Max Baer’s Last Big Win

By Norman Marcus on September 2, 2015
Max Baer’s Last Big Win
Galento had a fight with his brother. He had hit Tony in the mouth with a beer stein.

The 1930s had been over for awhile now. It was time for Max to go home to Sacramento, California…

On July 2, 1940, Max Baer faced Tony Galento in Jersey City, NJ. Galento was a stocky little guy who weighed in at 250 lbs. and resembled a beer barrel, hence the nickname. Tony did everything he shouldn’t do in training, and was still a very dangerous person. He trained on spaghetti and beer. He wouldn’t bath for two weeks before a fight, hoping that the stench would give him an edge on the inside! Since he owned a bar in Orange, New Jersey, the suds were always within reach. He was a chain smoker and did his road work after the bar closed for the night. When asked why he ran at night he replied, “‘Cause I fight at night!” His favorite line was, “I’ll moider da bum.” Tony was The Ring magazine’s number one ranked contender in 1939. He had a murderous left hook that once floored Joe Louis. The public loved Galento and often called him by his other ring name, the New Jersey Nightstick.

Max Baer became heavyweight champion of the world in 1934. He had a murderous right hand that could KO an opponent at any moment. Yet he was often called the Clown Prince of the Ring because of his comic personality.

All of which made this fight a great match.

Tony was favored to win at 9-5. Both Max and Tony had been around a long time. Still, Baer would reach back into the past and surprise all those sportswriters who had told him to retire. Max had a feeling that 1940 was to be his year. Baer had replaced Galento as the number one ranked contender by The Ring in 1940.

The fight started as most fans thought it would. Both men were trying to land bombs. The difference was that Baer kept up a steady pressure on Galento. Tony did not have time to breath. More important was the fact that Galento was hiding an injury that night. Earlier that afternoon Tony had a fight with his brother Russell. He had hit Tony in the mouth with a beer stein. Galento had received a tear so large on the inside of his bottom lip that eight stitches had to be put in by an oral surgeon. Now Baer was pounding away at those stitches with his overhand right. Bang! Bang! Bang! The stitches began to break inside of his repaired lip. He quickly found himself with a mouth full of blood. Not wanting the referee to see all this blood steaming down his chin and stop the fight, Tony started to swallow it. It made him sick to his stomach. It was also hard to breath with a mouth full of blood.

He tried every dirty trick he knew on Baer. Head butts, rabbit punches, standing on Max’s foot and hitting way below the belt. Even his two week’s worth of body odor couldn’t keep Max away.

The ex-champ wanted that promised rematch with Louis. The clock was ticking on his career.

By the end of round 7 Galento was spent. He didn’t get up off his stool when the bell rang for the next round. It saved him from a knock out. Baer was awarded a TKO8.

After his victory over Galento, Baer told the New York Times, “Sure I want another chance at the title. You fellows say I’m a bum, but I can hit and any man I hit is apt to go out. Great a fighter as Louis is, there is always a chance that my right will put me right back into the championship.”

Louis and Baer saw each other in Baer’s dressing room after the Galento fight. Baer told Louis, “I want another chance.” The Times reported that Louis answered, “You can have it in September.” Ancil Hoffman (Baer’s longtime manager) huddled with Mike Jacobs; a handshake was given for a fight in Chicago, sometime in September. Again Max told Joe Nichols of the Times, “I’m still a pretty hard puncher and if I can tag Louis with my right hand, I’ll be the champ again. I showed you fellows last night that I could fight when I wanted to, and I’ll want to fight when I get into the ring with Louis.”

It never happened. Uncle Mike kept changing the conditions for a Baer-Louis rematch. Jacobs didn’t want to take another chance with Max. He was too unpredictable. The Galento fight was his last real chance for a title shot.

Baer fought one more time that year. A TKO1 win over a young Pat Comiskey, at Roosevelt Stadium, on September 26, 1940. Referee Jack Dempsey stopped the action early on. Comiskey was being groomed as the new Great White Hope against Louis. Baer was embarrassed when the promoters surprised him after the fight, with a championship belt that read, “The White Heavyweight Champion of the World.” Max didn’t want any part of this hype.

