Subj: The BAWLI Papers No. 18
Date: 98-12-27 07:56:41 EST
The BAWLI Papers
(Boxing As We Liked It)
By J Michael Kenyon
Issue Number 18
Thursday, December 31, 1998
New York City, New York, US of A
IN THIS ISSUE: LOUIS & SCHMELING RECALLED BY TWO OF THE MORE NOTED SPORTS
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HELPING RACE RELATIONS
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 28, 1998)
By Bob Broeg
Recently in Detroit, they saluted an occasion when race relations took a small
step forward, thanks to white Americans becoming colorblind in appreciation of
an African-American who triumphed as good over evil.
Sixty years ago at Yankee Stadium, young champion Joe Louis knocked Germany's
Max Schmeling down three times in the first round to retain the title.
Here, meaning St. Louis and everywhere, white Americans cheered. And many for
the first time shook hands with blacks. This was, if you will, a step in the
right direction, seven years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in
That occasion in June 1938 was dramatically different from the same location
two years earlier, when Schmeling hung a surprising 12th-round knockout on the
then-unbeaten 22-year-old Louis. The Brown Bomber, as Louis was called, had
won 27 consecutive bouts, 23 by KO.
Schmeling, a 31-year-old former champion, was supposed to be only a big-name
title tune-up for the Brown Bomber.
Trouble was, the wily Schmeling, watching Louis in person and on film,
explained that he saw something.
What he saw was a bad habit. Joe threw lefthanded jabs in succession -- one,
two -- dropped his left shoulder and then crossed with his right
Patiently, the veteran waited. In the fourth round, after Louis jabbed twice
and lowered his left shoulder, Schmeling dropped him with a savage overhand
right to Louis'unprotected jaw.
Demonstrating courage as well as ability, Louis hung in until the 12th, but
the stunning loss moved Schmeling front-and-center for a chance at the
championship, held then by Jimmy Braddock. Braddock had won the title in '35
by outpointing Max Baer.
By now, Germany's contender seemed a top-heavy favorite. There was Adolf
Hitler's arrogance and claim of Aryan supremacy, reflected in his arrogance
toward the Jews - the severity of which was only partly understood then.
Braddock's manager, Joe Gould, a Jew, temporarily made certain Hitler's pride
and joy, Schmeling, didn't get the championship chance.
Gould cut a deal by which Louis got the title shot in exchange for future
financial considerations for Braddock. Jimmy fought valiantly before the
Bomber bombed him out in eight rounds in 1937.
So now, in a moment of truth, Louis would have to face Schmeling as good
against evil. With much of the world rooting for him, Louis faced his
conqueror in June 22, 1938 at Yankee Stadium.
The occasion was honored 60 years later at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, named
for the former Alabama farm boy who grew up in the Michigan metropolis.
The Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame sponsored the situation in the city
where the Brown Bomber is beloved. In addition to the sports arena named for
him, there's a giant statue of a boxing fist.
Also, the lobby of adjoining Cobo Hall, with a room of memorabilia for Louis,
displays a glass-enclosed, bronzed left glove. It's the one that toppled
Schmeling in the first round.
Schmeling, who claimed he'd been hit with a kidney punch, left the ring in
shrieking pain. Embarrassingly, he was carried by stretcher the next day onto
the German luxury liner, the Bremen, for a long, agonizing ship ride back to
Louis fought too long -- until 42 -- in 1956, but Schmeling also boxed too
long after having served with the German Luftwaffe. He was a paratrooper who
was wounded at Crete. Schmeling was 43 when he turned from the ring to a
prosperous date with European Coca-Cola.
Max sent funds to Louis' widow after the Bomber died in 1981 at 67, but
Schmeling had a pretty good excuse for not coming back for the anniversary of
the night Joe Louis put him on his backside - along with Hitler's idea of
Schmeling is 94 years old.
A SILLY LITTLE BOY WHO LOST A NICKEL
(Detroit News, June, 1998)
By Joe Falls
Was it that deadpanned look, that icy expression,
cold, lifeless and menacing? Or was it the way he shuffled across the ring,
almost flat-footed, moving slowly, carefully, in search of his prey, knowing
he could escape for only so long? Or was it simply the way he could cave a man
in with one swing of that right hand?
