When Joe Louis and Max Schmeling first put the gloves on in 1936, many, including Louis, believed "The Brown Bomber" would take the champion out with ease. Louis was 27-0 with 23 knockouts, the biggest name in the sport, and was believed to be unbeatable.
Schmeling was 30 years old and thought to be on the decline. The German had split his two fights with American heavyweight Jack Sharkey, and was well known to the United States public. He was not believed to be a threat to the invincible Louis.
Leading up to the fight, Louis did not take his training seriously, spending more time on the golf course than in the gym. Conversely, Schmeling's training was intense. He believed he had found a weakness in Louis' style that would allow him to prevail. Boxing fans thought this was mere posturing, and Schmeling was trying to promote the fight.
History shows that Schmeling did indeed find a weakness in Louis' game, as the Bomber had a bad habit of dropping his left hand after throwing a jab. Schmeling used this to his advantage, throwing left jabs, then crushing Louis with the right cross.
Schmeling repeated the technique until he put Louis on the canvas for good in the 12th round. This was the only loss in Louis' prime, as his two other losses, to Rocky Marciano (sixth in Ring Magazine's top 50 fighters of all time) and Ezzard Charles (11th) came post-retirement, when Louis was in his mid-30s.
With his legacy on the line, Louis took his training more seriously for the rematch. Needless to say, Schmeling did not have the chance to repeat his technique from the first fight, and he did not escape the first round.
This was a culminating fight for Louis in a career that gets serious recognition as the greatest of all time.
For a rip-roaring debate on whether or not to place Louis ahead of Muhammad Ali as the GOAT, click here.
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