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There are times in which good men find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Max Schmeling, Joe Frazier and Gerry Cooney were three good men who found themselves playing boxing villains.
In 1936, Max Schmeling upset Joe Louis with a 12 round knock out and momentarily derailed the Louis express. In the two years between their classic rematch, the horror of Nazis Germany became more obvious. So when Max Schmeling fought Louis for the heavyweight championship, this fight became Germany vs. America- good vs. evil. Schmeling became a symbol of Germany “Master race” and certainly the Germans were perfectly willing to allow Max to assume the mantle of the German Super man. The Nazis looked at this fight as the national referendum of Germany’s superiority
For Schmeling, the pressure was intense. Schmeling, like other Germans, was proud of the German progress in the 1930’s as Germany began to rebuild its military and its pride. While many felt that Schmeling was a willing pawn in Hitler’s schemes, Schmeling himself was not a Nazi or anti-Semite. His own manager was Jewish and he refused to fire his manager despite pressure from the Nazi hierarchy. On one occasion, he even aided a Jewish family to escape Germany in the late 30’s. Before the fight, the Gestapo detained Schmeling’s parents and family. The message was clear, “defect and your family will be imprisoned.”