What was it that made Joe Louis such a fascinating figure in the ring?
I don't know. As a boy growing up in New York City, I never saw him fight.
This is strange because he was my first hero.
At age 8, I knew little of the world around me, but I loved Joe Louis, and I'm
not sure why. When, as a man, I came to Detroit, the place where he grew up, I
read stories of how the black citizens of Paradise Valley would gather on
their porches on those hot summer nights and listen to the man's great fights
country. They could not have had much, but they had this man -- this
magnificent man -- and through him they reached great heights.
I had it easier. I lived in a row house in Queens, not a large house but
comfortable. It was myself, my father (a New York City policemen), my mom and
my two brothers. We were a sports family and we, too, except for my mother,
would gather around the Philco radio and listen to Louis' great fights, each
of us conjuring
our own visions of the man.
Black? I had no understanding of black. We didn't live with any black people.
Joe Louis was black, but it never occurred to me. He was -- Joe Louis. A great
fighter and a great man. You could tell it by the newsreel films in the movie
theaters on Saturday afternoons. He would plod after his man, then corner him,
then finish him. The
best part was when he would walk away so quietly, without fuss or fanfare, job
done. He was a man of dignity, even though I hadn't learned to use the word
Then came the first fight against Max Schmeling. I was so enamored with Louis,
I said to my brother: "Bet you a nickel Louis wins."
Eddie, eight years older, said, "You're on," and put the two nickel in his
And then, as we huddled around the radio, it was hard to believe what we were
hearing from Chicago: "Louis is face down on the canvas ... he isn't moving
... eight, nine, 10 -- Max Schmeling wins in 13 rounds by a knockout."
I can't remember the reaction in our living room but I was sure of one thing:
My brother would give me my nickel back. He was a good brother.
I waited a while and, just before going to bed, said, "Can I have my nickel
back?" He said "No. I won it. It's mine."
I went to bed crying, not understanding for a moment what a truly good brother
I loved Joe Louis more than ever because we had lost so much together, and
when I saw him pick himself up and go on, beating Schmeling a few years later
with that one-round knockout in Yankee Stadium, utterly destroying the German
champion, and, as always, handling the moment with great style and grace --
neither chortling nor prancing and preening over the victory -- I knew I would
in some way have to conduct myself in a similar fashion if I wanted to be like
They honored Joe Louis in downtown Detroit on Monday, but I didn't go. How
could I tell them such a silly story about an 8-year-old kid who lost a nickel
on a fight?
ALI CONTINUES TO CAST A SPELL
(Chicago Tribune, November 15, 1998)
By Fred Mitchell
He is and always will be the greatest of all time.
Just ask him.
Then watch him.
Last week Muhammad Ali greeted seven invited guests to his dazzling new boxing
gymnasium on the grounds of his Michigan estate, consenting to a rare,
exclusive interview and first-ever photographs in his environs.
Ali, the 56-year-old international icon, rendered orally challenged because of
the effects of Parkinson's disease, still manages to communicate eloquently
with his patented smile, expressive eyes, keen sense of humor and persuasive
One visitor, 13-year-old Cassius Harris of Chicago, immediately was enthralled
by his namesake's magic tricks. First, Ali took a red handkerchief, stuffed it
into his meaty left hand and made it "disappear,'' forcing a look of
bewilderment on the face of young Cassius. Then Ali, the former Cassius Clay,
turned his back on his small audience and appeared to levitate a few inches
off the ground, ``floating like a butterfly'' as he used to brag when he was a
brash young champion.
"Who taught you those magic tricks?'' Ali was asked.
"Houdini,'' he answered with a straight face.
Continuing to show off for his visitors, Ali climbed up between the ropes of
his new boxing ring, hopped up on the canvas and invited his visitors, one by
one, to spar with the Champ. Kevin Kalinich, attorney for White Sox slugger
Frank Thomas, entered the ring and Ali immediately joked: "Are you the Great
White Hope? Are you the one who called me a name?''
