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Ring of Hate by Patrick Myler

Release date: 24th March, 2005
Publisher: Mainstream Publishing

List Price: £15.99
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Ring of Hate
By Patrick Myler
Mainstream Publishing

4sportsbooks.co.uk price: £ 11.19 (saving £4.80 on rrp)

How many times have we seen a boxing match trailed as being the 'clash of the century'? Most of today's title fights in virtually every weight division, even when contested by relatively mediocre opponents, require some form of label to season the otherwise bland razzamatazz that could preface a Broadway show.

Ticket sales and, increasingly, pay-per-view broadcast sales, account for the overuse of such hype. Imagine, however, if the build up to a heavyweight title fight had bitter political overtones and that the desire to support one of the two combatants was aligned with the dual need to support one of two increasingly polarised political ideologies rather than put bums on seats.

In the excellent Ring of Hate, Patrick Myler calls the second meeting of Joe Louis and Max Schmeling "the most politically charged event in boxing history. As the grim prospect of a world war grew more likely√Ėthe contestants for the world heavyweight championship√Ėwere seen as symbolising the difference between [two] ideologies."

Myler provides a fascinating, build up to that 1938 fight. He is especially good on Schmeling, from his Berlin background to his loose friendship with the leaders of the German Reich. Schmeling's boxing inspiration could be traced back to Jack Dempsey, but he was a big favourite of Hitler, Goring and Goebbels, each of whom he met on a number of occasions.

According to Myler, Schmeling, "embraced the new optimism sweeping Germany"; he even asked Hitler for help in resolving a currency violation (following a fight in the US, he had mistakenly bought some gold bullion), a request to which the Fuehrer rapidly responded to save Schmeling from six months' imprisonment.

By contrast, Joe Louis enjoyed few political connections. By the age of 21, following 14 KO's in 18 fights, he was labelled 'The Brown Bomber', but was told he must never gloat over a fallen white opponent. Such attitudes meant that, following his annihilation of James Braddock in Chicago in 1937 to take the world heavyweight title, most newspapers concentrated on the bravery of the loser rather than the new champion's attributes.

Louis was scheduled to meet Schmeling in New York the following year and, as the political situation in Europe deteriorated, the bitter build up to the fight was sufficiently vitriolic to ensure it assumed the 'Battle of the Century' label.

On 22nd June 1938, in front of 70,000 spectators, Louis wasted no time proving he was the better fighter. Schmeling was a clever boxer, but Louis crowded him, throwing short, compact punches, completely overwhelming his opponent. The intensity of Louis's punching (and with 6oz gloves, it was akin to bare-knuckle fighting) ensured that Schmeling took a ferocious beating and the bout ended in barely two minutes. Schmeling spent six weeks recuperating in hospital.

Cleverly, Myler continues the story after 1938. Schmeling was effectively ostracised by his political 'friends' but went on to become a very rich man as Coca Cola expanded its interests in Germany after the war, while Louis was poorly advised on a series of business ventures. In one, for example, he invested in a chicken restaurant in Detroit, but as guests arrived for the grand opening, it was discovered too late that no-one had ordered any chicken.

Such anecdotes act as a bonding agent for a book that could have been twice as thick and still as enjoyable. Louis and Schmeling met again, in 1954, and became firm friends up until Louis died in 1981; Schmeling passed away in January, aged 99. How cruel that their battle of the century in 1938 merely prefaced the real thing which was to start in earnest the following year.

Book review
Ring of Hate
By Patrick Myler
Mainstream Publishing

4sportsbooks.co.uk price: £ 11.19 (saving £4.80 on rrp)

How many times have we seen a boxing match trailed as being the 'clash of the century'? Most of today's title fights in virtually every weight division, even when contested by relatively mediocre opponents, require some form of label to season the otherwise bland razzamatazz that could preface a Broadway show.

Ticket sales and, increasingly, pay-per-view broadcast sales, account for the overuse of such hype. Imagine, however, if the build up to a heavyweight title fight had bitter political overtones and that the desire to support one of the two combatants was aligned with the dual need to support one of two increasingly polarised political ideologies rather than put bums on seats.

In the excellent Ring of Hate, Patrick Myler calls the second meeting of Joe Louis and Max Schmeling "the most politically charged event in boxing history. As the grim prospect of a world war grew more likely√Ėthe contestants for the world heavyweight championship√Ėwere seen as symbolising the difference between [two] ideologies."

Myler provides a fascinating, build up to that 1938 fight. He is especially good on Schmeling, from his Berlin background to his loose friendship with the leaders of the German Reich. Schmeling's boxing inspiration could be traced back to Jack Dempsey, but he was a big favourite of Hitler, Goring and Goebbels, each of whom he met on a number of occasions.

According to Myler, Schmeling, "embraced the new optimism sweeping Germany"; he even asked Hitler for help in resolving a currency violation (following a fight in the US, he had mistakenly bought some gold bullion), a request to which the Fuehrer rapidly responded to save Schmeling from six months' imprisonment.

By contrast, Joe Louis enjoyed few political connections. By the age of 21, following 14 KO's in 18 fights, he was labelled 'The Brown Bomber', but was told he must never gloat over a fallen white opponent. Such attitudes meant that, following his annihilation of James Braddock in Chicago in 1937 to take the world heavyweight title, most newspapers concentrated on the bravery of the loser rather than the new champion's attributes.

Louis was scheduled to meet Schmeling in New York the following year and, as the political situation in Europe deteriorated, the bitter build up to the fight was sufficiently vitriolic to ensure it assumed the 'Battle of the Century' label.

On 22nd June 1938, in front of 70,000 spectators, Louis wasted no time proving he was the better fighter. Schmeling was a clever boxer, but Louis crowded him, throwing short, compact punches, completely overwhelming his opponent. The intensity of Louis's punching (and with 6oz gloves, it was akin to bare-knuckle fighting) ensured that Schmeling took a ferocious beating and the bout ended in barely two minutes. Schmeling spent six weeks recuperating in hospital.

Cleverly, Myler continues the story after 1938. Schmeling was effectively ostracised by his political 'friends' but went on to become a very rich man as Coca Cola expanded its interests in Germany after the war, while Louis was poorly advised on a series of business ventures. In one, for example, he invested in a chicken restaurant in Detroit, but as guests arrived for the grand opening, it was discovered too late that no-one had ordered any chicken.

Such anecdotes act as a bonding agent for a book that could have been twice as thick and still as enjoyable. Louis and Schmeling met again, in 1954, and became firm friends up until Louis died in 1981; Schmeling passed away in January, aged 99. How cruel that their battle of the century in 1938 merely prefaced the real thing which was to start in earnest the following year.








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