JACOBS, JOE


JACOBS, JOE (Yosef, "Yussel the Muscle"; 1896–1940), U.S. boxing manager. Jacobs, the son of a tailor, was born on New York's Lower East Side to Hungarian immigrants. He was the quintessential boxing manager of the 1920s and 1930s, a cigar-chomping, fedora-wearing, streetwise, brash, combative, argumentative, and fast-talking schmoozer who "knew nothing about boxing, but he knew how to negotiate and get his man the best deal possible," in the words of his most famous fighter, Max Schmeling. Jacobs became Schmeling's manager in 1928, when the German began fighting in the United States. In Schmeling's fight for the vacant heavyweight championship on June 12, 1930, at Yankee Stadium, he was knocked down in the fourth round by a low blow from Jack Sharkey. Jacobs jumped into the ring and continued to scream "foul" until the bewildered referee disqualified Sharkey. It was the only time the heavyweight championship was decided on a foul. When the two boxers met in a rematch for the title on June 21, 1932, Sharkey won a controversial 15-round decision, leading Jacobs to utter to a national radio audience what became a classic sports quote and an entry in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations: "We wuz robbed!" Another Bartlett's quote from Jacobs that became part of the American idiom occurred when he attended the 1935 World Series in Detroit on a very cold and windy day. "I should of stood in bed," he remarked.

On March 10, 1935, Jacobs accompanied Schmeling to a fight in Hamburg, Germany, against Steve Hamas. After Schmeling knocked out Hamas, he and 25,000 fans spontaneously stood and sang the Nazi anthem with arms raised in the Sieg Heil. Jacobs – as naive about politics as he was shrewd about ring matters, and unsure what to do, according to Schmeling – then raised his right hand, with its omnipresent cigar, and joined the salute, smiling and winking at Schmeling. It bothered the Nazi brass that this Jew with cigar in hand was giving the Nazi salute, but it caused greater outrage in the United States, especially in the Jewish community, when photographs of the scene were published. "Up in the Bronx the good burghers agreed that the little man with the big cigar was no credit to their creed," wrote a New York Daily News reporter. Schmeling, nicknamed "The Black Uhlan of the Rhine" by Jacobs, was being touted by Germany as the paradigm of Aryan supremacy, and was under repeated pressure from the highest levels of the Nazi party to fire his Jewish manager, but he refused. Jacobs subsequently arranged for Schmeling to fight Joe Louis, whom he beat in their first fight on June 19, 1936, but he lost the rematch on June 22, 1938, in perhaps the most famous boxing bout in history.

Five months later, on November 10, 1938, Kristallnacht, Schmeling hid two Jewish teenage brothers, Henri and Werner Lewin, for two days in his suite at the Excelsior Hotel in Berlin, informing the front desk that he was ill and that no one be allowed to visit him. When the anti-Jewish rioting abated, the teenage brothers were transferred to another location in Berlin until they could leave Germany.

Jacobs also managed featherweight champion Andre Routis, light heavyweight champion Mike McTigue, and heavyweight contender "Two Ton" Tony Galento.

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.