Clearly, the new boxing ring -- the first one he has entered to train since
1981 -- has rejuvenated Ali. "I love it. It keeps me in shape,'' he said.
Kalinich, who studied at Yale and wrote a thesis 18 years ago on the life and
tribulations of Ali, feigned being knocked against the ropes, then dropped to
the canvas as Ali stood over him as he once did against Sonny Liston.
Kalinich, overcome by emotion, later was in tears as he left the gymnasium
after his ``dream of a lifetime'' visit.
Next, young Chicago artist Dujuan Austin, who presented Ali with a magnificent
portrait rendered on a chair that will be sold for charity at Thursday night's
annual Celebrity Chair Auction at the Sheraton Hotel, donned a pair of red
boxing gloves to "challenge'' the champ.
Other visitors followed: Celebrity Chair Auction founders Mary and Tom McCall;
Chicago publicist Barb Kozuh; charity volunteer Christine Kordiuk; and young
When Cassius asked Ali a question about his boxing career for a school
project, Ali shot back: "Who are you, the black Howard Cosell?''
As the adults laughed, young Cassius looked bewildered and asked: "Who is
During a pause from such levity, Ali retreated to a neutral corner and
repeated one of his famous bits of poetry:
"I wrestled with an alligator, tussled with a whale, handcuffed lightning,
threw thunder in jail. I'm a bad dude.''
In the middle of an interview, Ali closed his eyes and appeared to fall
asleep. His personal assistant and co-conspirator, Kim Vidt, said: "Muhammad
has narcolepsy and sometimes just falls asleep like this in the middle of the
Convinced his interviewer is persuaded, Ali opened his eyes suddenly, lunged
forward and shouted: "Boo!''
He smiled contentedly at the little prank he and his wife, Lani, also once
pulled on CBS "60 Minutes'' reporter Ed Bradley three years ago.
"Did I get you on that one?'' he asked.
Ali recently sat in on Mike Tyson's hearing in Nevada to help convince a board
to reinstate his boxing license.
One of Ali's current concerns is raising more money for his museum in his
native Louisville. Nearly $40 million has been generated, but another $50
million in corporate sponsorship funding is needed to break ground on the
facility. Ali said he hopes the museum will be a center where people can learn
tolerance and understanding.
Over the history of the annual Celebrity Chair Auction, Ali has helped elicit
more than $75,000 with his signed auction items. Thursday's event will benefit
Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the
Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation and the Resource Center. Tickets ($75) will
be available at the door of the downtown Sheraton.
Asked which fight he considers his all-time greatest, Ali said: " 'The Thrilla
In Manila.' The third Joe Frazier fight.''
Then he launched into another signature rhyme:
"I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick . . . I'm so mean I
make medicine sick.''
With a hint of bitterness nearly four decades later, Ali recalled the
indignity of returning to Louisville after winning a gold medal in the 1960
Olympics, only to be denied entrance to a restaurant in his hometown. Ali, in
disgust, threw that gold medal into the Ohio River, saying it was not worth
having if his freedom was denied.
The U.S. Dream Team Olympic basketball squad presented him with another gold
medal several years ago.
When Ali refused military induction in 1967, he became a controversial figure
because he stood up for his religious convictions as a Muslim.
How ironic that the "Louisville Lip'' with the motor mouth, charismatic
personality and handsome face is left to communicate with mere images and
nuances of his former self.
As David Remnick writes in his new book -- "King of the World: Muhammad Ali
and the Rise of an American Hero'':
"If (Ali) had had the face of Sonny Liston he would have lost much of his
Today Ali's cherub face is a window to our nation's political, religious and
sports legacy. In body and soul, Ali remains a gracious and enduring symbol of
American lore--the greatest of all time.
Just ask him.
A CHRISTMAS HELPING OF BOXING BOOKS
(The Independent, London, December 24, 1998)
By Ken Jones
In describing the scene of Cassius Clay's coronation on 25 February 1964 in
Miami Beach, Florida, a distinguished American sports columnist, the late Red
Smith, wrote: "Cassius Marcellus Clay fought his way out of the horde that
swarmed and leaped and shouted in the ring, climbed like a squirrel on to the
red velvet ropes and brandished his still-gloved hand aloft. 'Eat your words,'
he howled to the working press rows, 'Eat your words.'"
