World Heavyweight Champion: 1930-1932
The scramble for the title vacated by Gene Tunney in 1928 lasted two years. Many eliminators featuring all the top contenders were fought during that time. The two men to emerge from this lengthy process and fight for the crown were tough American Jack Sharkey and the European heavyweight champion Max Schmeling.
Schmeling incurred the displeasure of his family when he eschewed a business career and took up boxing. He also probably surprised them, for he had lost two fingers of his right hand, the result of a childhood accident. He was nevertheless a stylish boxer, a good technician and a damaging puncher.
Shunned by promoters
His rise to the top was by no means meteoric. There were some solid victories, including wins over the rugged Spaniard Paulino Uzcudun and Johnny ‘Rubber Man’ Risko. But there were reverses too. Defeat inside one round to moderate British cruiserweight Gypsy Daniels did nothing to enhance his reputation. In fact, when he travelled to Britain in search of engagements, no promoter would look at him. His fortunes improved when he arrived in America. A string of victories took Schmeling to a showdown with Sharkey at the Yankee Stadium on 12 June 1930.
There was probably less interest in this contest than any heavyweight title fight of the post-war era. Schmeling wasn’t a well-known figure as far as American boxing fans were concerned, while their compatriot, Sharkey, had a reputation for inconsistency. He could be brilliant one day and fight like a novice the next, and as a result the fans didn’t take him too seriously.
It was, in fact, a short and controversial encounter. Sharkey had the better of the early exchanges, including a terrific right hook to Schmeling’s jaw in the third round, a blow which sent the German reeling onto the ropes. The fight ended in the next round when Schmeling went down in agony after an undoubted low blow from his opponent. The bell sounded when the count reached six. Schmeling’s manager, Jim Jacobs, was incandescent. His cries of ‘Foul!’ were taken up by large sections of the 80,000-strong crowd; others disagreed vehemently. After a considerable delay in which the referee consulted the judges, Schmeling was declared the winner. He became the only German to win the title, and the only man to take the crown on a foul. The decision reverberated through the boxing world and precipitated a rule change: in future, a boxer guilty of a low blow would be cautioned, but not disqualified.
Schmeling successfully defended his title the following year, against Young Stribling, the referee intervening in the 15th and final round to save the American from further punishment. Schmeling then agreed to a return match against Sharkey. It was to prove another controversial affair. Schmeling had profited from a contentious decision in 1930; this time he found himself on the receiving end of what was widely regarded as an injustice.
Klien-Luckow Germany September 28 1905 6’ 1’
Record: Won 56 (37 Kos)
Lost 10 Drawn 4