Braddock-Schmeling the Fight that Never Was

On June 13th, 1935, Jim Braddock defeated Max Baer (UD 15) at the Madison Square Garden Bowl, Long Island City, Queens to win the heavyweight championship.

Several months later Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, of Germany then fought their first fight on June 19, 1936 to determine who would meet Braddock for the championship. Schmeling knocked out Louis in the 12th round and was named the number-one contender for boxing’s most coveted crown. After the Louis-Schmeling fight, Braddock announced:  I will be glad to defend my title against Schmeling: I think I can beat him and if Louis makes a comeback I will be willing to take him on too. (New York Times, June 20, 1935).

The Braddock-Schmeling fight was scheduled for September 24, 1936 in New York. Both boxers signed contracts and paid deposits insuring the fight. In August of 1936, Schmeling came to America to start training for the fight. On August 17, Braddock complained of arthritis in his left thumb and Colonel J. Reed Kilpatrick, President of the Madison Square Garden Corporation, and James J. Johnson, the Boxing Director of New York State, postponed the fight until June 3, 1937. After hearing of the cancellation, Schmeling returned to Germany without signing another contract; Braddock then considered himself not bound to the rescheduled fight (Newsweek, May 29, 1937:19-20).

On February 1, 1937, Joe Gould (manager of Braddock) shocked boxing fans by announcing that his fighter had accepted an offer of $500,000 from a Chicago syndicate to bypass Schmeling and fight Joe Louis in Chicago on June 15, 1937. (The fight would actually occur on June 22nd).

Gould argued that Jewish protests over a possible Braddock-Schmeling fight would negatively affect gate earnings;* it is considered today by most historians that the protests would likely not have diminished the gate appreciably, if at all.*

In late May of '37 Max Schmeling returned to the United States fully expecting Braddock to honor his commitment, but Braddock never appeared at the June weigh-in and the fight was canceled.

There is a rumor that Uncle Mike Jacobs, the promoter of the pending Braddock-Louis title fight, promised James Braddock, in the event he should lose his title, 10% of his (Jacobs) share of any of Joe Louis' defenses for the next ten years, if he would bypass the Schmeling fight and fight Louis instead. Mike Jacobs was Joe Louis' promoter and a Jew.

* The Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels had been touting Schmeling's victory over the "American Negro" (Louis) as proof of white supremacy. That issue would be addressed by Joe Louis a year later in Louis-Schmeling II.

** Not surprisingly Propaganda Minister Goebbels allowed Max Schmeling to retain his Jewish-American manager Joe Jacobs, believing that acquiring the Heavyweight Championship was more important to the Nazi cause than persecuting any one particular Jew.