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The Fight | Article

Famous Friends

Joe Louis and Max Schmeling were respected athletes in their own nations and celebrities around the world. And they shared a few famous acquaintances. Take a look at Louis and Schmeling's connections to some well-known people.

Bertolt Brecht, playwright: Schmeling and Brecht became friends in Berlin.

Al Capone, gangster : Capone once invited Schmeling to a party, but was arrested that day.

Marlene Dietrich, actress: Dietrich socialized with Schmeling, and predicted his 1936 victory over Louis.

Douglas Fairbanks, actor: Schmeling met Fairbanks through German émigrés in Hollywood like director Ernst Lubitsch.

Sonja Henie, champion figure skater and actress: Henie had an affair with Louis in Hollywood. Henie was in the same European circles as Schmeling.

Adolf Hitler, dictator of Germany: Hitler had dinner with Schmeling a few times. Before the 1936 fight, Schmeling received a cable from Hitler: "To the coming World's Champion, Max Schmeling. Wishing you every success." Hitler also sent a Japanese maple to the boxer as a wedding present.

Jimmy Hoffa, Teamsters president: Louis' wife, attorney Martha Jefferson, represented Hoffa in hearing before Congress.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil rights leader: King invited Louis to rallies in the civil rights era of the 1960s.

Ronald Reagan, U.S. president: When Louis died in 1981, President Reagan stated, "I was privileged and will always be grateful to have had Joe Louis as my friend."

Jackie Robinson, baseball great who broke the color line:  Robinson and Louis served in the Army together during World War II.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., businessman/philanthropist and heir to the Standard Oil fortune: Rockefeller met Schmeling on a golf course, and gave the boxer encouragement for upcoming fights.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. president: FDR wished Louis luck before the 1938 fight, saying, "these are the muscles we need to defeat the Germans."

FDR visited Schmeling's training camp and told the boxer, "Of course I'm an American, Max, but I still wish you good luck with the fight!" Schmeling replied, "And you, Your Honor, good luck with the election!"

Babe Ruth, baseball great: Ruth met Louis when the boxer was training for the Tommy Farr fight in 1937.

Frank Sinatra, singer: Sinatra paid for Louis to have surgery later in life.

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