Max Baer was a very popular boxer. He was handsome, full of fun, and a leading contender for the heavyweight championship. Movie producers thought it would be a fine idea to make a picture starring Baer. He was signed to play in a movie called The Prizefighter and the Lady.
In the movie, Baer was supposed to fight the real heavyweight champion, Primo Carnera. The champ was offered a good deal of money, and he agreed to act in the film with Baer. However, neither fighter wanted to “lose” the fight, even if it was only make-believe. The script was changed so that the fight would end in a draw.
The fighters put on a good show for the camera. After the picture was over, Baer called his manager, Ancil Hoffman. “I want you to get me a fight with that big guy,” he said.
Hoffman shook his head. “You’re not ready yet, Maxie. He’s tough.”
“I can beat him,” Baer insisted.
“What makes you sure of that?” asked Hoffman.
“The way he moved in the movie,” replied Baer. “I could have landed a couple of real haymakers, but I couldn’t do that because it wasn’t supposed to happen that way. Get me the fight, Ancil.”
Reluctantly, Hoffman agreed. On June 4, 1934, the two boxers met with the heavyweight championship at stake. And for round after round, Baer kept knocking Carnera all over the ring. He floored the champ repeatedly. Finally Carnera had enough. He signaled to the referee that he wanted the fight stopped.
Ancil Hoffman was overjoyed. But he cautioned his new champ. “No more movie fights! We don’t want someone else catching on to your tricks.”
From The Giant Book of Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.