Smith's words, the words of practically every reporter at ringside. Words that
carried resentment of Clay's uniquely extravagant style, his brashness and
obvious contempt for the racist convention that he should be grateful for a
chance to rise above disenfranchisement.
At least Smith had the grace to add: "Nobody ever had a better right [to howl
at the press].
"In a mouth still dry from excitement of the most astounding upset in many
roaring years, the words don't taste good, but they taste better than they
read. The words written here, and practically everywhere else until the
impossible became the unbelievable truth, said Sonny Liston would squash
Cassius Clay like a bug."
As David Remnick states in The King of the World (Random House), not the most
comprehensive or revealing, but beyond doubt the most elegantly crafted book
about Muhammad Ali (so far only available in the United States): "some of
Clay's other detractors could barely bring themselves to admit that they had
been so wrong about him.
"Dick Young's column for the [New York] Daily News seethed with resentment, as
if the outcome had been a conspiracy designed specifically to offend him. 'If
Cassius wants me to say he's the greatest, all right, I'll say it,' Young
groused in print, 'but I'll say he scored the greatest retreating victory
since the Russians suckered Napoleon into a snow bank. I never saw Joe Louis
run away and win, or Rocky Marciano, and I'm sure my father never saw Jack
Dempsey run away and win, and my grandfather never saw John L Sullivan run
away and win.'"
American friends in this trade who think Remnick spends too much time putting
down sportswriters of that era point out that Ali was a culture shock, a
dramatic departure from the custom of one-dimensional fighters.
They miss not only the irony of Ali's lasting fame as a boxer but that of his
subsequent passage from reviled draft-dodger and rabble-rouser to all-American
As for allegiance to the Nation of Islam, his apparent acceptance of a
philosophy that damned the white man as a devil, Remnick quotes Ali's ring
doctor Ferdie Pacheco. "He's not a hater," Pacheco tells the author. "But he's
always marched to his own drummer. He sees things as he wants to. Whatever is
best for him, whatever ideology is best for him, whatever programme is best
for the way he thinks his life should be."
Ali treads slowly now, each careful step a measure of the difficulties
inflicted by Parkinson's disease. But in Remnick's stylish prose there is
resurrection. Although Ali is followed no further along the yellow brick road
than his defeat of Floyd Patterson in November 1965 it is enough.
Editor of New Yorker magazine, Remnick won a Pulitzer Prize for Lenin's Tomb:
The fall of Communism. With this penetrating study of events that announced
Ali as the sports figure of the century and a symbol of black consciousness he
lives up to his credentials.
Nobody on this side of the Atlantic who was assigned to charting Ali's
progress got closer to him than the ITV boxing commentator Reg Gutteridge.
There are many anecdotes about their relationship in Gutteridge's entertaining
autobiography Uppercuts and Dazes (John Blake Publishing, £16.99). When
recovering in hospital from a serious illness Gutteridge woke up one evening
to find Ali standing over him. Hearing in London that Gutteridge was unwell
Ali insisted on seeing him at a late hour. His senses by then impaired, Ali
placed a hand on Gutteridge's brow and mumbled a Muslim prayer.
It came as no surprise to boxing people when Naseem Hamed split with his Irish
mentor Brendan Ingle. The turbulence that entered their relationship after
Hamed became established as a major figure in the sport is vividly documented
by Nick Pitt in The Paddy and the Prince (Random House, £16).
Considered by Gene Tunney to have possessed "the keenest and most analytical
brain that ever graced a prize ring", James J Corbett caused a technical
revolution in boxing when he defeated John L Sullivan in 1892 to become the
first heavyweight champion under Marquis of Queensberry rules. Born in
California to Irish emigrants, Corbett brought science to a sport that had
previously been regarded as a brutal test of raw courage and strength.
The fascinating story of Corbett's remarkable career in and out of the ring is
well told by Patrick Myler in Gentleman Jim Corbett -- The Truth Behind a
Boxing Legend (Robson Books, £17.95).
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