rematch. When it became clear that Schmeling would lose, the radio broadcast of the fight was terminated in Germany. Schmeling was hospitalized after the fight with two broken vertebrae and returned to Germany a week later.

      The loss did not ingratiate Schmeling with high-ranking Nazi Party members, who had previously expressed concerns about his retention of Jewish American trainer Joe Jacobs as well as his marriage to the Austrian film star Anny Ondra, who worked with a number of Jews. In later years it was revealed that Schmeling had sheltered two Jewish boys in his Berlin apartment during the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9–10, 1938.

      Schmeling served as a paratrooper in the German army during World War II and was injured during the invasion of Crete in 1941. He returned to boxing in 1947–48, winning three of five fights in Germany before retiring at age 43. In all, he had 70 bouts, winning 55, 38 of them by knockouts. Later influential friends in the United States helped him to acquire the Coca-Cola (Coca-Cola Company, The) franchise for the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), making him a wealthy man. In the 1950s Schmeling visited Louis in the United States, and the two became good friends. Schmeling's memoirs, Erinnerungen, appeared in 1977; the translation, Max Schmeling: An Autobiography, was released in 1998.

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Universalium. 2010.

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