(Eighteen years later, Max got the same Pat Cominsky a part in the 1959 Hollywood film, “The Harder They Fall” starring Bogart, Steiger and Baer. Pat played Guss Dundee, the brain damaged heavyweight champion, who dies in the ring. Pat needed the money. Max came through again.)

The following year, on April 4, 1941, Lou Nova stopped Max at Madison Square Garden. It was a TKO8 loss for Baer. It was another roadblock thrown up by Mike Jacobs to keep Louis and Baer apart. It worked. Max had been ahead on points when referee Arthur Donovan stopped the action on cuts. It was Max’s last career bout.

The 1930s had been over for awhile now. It was time for Max to go home to Sacramento, California.

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Max Baer -vs- Tony Galento | All Rounds w/Postfight (16mm Transfer)

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  1. Norm Marcus 06:42am, 09/06/2015

    The Braddock -Schmeling fight was cancelled not because of Jimmy’s hand problems but because of the fear in Washington that Schmeling might win. He would then bring that title back to Berlin as proof of German racial superiority.
    The war was just around the corner and the title would have stayed with the Nazis to the war’s end. Great propaganda for Hitler and his Ubermenchen!

    By the way, Jimmy got 10% of the programs, hot dogs and tee shirts not Louis’s purses. Still it came to around $150,000 for Braddock before Louis finally retired.

  2. bikermike 12:54pm, 09/05/2015

    ...Max Baer could ...and did ...put meat in the seats…when he fought.
    He had a following…and , by all reports….was a decent guy…

    Irish Frankie….and interviews with Jack Dempsey both reflect that Max Baer had all the physical tools to go so much further….
    ..however…his love of the ladies and night spots usually overruled his requirement to train and take coaching….

    Loveable guy…..nowhere near what he was depicted as… Cinderella Man…..

    Max had been around long enough to know that he should and could get a better share ...of the purse…..
    ...and maybe that is why ‘uncle mike jacobs’ didn’t get him his rematch

  3. bikermike 12:39pm, 09/05/2015

    to say that tony galento was a scientific ,skilled boxer…would be a compete misrepresentation…

    He was one of the most dangerous Heavyweights….for the first five rounds….and after that….he’d headbutt you..or maul…backhand..lace ..step on your feet…and hit you low…until you quit…or he was disqualified….
    ...a Duran without the skills nor stamina….but the same head space

  4. bikermike 12:22pm, 09/05/2015

    First…..allow me to congratulate the author, Norman Marcus….on such a great picture he paints ...of that era….from thirties to forties…

    ..and Irish Frankie…and nicolas…....great posts…

    ‘Uncle Mike’ could be influenced…
    A rematch would have made great money…...gates then…..don’t know about the radio revenue….could use some insight to that…and fighters got NADA on films far as I can find out…

    Not a big secret as to how Louis…a real good heavy weight…who was a black man….got his shot at the HW TITLE…held by Braddock.

    Braddock ...and his team , agreed to fight Louis…rather than the number one contender….Max Schmelling….(both were VERY DANGEROUS THREATS TO BRADDOCK)

    The deal was….that Braddock would fight Louis…on the condition Braddock got a shave of every Title Fight Louis fought….until he lost his Belt….
    Turns out that Louis ruled for 12 years….Braddock made as much or more for losing to Louis…than he did as HW Champion after beating BAER…

    About that racist theory… could be…but the Forces of Boxing made that call…..for a white champion to lose to a black WORTHY challenger…rather to lose to a NAZI figurehead…..
    Braddock may well have beaten Schmelling…but we’ll never know

    ..and we all know that Schmelling was no Nazi….but a citizen of a country at war
    Schmelling had class…besides talent

