February 6, 2005 by

Max Schmeling

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Categories: Business, Military, Sports

mschmeling.jpgMaximilian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling, the German boxing legend who twice squared off against world heavyweight champion Joe Louis, died on Feb. 2. Cause of death was not released. He was 99.
Born in Uckermar, Germany, Schmeling was a self-taught boxer with a powerful right-handed punch. He turned pro in 1924 and won the German light heavyweight title three years later. Known as the “Black Uhlan of the Rhine,” Schmeling was the first German, and European, to become the heavyweight world champion when he beat Jack Sharkey in 1930. Sharkey won the title back in 1932 on a disputed decision.
Although he was not a member of the Nazi Party, Schmeling was touted in propaganda as a symbol of Aryan supremacy. When he squared off with the undefeated Louis in 1936, the fight took on mythic proportions in the boxing and political arenas. In the 12th round, Schmeling knocked out the “Brown Bomber.” Louis’ defeat sparked riots in Harlem; one man who had bet on Schmeling was later hospitalized with a fractured skull and multiple stab wounds.
At their rematch in 1938, the tables turned and Louis knocked Schmeling out two minutes and four seconds into the first round. En route to the hospital, Schmeling’s ambulance had to make a detour to avoid the celebratory street parties. Schmeling returned to Germany on a stretcher two weeks later, still healing from two broken vertebra.
Despite the differences in their races and nationalities, Schmeling and Louis remained friends for many years. Schmeling occasionally gave money to the Louis family, and even paid for the American boxer’s funeral in 1981.
Schmeling was drafted into the military and served as a German paratrooper during World War II, but he didn’t support the Third Reich’s ethnic cleansing efforts. He refused to fire his Jewish-American manager Joe Jacobs, or divorce his wife, actress Anny Ondra, and marry a member of the “master race.” He also hid two Jewish boys in his hotel apartment and helped sneak them out of the country.
After the war, the nearly destitute Schmeling resumed his boxing career. He fought until 1948 before retiring at the age of 43 with a record of 56-10-4 and 39 knockouts. His life was chronicled in the bestselling 1977 autobiography, “Max Schmeling.” In 1992, the pugilist was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Schmeling used his fight proceeds to buy Coca-Cola distributorships in Germany and became wealthy bottling and distributing the soft drink. Through the Max Schmeling Foundation, he gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the elderly and the poor.
Listen to the Ringside Broadcast of the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling Rematch
Listen to a Tribute From NPR

One Response to Max Schmeling

  1. Geoff No. One

    Well this fellow was one heck of a hitter. I believe he had a roundhouse which felled many a man and a few women too. It is amazing that he lived to be 99. I hope that Floyd Patterson lives that long. Great boxer!

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