Non­fic­tion

Beyond Glo­ry: Joe Louis vs, Max Schmel­ing, and a World on the Brink

David Mar­golick
  • Review
By – October 18, 2011
David Mar­golick mas­ter­ful­ly con­veys the state of Amer­i­ca between two world wars through the medi­um of box­ing in Beyond Glo­ry: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmel­ing, and A World on the Brink. An Amer­i­can in one cor­ner and a Ger­man in the oth­er became icons of nation­al­ism and racial pride, patri­ot­ic sym­bols for their nations’ courage. 

The bouts between Louis and Schmel­ing were invest­ed with great pas­sion and dra­ma. Joe Louis, unde­feat­ed and regard­ed as like­ly to become only the sec­ond black world’s heavy­weight cham­pi­on, was knocked out in the 1936 fight in a shock­ing upset. Max Schmel­ing, embraced by Hitler and the Third Reich, was then vicious­ly dis­man­tled in a first round knock­out in the 1938 rematch. Louis’ revenge for his ear­li­er defeat was per­son­al, but giv­en the his­tor­i­cal con­text, his vic­to­ry also rep­re­sent­ed a nation­al tri­umph. As a result, Louis assumed hero­ic stature as America’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive glad­i­a­tor, and the cheer­ing was under­stand­ably most ardent among blacks and Jews. 

As Margolick’s title sug­gests, mere ath­let­ic glo­ry is too con­fin­ing for these pro­tag­o­nists. Their lib­er­at­ing effect enabled them to tran­scend racial and polit­i­cal bar­ri­ers as the world edged toward war. This is an engross­ing book for even the casu­al sports fan.

Noël Kriftch­er was a pro­fes­sor and admin­is­tra­tor at Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly served as Super­in­ten­dent of New York City’s Brook­lyn & Stat­en Island High Schools district.

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