By Joe Torcello. (Part 2 of 4)
1930 – 1939
Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling
June 22, 1938
Max Schmeling had been the first fighter to defeat Joe Louis in 1936. Schmeling broke down an overconfident Louis and eventually knocked him out in the 12th. Although Louis had gone on to win the title against Jim Braddock in 1937, he told the press not to call him “champ” until he, “beat Max Smelling.” By the time June of 1938 rolled around, the Louis – Schmeling rematch had grown in the eyes of the world to be much more than a mere boxing match. For a world on the brink of war, it symbolized the battle between the United States of America and Nazi Germany. The Nazi P.R. machine had turned Schmeling to a symbol of Aryan superiority. For the safety of his family, Schmeling could not speak out against Hitler’s propaganda.
Just over seventy thousand fans showed up at the old Yankee stadium in the Bronx, New York to see what had grown into an event. On June 22nd 70,043 fans piled into old Yankee stadium to watch Joe Louis brutally kayo Schmeling in the opening round. Meanwhile, the plugs were pulled in Hitler’s Germany.
1940 – 1949
Tony Zale vs. Rocky Graziano
July 16, 1947
It was the 2nd fight of one of Boxing’s most thrilling trilogies. During their first encounter a year earlier, Zale had picked himself off the floor and was being outfought from the onset. In the 6th round, however, a crunching left hook stopped Graziano – saving Zale and the title. This fight would also go 6 brutal rounds, except this time, it would Graziano who would walk away with the title after 30+ unanswered punches left Zale on the brink of unconsciousness along the ropes.
With the temperature in Chicago Stadium climbing over the 100 degree mark, the “Man of Steel” had been broken and Graziano was the new Middleweight Champion of the World.
1950 – 1959
Ray Robinson vs. Carmen Basilio
September 23, 1957
Welterweight Champion Carmen Basilio and defending Middleweight Champion Ray Robinson redefined the word – “intensity” during their blistering 15-round shootout at Yankee Stadium. The 153 lb. Basilio was cut in the 2nd round but kept enormous pressure upon Robinson throughout. Basilio pounded the 37 year old Robinson to the body mercilessly until the bell sounded at the conclusion of the 15th and final round.
The bout went to the scorecards. The referee scored the fight for Robinson, but the two judges at ringside gave the nod to Basilio. The Middleweight division had a new champion and boxing experts predicted the end had come for the man they called “pound for pound,” the greatest fighter who ever lived.
Their predictions were about as accurate as the horoscopes, however, and six months later Robinson regained the title from Basilio in Chicago.
The Boxing Magazine – December 2009