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Hear Joe Louis Knock Out Max Schmeling: Black Sports Heroes in the Depression Era

The rise to prominence in the 1930s of legendary black sports figures—the heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis and the Olympic track and field star Jesse Owens—challenged the barriers that separated white and black American athletes and their fans. Louis’s boxing prowess had excited black fans as early as 1934, and he quickly worked his way through the heavyweight ranks, dispatching white and black opponents alike with brutal efficiency. Louis’s one defeat before attaining the title came at the hands of the German fighter and ex-champion Max Schmeling, who knocked Louis out in twelve rounds at Yankee Stadium in 1936. Two years later, Louis faced Schmeling in a rematch, this time not only with the championship belt on the line but bragging rights among nations lurching toward war. Louis knocked out Schmeling in two minutes and four seconds of the first round. The radio announcer’s call of the fight, including the knockout punch, conveyed the drama, as did a postfight radio interview with the Champ.

Listen to Audio:

Ring Announcer: “Fifteen rounds for the World’s Heavyweight Championship! Weighing 193 [pounds], wearing purple trunks, outstanding contender for heavyweight honors, the former heavyweight title holder, Max Schmeling.”

[Cheers from crowd]

Fight Caller: “A lightning left to the head, a left to the jaw, a right to the head, and Donovan [the referee] is watching carefully. Louis measures him. Right to the body, a left hook to the jaw. And Schmeling is down. The count is 5, 5, 6, 7, 8, the men are in the ring, the fight is over on a technical knockout. Max Schmeling is beaten in one round!”

Ring Announcer: “The time . . . 2 minutes, 4 seconds, first round. Referee stops it. The winner and still champion . . . Joe Louis!”


Radio Announcer: “In the dressing room after the fight, Louis was as jubilant as it is possible for him to be.”

Joe Louis: "I waited two years for the revenge and now I got it."

Source: Courtesy of the Michigan State University, G. Robert Vincent Voice Library.