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June 25: The Brown Bomber’s Jewish Manager

June 25, 2014
joe-louis-primo-carneraJoe Louis defeated Primo Carnera by technical knockout in six rounds of boxing at Yankee Stadium on this date in 1935. Louis (1914-1981) was managed by Mike Jacobs, a former ticket scalper. Jacobs was able to pave a path to the heavyweight title for the black boxer by mobilizing the press to link Carnera with fascist Italy and by carefully shaping Louis’ public image so as not to inflame American racism. He also arranged for thirteen fights for Louis in that single year, 1935. Louis’ tremendous success in the ring made Jacobs a rich man who eventually controlled the championships of every weight division in boxing. Jacobs also secured the first radio and television sponsorships of prize-fighting, used boxing to sell $36 million in U.S. War Bonds during World War II, and promoted three milllion-dollar fights before his death at 72 in 1953. He was posthumously elected to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1982and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. To see the last two rounds of the Louis-Carnera fight, look below. “Perhaps the most important boxing champion American Jewry has embraced... was Joe Louis, a non-Jewish African-American, who in June of 1938 knocked out Max Schmeling, Nazi Germany’s best heavyweight. American Jewry claimed Louis’s victory as their own, a refutation of Hitler’s argument that German Aryans constituted a ‘master race.’ Art Buchwald, who grew up in New York, recalled that as a child in 1938 he was sure of three things: ‘Franklin Roosevelt was going to save the economy... Joe DiMaggio was going to beat Babe Ruth’s record [and] Joe Louis was going to save us from the Germans.’” —Jewish Virtual Library