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The Fight of the Century

Bonnie Greer tells the story of the epic boxing match in June 1938 between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling that took on massive international, social and cultural significance.

Bonnie Greer tells the story of one of the most famous sporting contests of all time - a boxing match in June 1938 between the American Joe Louis and the German Max Schmeling. The fight took on massive international, social and cultural significance and millions of people around the globe listened to the contest on their radios, making it the largest radio event in history.

Schmeling had shocked the world two years earlier when he defeated Louis and became the toast of Germany, with Hitler and Goebbels among his fans. A rematch was inevitable. For the first time, most of white America was behind a black fighter and Jews in the US and Europe, all too aware of the Nazi threat, were also cheering Louis.

With the world on the brink of war, it was projected as a contest between different social and racial ideals, a showdown between democracy and totalitarianism.

President Roosevelt told Louis, "Joe we need muscles like yours to defeat Germany."

Presenter: Bonnie Greer
Producer: Jonathan Mayo
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4.

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57 minutes

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