Famous Ring Wars: Max Baer vs Jimmy Braddock “The Cinderella Man”

By John F. McKenna - 02/07/2024 - Comments

Max Baer won the heavyweight championship of the world on June 11 1935 by knocking out the Italian giant Primor Carnera, AKA “The Ambling Alp” in the 11th round. Max scored 11 knockdowns on the way to his KO win over Carnera and at 25 he was thought by boxing fans to be invincible. Baer was 6’4”, had the physique of a Greek god and the punching power to go along with it. To say that Baer had an air of arrogance and self confidence would be a huge understatement.

Baer’s murderous punching power was responsible for the death of Frankie Campbell in San Francisco and at the very least contributed to the death of Ernie Shaff who died in his next fight after a brutal knockout loss to Baer. In addition to knocking out Carnera, Max had also KO’d former heavyweight champion Max Schmeling, who later went on to KO the great Joe Louis in 1936.

Max Baer stood head and shoulders above all of his competition to the extent that he was already being compared to the great fighters from the past who had held the heavyweight title before him.

Jimmy Braddock, AKA “The Cinderella Man” began his career with a 44-2-2, 21 KO’s record and then as so many other Americans in “The Great Depression” fell upon hard times. During those dark days Braddock went through a stretch where he won just 11 fights while losing 22. Due to frequent injuries to his right hand, Braddock had to give up boxing to work as a longshoreman along the docks. As fate would have it, the period of time that Jimmy was only able to use his left hand while working on the docks proved to be a blessing as his left hand become stronger than his right.

Braddock as so many other Americans were was forced to accept public assistance in order to feed his family during the depression. Finally his right hand healed to the point where he was able to resume his career. After the humiliation of having to take public assistance Braddock took a new lease on life when be began to fight again.

After a series of wins he paid off all the public assistance money he had received from the government. He continued his winning ways against top competition and won the right to challenge the heavyweight champion of the world Max Baer on June 13 1935. It was a bout that no one with the possible exception of Braddock and his manager Joe Gould thought he had a chance of winning.

Baer ridiculed Braddock’s chances and apparently thought he had the fight in the bag. He continued his life as a playboy and chose to pay little attention to training. Braddock on the other hand seized his golden opportunity to give his family a better life. He trained diligently and worked on a strategy to pull off what would prove be the hugest upset in boxing history. Braddock was seen as nothing more than an easy payday by the Baer camp who had handpicked him as a challenger. During the fight Baer was surprised at Braddock’s determination as he doggedly pursued him while at the same time showing no fear. Round after round Braddock succeeded in beating his bigger, stronger and younger opponent to the punch.

When Baer launched his hammer shots Braddock showed his toughness by walking through them. Instead of crumpling to the canvas as Baer expected him to do Jimmy only got stronger. Baer appeared amazed that Braddock was able to withstand his best punches.

As the fight wore on into the later rounds Braddock’s confidence level rose. Baer on the other hand appeared to be surprised that his foe was still standing in the 14th and 15th rounds. It was evident that Braddock’s hard training had paid off and that he had worn Baer down. In the end Braddock, who had been a 10-1 underdog, won a well deserved unanimous decision.

When the news broke that Jimmy Braddock had won the heavyweight championship of the world boxing fans world wide began referring to him as the “Cinderella Man” because of his rags to riches story. He had achieved what was thought to be impossible. His famous quote prior to the fight was “After you’ve been through what I’ve been through the last couple of years, Baer is nothing.”

YouTube video