Baer, Max

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BAER, MAX (Maximilian Adelbert ; 1909–1959), U.S. prize-fighter, world heavyweight champion 1934–35, member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame and the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Baer dropped out of school in the eighth grade to work with his father on a cattle ranch in California, where he developed his muscles and a powerful right hand. He began to box in 1929 and won 22 of his first 24 fights, nine with first-round knockouts. In a fight on August 25, 1930, heavyweight Frankie Campbell was killed in a fight with Baer in San Francisco, which led to a grand jury investigation of local boxing. Baer was charged with manslaughter but was later cleared of all charges, though he was suspended from fighting in California for a year. He quit boxing for several months after Campbell's death and then lost four of his next six fights, partly, it was said, because of his reluctance to go on the attack.

Baer recorded a major victory on June 8, 1933, when he beat Germany's Max Schmeling, a former world champion, with a 10th-round tko in front of 56,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. Baer won the heavyweight title on June 14, 1934, knocking down Italy's Primo Carnera 11 times in 11 rounds, before winning by a tko in the 11th. Baer lost the title in his first defense on June 13, 1935, to Jim Braddock, "The Cinderella Man," who was listed as a 10–1 underdog. It is considered by many the greatest upset in boxing history. Baer then lost in his next fight in four rounds to Joe Louis on September 24, 1935, before 88,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. On June 1, 1939, Baer fought Lou Nova at Yankee Stadium in the first boxing match ever televised. Baer lost his last professional fight to Nova again in 1941, retiring with a record of 71 victories (53 by knockout), 13 defeats, and one no-decision. He later refereed boxing and wrestling matches. In Ring Magazine's 2003 list of the 100 greatest punchers of all time, Baer was ranked 22nd.

Baer wore a Magen David on his boxing trunks beginning with his fight against Schmeling, whom he taunted with "That one's for Hitler" between blows. "I wore the insignia because I thought I should, and I intend to wear it in every bout hereafter," he said after the fight. Baer claimed "Jewish blood" through the paternal line of his immigrant father Jacob, a German-Jewish immigrant who worked as a butcher, cattle dealer and rancher in Colorado and California. Jacob's father, Aschill Baer from Alsace-Lorraine, married a non-Jew from Vienna, Fanny Fischiel. Baer became an actor while he was boxing and appeared in some 20 movies, including The Prizefighter and the Lady, which was banned in Germany because of Baer's Jewish grandfather. He also had a successful nightclub act both solo and with Slapsie Maxie *Rosenbloom. His son, max, jr. (1937– ), was an actor famous for playing "Jethro" on the 1962–71 television series The Beverly Hillbillies.

buddy (Jacob Henry; 1915–1986), a brother, also boxed in the heavyweight division, fighting Joe Louis for the championship twice. Baer lost the first time on a disqualification in the seventh round on May 23, 1941, when his manager claimed a foul and refused to leave the ring; and again on January 9, 1942, when Louis knocked him out in the first round. These were Buddy Baer's last two fights, and he retired with a 50–7 record, with 44 KOs.

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]