Pugilism, fisticuffs, the duel in the squared circle, the sweet science...whatever you call it, it is perhaps the manliest dance in the world.
One ring, two men, fifteen rounds. No low blows or rabbit punches. Let's get it on! [image from wikimedia]
Boxing is a sport that has been around as long as man has been entertained by a good fight. From Ancient Greece to the modern Olympics, from Sullivan to Dempsey, this round of organized violence has gotten blood pumping the world over.
And the latest match may be the most important yet!
For today it's the battle between the Black Uhlan of the Rhine and the Brown Bomber, and the world is watching.
I'm here today in sold-out Yankee Stadium with two boxing legends, both named Jack: the indomitable Jack Johnson, who dominated the ring in the teens, and the incredible Jack Dempsey, who dominated it in the twenties. You may remember Jack Johnson, the Galveston Giant, as the loud mouthed uppity black man with the white wives, the fancy cars, the pet panther, and the audacity to speak his mind in public. You may remember the forlorn "Great White Hope" supposed to put the man in his place. And you may remember Johnson remorselessly putting him to the mat without breaking a sweat. You may also remember the ludicrous prison sentence for bringing a white woman across state lines for "immoral purposes"...ergo to for a consensual relationship.
That prison time is behind him, as is his immortal boxing career, but that famous attitude thankfully hasn't left. He's a man of taste and a blast to be around, and certainly found a home here in the Cabaret.
The other Jack is the incomparable Jack Dempsey, the Manassa Mauler, who dominated the sport for nearly a decade himself. A beautifully brutal bruiser, Dempsey is a man whose gentle, personable demeanor is hard to reconcile with the untamed beast unleashed in the ring. You may remember his jackhammer destruction of Carpentier in '21 or from pretty much every newsreel of the decade. We know him as a fun-loving guy and gentleman of the highest caliber.
But while the Cabaret is glad to have the Jacks with us at this extravaganza, today is all about Joe Louis and Max Schmeling. And it is a grudge match! More than the title is on the line: it is a clash of cultures and politics, the Aryan Superman versus the poor Black kid from Detroit. And beyond "White v. Black", it's "Fascist Supremacism v. American Democracy". Hitler himself is pitting this as the sure victory for Schmeling and the ultimate symbol of German Aryan supremacy. And he has reason for confidence. Last time the two met in '36 Schmeling took advantage of Louis' tendency to drop his left to demolish Louis in round 12 with the Brown Bomber's only KO.
Since then, ol' Max, who seems to be a nice guy despite his connection to those goose-stepping morons (he even turned down the "Dagger of Honor" from ol' Adolph himself!)*, has been hailed as the symbol of Germanic virility and his victory over Louis as proof of "Negroid inferiority".
But this is 1938, and ol' Joe is out for revenge. He's been training hard and this time swears he will send the Uhlan to the mat.
Go get 'em, Joe! [ding-ding!]
Aaaannnd...BAM! [ding-ding!] Holy moly! WOOOOOO!! That's how ya' do it!
Three cheers for Louis! Three cheers for freedom and equality! And three cheers for grand old sport of Boxing!
And now, a hot cocktail that holds a Joe Louis punch, a Jerry Thomas classic from the J.R. Sullivan days, the Whiskey Punch:
Whiskey Punch Cocktail:
[image from esquire.com]
In a mug, pour hot water over sugar and stir until dissolved, add whisky. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
* Max Schmeling was indeed a man of honor. He risked his own life and freedom to protect two Jewish children from the Holocaust during the war and continued to rebuff attempts by the Nazi Party to co-opt him. He deeply regretted that he was able to be turned into a Nazi icon and worked to make amends for the rest of his life. After the war he and Louis became close friends and Schmeling personally saved Louis from bankruptcy. He'd later serve as one of Louis' pallbearers.