German world heavyweight boxing champion from 1930 to 1932, a paratrooper in World War II, and a successful businessman after the war, holder of Coca-Cola's German franchise. Schmeling is most famous for his two fights with black fighter Joe Louis of the USA, in 1936 and 1938. His surprise victory in the first fight with Louis was exploited by Nazi propagandists, and, when a rematch was arranged in 1938, by which time Louis had become world champion, the fight took on worldwide symbolic significance: political and racist claims of Nazism were challenged and destroyed in Louis's clinical victory. Implicated in the propagandistic momentum of the time, Schmeling proved in later life that he was not a Nazi, fascist, or racist: it was revealed that he had helped Jews escape from pre-war Germany; and he befriended Louis and supported him in his financial difficulties, acting as a pallbearer at and helping pay for his old rival's funeral. The Louis–Schmeling fights were pivotal international sporting events, linking national politics and media interests to attract worldwide attention. Schmeling, married to film actress Anny Ondra for 54 years, also represented the emerging media profile and celebrity glamour that could be generated in the sporting sphere.
Subjects: Sport and Leisure.