A historic boxing match becomes a proxy for world politics as legendary African-American boxer Joe Louis takes on his most memorable opponent, German Max Schmeling.
Louis’ parents migrated from Alabama to Detroit, Michigan, in the 1920s hoping for opportunity. Despite his stepfather’s objections, Joe was drawn to the boxing ring, and it wasn’t long before he was a contender. His exploits made him a hero, particularly to the African-American community, but boxing authorities seemed reluctant to see a black champion. Meanwhile, Max Schmeling was moving up the ranks in Europe, eventually coming to the United States and securing the world heavyweight championship—and winning the admiration of Adolf Hitler, whose Nazi Party was rising to power in Germany. The first fight between the black man and the white man ended in defeat for the American, and by the time their rematch occurred in 1938, the “battle [became] much more than a contest between two prizefighters.…Had you asked almost any American, you’d have heard that Joe Louis was taking on the führer himself.” Florio and Shapiro bring considerable skill to their lively telling of this multilayered slice of history. They provide solid context for readers while keeping the focus on the match and its aftermath, giving an honest account of the racism and anti-Semitism intertwined throughout and realistically portraying the complexities of both men. Contemporaneous pictures enhance the narrative.
Compelling history well told. (source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)