1934-06-14 Max Baer w rsc 11 (15) Primo Carnera, MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD

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1934-06-14 Max Baer w rsc 11 (15) Primo Carnera, MSG Bowl, Queens, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD. Referee: Arthur Donovan. Floored three times from overarm punches to the jaw in the opening round, the champion never recovered and apart from his courage he had nothing to sustain him. Down again three more times in the second and again in the third the fight looked to be over, but with Baer’s lack of condition, combined with his antics, the contest lasted far longer than it should have done. Carnera (263¼) even won the fourth and seventh sessions and hurt Baer (209½) with a big right uppercut in the eighth before coming under real pressure again as the latter picked it up. Somehow Carnera got through to the tenth and after being floored three more times, with Baer looking to apply the finisher, the referee decided to determine whether he was fit enough to carry on and in doing so enabled him to make it to the bell. The 11th started with a rush and a terrific right to the head had Carnera down for ‘three’. Then, after Baer had him down again, this time with blows to head and body, the referee rescued the giant on the 2.16 mark. It was a record for the number of knockdowns suffered by a fighter in a heavyweight title fight and several times Baer was dragged down at the same time. Clumsy and awkward with little skill, Carnera ultimately proved to be a poor champion, but for sheer bravery he was on a par with anyone.

Inactive until December, Baer then began a series of four-round exhibition bouts around the country, knocking out the fifth-ranked King Levinsky on the way. With an agreement already in place for Baer to defend his title in New York during the summer of 1935, the NYSAC were rightly worried that he might be knocked out or stopped in one of these exhibitions, thus rendering the deal useless. Other than Levinsky, the men who had already or would be meeting Baer in exhibition bouts were Johnny Miler, Les Kennedy, Babe Hunt, Dick Madden, Tony Cancela, Jim Maloney, Stanley Poreda, Ed Wills, Harold Anderson, Hobo Little and Eddie Simms.

On behalf of the NYSAC, Bill Brown’s response was that Baer could defend his title in a 15-rounder in New York against either the top-rated Steve Hamas, Primo Carnera, Max Schmeling or Art Lasky, or he could clash with any of the four named in a four-round bout with the championship at stake. Despite the edict nothing changed for the champion, who carried on with the exhibition bouts.

Meanwhile, Hamas got himself beaten by Schmeling (l co 9 on 10 March 1935 at the Hanseatic Hall, Hamburg, Germany) in what was seen by the NYSAC as an unofficial eliminator. On top of that, Schmeling’s advisers had been negotiating with Baer with a view to him making a defence in Germany, something that went against the grain as far as the NYSAC were concerned. And when the German was asked to meet Jim Braddock, a former light heavyweight title challenger, in a final eliminator for the right to fight Baer he refused, reasoning that he was the number-one contender and should not have to be involved in any eliminators. In the event, the promoters, not wishing Carnera to be Baer’s next opponent, went with Braddock, who had been in virtual retirement and on the breadline due to the depression prior to coming back to shock the up-and-coming Corn Griffin and the future light heavyweight champion, John Henry Lewis, before eliminating Lasky (w pts 15 on 22 March 1935 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York). Although Carnera beat Ray Impellittiere on a ninth-round stoppage at Madison Square Garden on 15 March 1935, the NYSAC argued that they would like to see him in action against the rising Joe Louis for the right to meet the winner of Baer v Braddock.

On 6 May 1935, the IBU declared the world heavyweight title to be vacant. This came about due to Carnera earlier failing to defend against Pierre Charles, following repeated challenges, and Baer apparently not being interested in fighting a man whom he had once used as a sparring partner. Naming Charles as the outstanding challenger, and others such as Obie Walker, Don McCorkindale, Jack Petersen and Vincenz Hower, the IBU announced that they would be setting up a tournament to find a champion. Although Charles narrowly outpointed Hower over 15 rounds at the Sports Palace, Berlin, Germany on 21 June 1935 to win the vacant European championship, the IBU were unable to entice the above mentioned men to box off in a tournament and were seriously thinking of handing their version of the title to the Belgian fighter until they were contacted by George Godfrey. Having been in Europe since the end of 1934 on a boxing and wrestling tour the 38-year-old Godfrey, a former 'black' heavyweight champion, jumped at the opportunity to meet Charles and the fight was signed up for early October.