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Cultures of Boxing


David Scott

Bringing together boxing writers from different cultural and disciplinary perspectives, this book offers a vital and original contribution to the understanding of this enduringly fascinating and controversial sport.
This collected volume investigates what is at stake in boxing in the modern world by exploring different aspects of boxing culture and problematic concepts attached to the sport such as masculinity and violence. This approach implies input from different academic and creative disciplines including aesthetics, cultural studies, creative writing, anthropology, history, literature and sociology. The points of view of participants in boxing as a sport, amateur and professional, will also be incorporated. In this way, themes as different as what it feels like to receive a punch on the nose or the role of fist-fighting in traditional Russian folk customs will be explored.
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2 The Historical Transformations of the ‘Boxing Idol’: The Case of Max Schmeling


Max Schmeling, ‘Germany’s greatest boxer’ and widely recognized ‘sports idol’ died on 2 February 2005, nearly 70 years after the highest and lowest points of his sports career; but the memory of him is still alive and his biography continues to serve as material both for public discourse about social values and for arrangements of the collective memory of the Germans.1 ‘Max Schmeling’ has become a lieu de mémoire in Pierre Nora’s sense – not only because of his brief reign as world champion (1930–2), the two dramatic encounters with Joe Louis (1936 and 1938) and the societal and political contexts of these two main stages of his international prominence as an athlete, but also due to his personal path and to societal developments after World War II. These later transformations of Schmeling’s public persona are the subject of this chapter. It focuses on German narratives and images since the late 1980s, which outside of Germany are not as well known as Schmeling’s prewar biography, which is here assumed to be known. In what has been so far the last phase of his memorialization, three major developments can be distinguished: 1) In the last 25 years, public German narratives focused on Schmeling as a benefactor and embodiment of general human values. This focus includes a certain shift of emphasis from the young to the old Schmeling, and an overshadowing of the former by the latter. 2) This shift is supported and dramatized by a approximation of ‘Schmeling’...

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