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Louis, Schmeling, and Leonard

In response to:

The Great Black Hope from the January 12, 2006 issue

To the Editors:

In his review of David Margolick’s Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink [“The Great Black Hope,” NYR, January 12], Ian Buruma errs in classing Benny Leonard as a flyweight. In fact, Leonard, arguably the greatest lightweight of all time, retired undefeated as champion of that division in 1925 and even fought several welterweight bouts during a brief—and ill-advised—comeback in 1931–1932.

Buruma also makes it read as if Schmeling’s wife’s first name was Ondra. The attractive Polish-born, Czechoslovakia-raised blonde Anny Ondra (born Anna Ondráková) had a successful European film career that lasted until the outbreak of World War II. Only her heavy accent had prevented her making more than a few English-language movies—including Hitchcock’s first talkie, Blackmail, in 1929, for which her dialogue was dubbed.

Susan H. Llewellyn

New York City

Ian Buruma replies:

My thanks to Ms. Llewellyn for her corrections and to other correspondents for pointing out several further errors that were mine, not David Margolick’s: Joe Louis became champion in 1937 by defeating James J. Braddock, not Max Baer. Louis had defeated Baer in 1935, shortly after Baer had lost his title to Braddock.

Schmeling—who had been world heavyweight champion in 1930—beat Louis in 1936. According to Margolick, when Schmeling saw the film of Louis’s defeat of Baer, he spotted a flaw: Louis “dropped his arm after jabbing, leaving himself open to a right cross.”

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