By Jim Amato

Outside of former heavyweight champion Max Schmeling,Karl Mildenberger is the most popular heavyweight Germany has ever produced. Karl was born on November 23,1937 and began his foray into professional boxing in 1958. He won his first eleven bouts but in 1959 he suffered his first setback to Helmut Ball. Karl then went on to win his next nineteen bouts. Among his victims were Jimmy Slade, Franco Cavicchi, Harold Carter, Young Jack Johnson. Wayne Bethea, Howard King and Pete Rademacher.

On February 24,1962 Mildenberger challenged Dick Richardson for the European Boxing Union title. Richardson shocked Karl stopping him in the very first round. Karl would bounce back to go unbeaten in his next twenty two contests. He fought draws with Archie McBride, Zora Folley and Amos Johnson. Mildenberger would defeat Joe Bygraves, Von Clay, Bethea again and McBride in a rematch. He also defeated Joe Erskine and Billy Daniels. On October 17,1964 Karl would knock out Santo Amonti in one round to capture the European crown. Mildenberber made three successful defenses against Piero Tomasoni, Gerhard Zech and Ivan Prebeg. Karl also won a decision over Eddie Machen.

Finally Karl received a shot at the world’s heavyweight championship. On September 10,1966 Mildenberger took a lofty 49-2-3 record into the ring to face Muhammad Ali. It turned out to be a tough fight for the champion. Early on it seemed like Ali was a bit confused by Karl’s southpaw style. As the fight progressed though Ali’s size, speed and superior skills took over. Muhammad finally halted his stubborn challenger in round twelve. Karl has the distinction of being the first southpaw to fight for the heavyweight title.

Mildenberger returned to action defending his European title twice against Tomasoni and Billy Walker. He also stopped Amos “Big Train” Lincoln. Ali had been stripped of the heavyweight championship for refusing induction in to the United States Army. The World Boxing Association held a tournament to determine a new title holder. Eight boxers were chosen and Mildenberger was one of them. His first opponent would be strong but crude Oscar Bonavena of Argentina. After Karl’s performance against Ali many felt he had a good chance to defeat Bonavena. Oscar though turned in a career best performance. He floored Karl in four different rounds but the game Mildenberger made it to the final bell. Bonavena won a clear cut twelve round decision.

Karl would again defend his European title successfully against Gerhard Zech. The came a seventh round knockout loss to Leotis Martin. On September 18,1968 Mildenberger met Henry Cooper in London for the European crown. Karl lost the title to Cooper via a controversial disqualification for illegal use of the head. It would be Karl’s last fight.

Mildenberger would retire with a fine 53-6-3 record. He recorded 19 knockouts while he was stopped on four occasions. He met five men who also challenged for the world title. Karl also held the European title nearly four years defending it six times.

Jim Amato

Filed under: Boxing

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