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Two for the Ages
Richard O'Brien
September 19, 2005
A pair of historic bouts with race on the undercard are examined with different approaches but the same wallop
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September 19, 2005

Two For The Ages

A pair of historic bouts with race on the undercard are examined with different approaches but the same wallop

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Most startling, however, are a number of racist cartoons--including several by Rube Goldberg--which, in their depiction of Johnson, convey far more effectively than any narrative the appalling bigotry of the era.

In Beyond Glory, Margolick, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair, delivers a consistently engaging account of another racially charged clash for the heavyweight title 28 years after Johnson-Jeffries. When Joe Louis, the first black heavyweight champion since Johnson, defended his crown against former champ Max Schmeling of Germany, on June 22, 1938, the match was widely viewed as a stand-in for the looming world war--America's Brown Bomber punching away for democracy against Hitler's pugilistic storm trooper. To his credit, Margolick goes beyond those loaded symbols to bring alive the complex characters of the fighters, two men whose showdown on the world stage would lead to a lifelong friendship. In a Seabiscuit-like turn, Margolick also captures what life was like in a very different time, when Americans were still struggling through the Depression and when they were just starting to come to terms with a burgeoning civil rights movement. And when a single sporting event could matter so much.

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