Joe Louis knocks out Max Schmeling, 22nd June 1938

This breathless transcript from a radio broadcast paints a powerful picture. It’s included because it packs so much action into so few words. In a previous fight Schmeling had beaten Louis, an achievement the recently elected Nazi party took as a symbol of German supremacy over non-Aryans. Just before this fight in Madison Square Gardens New York, Adolf Hitler apparently wrote to Max Schmeling reminding him of his nation’s expectations, leaving the boxer in no doubt that this was one fight he had to win. The controversy sold a lot of tickets, adding hugely to the pre-fight hype.

Joe Louis Max Schmeling

‘Listen to this, buddy, for it comes from a guy whose palms are still wet, whose throat is still dry, and whose jaw is still agape from the utter shock of watching Joe Louis knock out Max Schmeling.

‘It was a shocking thing, that knockout – short, sharp, merciless, complete. Louis was like this.

‘He was a big lean copper spring, tightened and retightened through weeks of training until he was one pregnant package of coiled venom.

‘Schmeling hit that spring with a whistling, right-handed punch in the first minute of that fight and the spring, tormented with tension, suddenly burst with one brazen spang of activity. Hard brown arms, propelling two unerring fists, blurred beneath the hot white candelabra of the ring lights. And Schmeling was in the path of them, a man caught and mangled in the whirring claws of a mad and feverish machine.

‘There were four steps to Schmeling’s knockout…’

From Bob Considine’s ringside commentary, reported in The New York Times.

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