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Boxers' Memoirs
The First Fight | The Rematch 

The Rematch

June 22, 1938
Yankee Stadium, New York

By 1938, Joe Louis was the heavyweight world champion of the world. The title would not feel complete, however, until he could beat the only boxer who had defeated him.

Max Schmeling's summer house had just burned to the ground, Nazi officials continued to pressure him to join the party, and he learned that he was being watched even outside of Germany. When New Yorkers taunted him with a stiff-armed Nazi salute, or called him a Nazi, he was particularly depressed. He considered America a second home, one where politics were not so oppressive.

The two boxers describe their 1938 rematch in these excerpts from their memoirs.


I said, "I'm scared I might kill Schmeling tonight."


The experts almost unanimously favored Louis, despite my knockout of him and my subsequent victories. Still, the betting odds this time weren't 10:1 or 20:1 as they had been for the last fight, but only 2:1 for Louis.


At seven o'clock we went to the stadium. I took a quick nap.


In the locker room I noticed for the first time that the tension of the last weeks had taken its toll. I was nervous.


When I walked down that aisle to get to my corner and heard all those cheers of 70,000 people, I knew I'd have to make it.

Before the bell rang, I felt like a racehorse in the starting gate.


I walked to the ring. As I became visible to the crowd, all hell broke loose. Of course there were some cheers as well... but they were drowned out by the others. Even though I was flanked by twenty-five police officers, I was still hit by cigarette butts, banana peels, and paper cups, so that I had to pull a towel over my head just to reach the ring safely.


I had made up my mind that for three rounds I was going to let it all go out. I was going to stay on top of him... I had no intention of pacing myself.


Contrary to what I had expected, Louis came right after me, and before I knew what had happened, I was hit with three hard lefts to the face. I retreated two steps, but Louis came right after me with a hail of head and body shots... I tried to stop this raging fighting machine with a hard right. But Louis showed absolutely no effect and came at me again with a tornado of lefts and rights.


I came out of my corner quickly and wasted no time getting at Schmeling... I hit him with two left hooks to the face that snapped his head back, then I banged a right to his jaw. He threw a right hand that I blocked and tried a left to my head that fell short. Then I drove him into the ropes with a lot of hooks and right hands... It was time for the kill. I started hitting him with everything I had... and his legs started shaking.

As he hung on the ropes, I hit him with a right to the body. Trying to get away from the punch, Schmeling twisted and took the blow in his lower back...

It was all over in two minutes and four seconds.


I experienced the end in a semi-conscious state...

Then I was in an ambulance, being taken to the hospital...

I wasn't allowed to have visitors -- no reporters, no friends, not even Joe Louis. When he tried to visit me, [my managers] wouldn't allow it... I was too out of it to get involved.


After the fight I was sorry to hear they had taken Schmeling to [a hospital]. I had almost broken his back. He had some fractures of the vertebrae and badly bruised back muscles....


The German ambassador managed to get in to ask me whether the punch in the back had been an illegal blow.... I explained to him how I had grabbed the ropes and turned during the rain of punches. As I turned, Louis threw that...right... It was too late to stop the punch, so I took it in the back.


I ...heard that when the Germans learned how badly I was beating Schmeling, they cut the radio wires to Germany. They didn't want their people to know that just a plain old nigger man was knocking the [stuffing] out of the Aryan Race.


After this defeat, I no longer existed for [Adolf] Hitler and [Joseph] Goebbels [the Nazi Propaganda Minister]... My name simply disappeared from the newspapers...

From the distanced perspective of age, I have to believe that the defeat had its positive side as well. A victory over Joe Louis would have made me forever the "Aryan Show Horse" of the Third Reich.

Listen to this match in the Ringside Radio feature on this Web site.

Excerpts from:

Louis, Joe with Art Rust, Jr. and Edna Rust. My Life. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.


Schmeling, Max. Max Schmeling: An Autobiography. Translated and edited by George B. von der Lippe. Chicago: Bonus Books, 1998.

page created on 9.22.04
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