  5. nicolas 08:55am, 09/05/2015

    I looked up the fight on BOXREC, and then noticed that your article about the two fights was also listed. You do write, that though Baer was knocked down, it was stopped on cuts. Interesting point you make about the ‘white public’. For various reasons, I have often wondered about how popular Louis really was back then. Arthur Donavan the ref on the Louis-Farr wrote I believe for an Australian newspaper, that many fans were concerned in the late 30’s when you had Louis as heavyweight champ, John Henry Lewis as Lt Heavy champ, and Henry Armstrong as champ in two divisions. Also I read that in the second Louis-Schmelling fight, I read an account that there were bigger cheers before the fight for Schmelling. It might be that there were many Jewish people for Louis, since his great victory in the second fight with Schmelling. But also, was there not some concern in the late 40’s, before the first fight with Jersey Joe Walcott, that there might be not enough tickets sold? In a strange twist of fate, Baer was somewhat responsible for Louis getting a shot at the heavyweight title when he really did not deserve it at the time. Baer had beaten Schmelling, but would lose the heavyweight title to Braddock, who no one really gave a chance to successfully defend the title against Schmelling, who had just scored a knockout over Louis, and certainly was more deserving of a title shot. However, was there concern that Schmelling would take the title back to Germany, and not defend it in the USA?

  6. Norman Marcus 01:46pm, 09/04/2015

    Nicolas: Baer got stopped on cuts in both his fights with Nova. TKO11 and TKO8.
    Why would Jacobs keep ducking a rematch with a healthy Max Baer? Louis was his meal ticket to the big money. The white public and promoters in those days would never take a chance on Louis taking the title back from Baer. Jack Johnson and Joe Louis were enough for them! Mike would never make the money with former champ Louis, that he made with Joe holding the title.
    Read my story “Fate Takes a Hand” about the first Baer- Louis fight and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
    Have a great Labor Day!

  7. nicolas 04:08pm, 09/03/2015

    In the last fight, Baer was knocked down for a nine count, and then he got knocked down shortly after when the fight was stopped. The cut that I believe Mr. Marcus is referring to from what I have read happened in there first fight. Both fights were competitive. Nova would lose badly toy Louis from my understanding. Perhaps Baer might have pulled of an upset, but that is speculation. I also find it curious that Jacobs would not have wanted a fight between Joe Louis and Max Baer, If Louis had somehow lost, could not a rematch be made? Think of what a big fight that would be.

  8. Clarence George 06:33pm, 09/02/2015

    Robert Emhardt…well chosen, me auld warrior.

    All the best,

    Francis L. Sullivan

  9. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 03:15pm, 09/02/2015

    Great article and fight film here. Baer accomplished much but he could have been so much more. Max still doing that two step as he moved in where his feet would be side by side at the completion of each step…. kinda’ like an Arthur Murray dance step primer. Both talking shit throughout the fight which actually started during the instructions. Nice touch with the announcer referring to Tony as a “youngster” during the intros.

  10. KB 12:49pm, 09/02/2015


  11. KB 12:48pm, 09/02/2015

    Oat was great in the movie. He was very scary and you just knew he was brain dead by looking at him. Steigers’s “if there is a God in Heaven, we must pray to him now? was an old time great line for it’s total hypocrisy.

    My all time favorite boxing movie bar none.

    Max was very malevolent in that one.

  12. NYIrish 12:04pm, 09/02/2015

    Lou Costello next to Max.

  13. Robert Emhardt 10:03am, 09/02/2015

    Pat Comiskey, who Clarence George referenced in his comment, had a nice acting career after boxing. I believe his first role was in “The Harder They Fall,” but he later showed up in numerous films and television shows. You could always tell right away he had been a fighter.

  14. Eric 09:23am, 09/02/2015

    “Battle Of The Da Bums.” I wish someone had a clip of the Galento vs. Carnera rasslin’ match.

  15. Clarence George 09:00am, 09/02/2015

    Fantastic photo, which I’d never seen before.  Check out Tony.  His body was indeed that of a “butcher’s block,” as Bert Sugar observed.

    On my much-treasured signed photo, Galento writes that he broke his left hand in the first round of the “Bare” fight, but it’s unclear whether he’s referring to Max or Buddy.

    Glad to see Pat Comiskey mentioned—a tough but neglected fighter.

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