Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried “Max” Schmeling was born in September 28, 1905 in Germany. Schmeling first became acquainted with boxing when his father took him to watch film of the heavyweight championship match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. He turned pro on 1924 and had a good start winning seventeen of his first twenty-three bouts, thirteen by knockout. On August 24, 1926, he won the German light heavyweight championship with a first round knockout over Max Diekmann, who had previously beaten Schmeling. The next year, Schmeling won the European championship by stopping Fernand Delarge in the first boxing match broadcast live in Germany. After defending both titles against Hein Domgoergen the same year and, in 1928, the European Title with a first round knockout of Michele Bonaglia, he secured the German heavyweight championship with a point victory against Franz Diener, and decided to chase bigger fights and bigger purses in the United States.
Schmeling's debut in America took place on November of 1928 at the Madison Square Garden with an eighth round knockout of Joe Monte. On February 1, 1929, Schmeling fought Johnny Risko, one of the biggest names in the division, although past his prime. Risko went down four times in the fight, the referee halted the contest in the ninth round to save Risko from further punishment, handing Risko his only loss by TKO. When he defeated the highly regarded Spaniard Paulino Uzcudun via a fifteen-round decision at Yankee Stadium later that year, Schmeling was suddenly regarded as the foremost young contender in the division. In 1930 Promoters arranged a fight between the German and Jack Sharkey for the vacant vacant NYSAC World heavyweight title and National Boxing Association World heavyweight title. In round 4 Schmeling was trying to corner his opponent when Sharkey let loose with a blow to the body which strayed below the belt line. He immediately clutched his groin and fell to the canvas, claiming to have been fouled. When manager Jacobs ran into the ring, prompting all kinds of chaos, the confused referee disqualified Sharkey and declared Schmeling the victor and the first (and only) man to win the heavyweight championship on a foul. The New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC), reviewing the call, agreed. Despite being the first European-born boxer to win the heavyweight championship in thirty-three years, and also the first German to hold the distinction, the way in which he won the title proved an embarrassment, he was called the “low blow champion”, he was disparaged in both America and Europe as an unproven titleholder. When he initially refused to face Sharkey in a rematch, the NYSAC officially stripped him of their recognition as world champion, but he remained recognized by both the National Boxing Association (NBA) and The Ring magazine. Most of the criticism faded after Schmeling's first defense, an impressive fifteen round t.k.o. over Young Stribling, a future hall-of-famer with 239 wins to his credit by 1931. In order to solidify his title as undisputed, Schmeling signed a contract to face the “Boston Gob” once more. On June 21, 1932, Sharkey won a highly controversial split decision, taking the championship. Many in attendance, felt that Schmeling had proven himself the better man and was robbed. In losing the championship, the German had managed to elevate his reputation in the minds of boxing fans. In September of 1932 Schmeling fought Mickey Walker, a former welterweight, he had won championships in two divisions but was at a considerable size disadvantage against the Schmeling. Schemling sent Walker to the canvas three times, and after eight exciting rounds, Walker's corner threw in the towel, confirming Schmeling's status as the leading heavyweight in the world. In 1933 Schmeling lost against Max Baer. In 1936 Max Schmeling was matched with undefeated African-American sensation Joe Louis. Schmeling was the underdog coming into this fight, but he had carefully studied Joe Louis and noticed that Louis lowered his left hand after throwing a left jab. In the ring, Schmeling exploited this subtle flaw to his own advantage, countering nearly every Louis jab with his best punch, the right cross. The fight proved to be a competitive, hard-hitting affair for the first three rounds, but, in the fourth, a counter right from the German dropped Louis for the first time in his career. Though Louis rose, he was badly dazed for the remainder of the fight and Schmeling subsequently delivered the finest performance of his career. For a further eight rounds he battered Louis, often standing toe-to-toe with the vaunted puncher and landing that same right hand to the jaw repeatedly. In the twelfth he sent the American tumbling to the floor once more, and this time Louis could not recover. He was counted out on the floor and Schmeling had scored the most talked-about sports upset of the year. Max Schmeling was the unexpected number one contender for the heavyweight crown held by Jim Braddock. The tense situation in Germany in 1936, under Nazi rule, didn't make the best climate for a championship match involving a German fighter. Braddock fought Joe Louis for the title, Schmeling protested, but to no avail. Joe Louis defeated Braddock and became the world heavyweight champion. Schmeling fought just once more in America, an eighth round knockout of future contender Harry Thomas and then returned to Germany. He continued to press for a chance at a rematch with Louis and the chance finally came in 1938, the rematch became an instant international sensation. Many clamored impatiently for its happening, but others, afraid of international tensions and the possibility of Hitler taking over the championship, protested. Louis, with his poor, African-American roots was adopted by American fans as the symbol of America as a land of opportunity. In contrast, Americans perceived Schmeling and as an obvious threat to those opportunities and ideals. When the German walked to the ring at Yankee Stadium on June 22, 1938, he did so under a hail of garbage thrown from the stands. Louis came out blazing in the first round and Schmeling tried to counter-punch as he had in the first bout, but to no avail. Driven into the ropes and battered with a fusillade of short, crisp blows from every angle, Schmeling turned his back to his opponent and clutched onto the ropes, letting out a scream that even years later, many spectators could recall vividly. Schmeling would later say that he screamed because he had been hit with a blow to the kidneys. Schmeling's knees buckled under the punishment and referee Arthur Donovan pushed Louis away, beginning a count on Schmeling. Schmeling reluctantly stepped away from the ropes and Donovan allowed him to continue. A few punches later, Schmeling was knocked down again. From then on, he was helpless. He rose but fell moments later and Donovan stopped the fight.
During the Nazi purge of Jews from Berlin, he personally saved the lives of two Jewish children by hiding them in his apartment. It was not the first time that Max defied the Nazi regime's hatred for Jews. As the story goes, Hitler let it be known through the Reich Ministry of Sports that he was very displeased at Max's relationship with Joe Jacobs, his Jewish fight promoter and wanted it terminated, but Max courageously refused to bow even to Hitler. During the war, Schmeling participated in the 1941 Battle of Crete, where he was wounded and after recovery was dismissed from active service. He later visited American P.O.W. camps and occasionally tried to help conditions for the prisoners. After the war, strapped for money, he embarked upon a moderately successful comeback in boxing, winning three of his five bouts with two-point defeats before re-entering retirement in 1948. Had his own statues in Hollenstedt.
During the 1950s, Schmeling began working for The Coca-Cola Company's offices in Germany. Before long he owned his own bottling plant and held an executive's position within the company. He became friends with Joe Louis and assisted his former rival financially in his later years, eventually financing his military funeral in 1981.
His wife for 54 years, the Czech-born actress Anny Ondra died in 1987. In 1992, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He lived his remaining years as a wealthy man and avid boxing fan, dying on February 2, 2005 at the age of 99.
Reference Credit: BoxRec and Wikipedia)
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Born: Sept. 28, 1905
Died: Feb. 2, 2005