In 1934, Braddock was given a fight with the highly touted [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Griffin_(boxer)]John "Corn" Griffin[/url]. Although Braddock was intended simply as a stepping stone in Griffin's career, he knocked out the "Ozark Cyclone" in the third round. Braddock then fought John Henry Lewis, a future light heavyweight champion. He won in one of the most important fights of his career. After defeating another highly regarded heavyweight contender, Art Lasky, whose nose he broke during the bout on March 22, 1935, Braddock was given a title fight against the World Heavyweight Champion, Max Baer.
Baer hardly trained for the bout. Braddock, on the other hand, was training hard. "I'm training for a fight. Not a boxing contest or a clownin' contest or a dance." he said. "Whether it goes 1 round or 3 rounds or 10 rounds, it will be a fight and a fight all the way. When you've been through what I've had to face in the last two years, a Max Baer or a Bengal tiger looks like a house pet. He might come at me with a cannon and a blackjack and he would still be a picnic compared to what I've had to face."
Considered little more than a journeyman fighter, Braddock was hand-picked by Baer's handlers because he was seen as an easy payday for the champion. Instead, on June 13, 1935, at Madison Square Garden Bowl, Braddock won the Heavyweight Championship of the World as the 10-to-1 underdog in one of the most stunning upsets in boxing history.
During the fight, a dogged Braddock took a few heavy hits from the powerful younger champion (30 years vs 26 years for Baer), but Braddock kept coming, wearing down Baer, who seemed perplexed by Braddock's ability to take a punch. In the end, the judges gave Braddock the title with a unanimous decision.
James Braddock suffered from problems with his arthritic hands after injuries throughout his career, and in 1936 his title defense in Madison Square Garden against the German Max Schmeling was canceled under suspicious circumstances. Braddock argued he would have received only a US$25,000 purse against Schmeling, compared to $250,000 against rising star Joe Louis. Louis was considered to be the more dangerous opponent and the fact he, as a black man, could be heavyweight champion made many boxing insiders against him getting a title shot. Braddock agreed to the fight with the stipulation that he would receive a percentage of Louis's future purses. While Braddock was able to knock down Louis in the fight, Louis went on to win. Louis was quoted as saying that Braddock was the bravest man he ever fought.
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