Boxing

Jerry Izenberg, 92, keeps going; Humble and a big heart, the blessed NJ writer did some TV too in NY

 

Column: Super Bowl streak ends at age 89 for Jerry Izenberg | TribLIVE.comJune 22 was the 85th anniversary of the rematch between the defending World Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis and former world champion Max Schmeling, the only man, up to that point, to have tagged a professional loss on Louis, and by knockout to boot.  Unfortunately, it seems even more timely with antisemitism raging in the U.S. again.  And while you may be hard pressed to find any of the 80,000 spectators who attended the fight at Yankee Stadium, fear not, because a seven-year-old version of legendary sports columnist Jerry Izenberg listened to the live radio broadcast with his father in their Newark living room that night — they were joined by an estimated 60-70 million listeners in the U.S. and over 100 million around the world.  (Jerry Izenberg, far left, Dave Anderson, formerly of the  the NY Times, far right.)

 

“In my opinion, Louis-Schmeling II was the most significant athletic event of the 20th century,” said Izenberg, 92, a first generation American, and author of the recently released memoir Baseball, Nazi’s & Nedick’s Hot Dogs: Growing Up Jewish in the 1930s in Newark. Izenberg said, “This was 1938. Hitler’s insidious Nazi regime was beginning to devour Europe, and the Nazi influence emboldened American anti-Semites.  American Nazi sympathizers were holding German-American Bund rallies across the U.S., warning of Jewish domination of Christian America, with the worst yet to come.  

 

You want to talk about pressure! I don’t think another fighter ever had more pressure on him to deliver.  Joe Louis wasn’t training for a fight.  The minute the contracts were signed this went from being a championship fight to a geopolitical mandate.  Louis was carrying his country and the hopes of millions of oppressed victims suffering under the rule of Nazi fascism.  They looked to Louis as their great beacon of hope.  And it was against Herr Schmeling, the perceived symbol of Hitler’s Nazi Germany, the only man to defeat Louis.”

 

On the night of the fight, June 22, 1938, when Louis and Schmeling were battling for the most coveted title in sports, streets in major metro cities were quiet and empty because everyone was inside listening to the live radio broadcast.  In the rematch, Louis ended the fight in the first round, leaving the ring as he had entered, as heavyweight champion.  Did he become the face of boxing?  Perhaps.  But more importantly, he became an emblem of the United States and a symbol of American democracy.  You could even argue that Louis was the great white hope, the great Black hope, and the great global hope against the tyranny and oppression of Germany’s Nazi regime — a hero in every sense of the word.  It also didn’t hurt that Louis beat the crap out of Hitler’s darling Schmeling.      

Sports Broadcast Journal recommends these Jerry Izenberg pieces for your reading pleasure:

85 years ago, Joe Louis fought for America: White or Black, ‘we were all brothers under the skin’ – nj.com

Louis-Schmeling II, 85 years later, remains the most significant sporting event of the 20th Century – The Ring (ringtv.com)

Louis-Schmeling Emerges from the Myths of History on Its 85th Anniversary | The New York Sun (nysun.com)

Teddy Atlas & Jerry Izenberg Share Boxing Stories on Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran & More – YouTube

In the 1930s, boxing, baseball and college football were the biggest sports in America. Jack Dempsey vs. Gene Tunney in the 1920s and and a plethora of matches in the 1930s, grew the sweet science prominently. Joe Louis vs. the German. Max Schmeling were some frightful times on the eve of the European War in September, 1939. Schmeling was the first to topple Louis. In a rematch on June, 22, 1938.

On the broadcast side, Sam Taub owned the boxing mic. He had a thick and throaty New York accent and still painted a nice picture on each blow. He was born in 1886 and died in 1979 at age 92. He did just about every match, particularly those at Madison Square Garden. The annual award to broadcasters is named in Taub’s honor.

In 1939, Adams Hats, lost the rights to Gillette. Don Dunphy has dominated since. A true gentleman.

In New York, among other things, Izenberg worked with Bill Mazer on Sports Extra over Channel 5. Jerry has always been enlightening. He doesn’t want to go anywhere soon. But not in a cocky way.

He’s always seemed to slip in and out of the press box quietly.

 

 

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David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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Michael Green
9 months ago

He has “retired” to my neck of the woods and I got to meet him at a couple of events. He’s also a close friend of a friend of mine. Just a great writer. I’m glad to see this.