Grunts in a Bowl

Time – June 20, 1932

Robert Friedrich (“Strangler”) Lewis is the oldest able professional wrestler in the U. S. He is almost 50, with the figure of a porpoise, a partially bald head, swollen ears and pig-eyes dulled by trachoma. Last week Strangler Lewis waddled proudly into a New York ring for a match with Richard Shikat, a limber and powerful young German who has been trying to get a return match for the title ever since Champion Jim Londos won it from him two years ago. The match between Shikat and Lewis was important because Champion Londos had been ordered by the New York State Boxing Commission to wrestle the winner; also because it was the first sports event held in Madison Square Garden’s new stadium at Long Island City.

Designed for the heavyweight championship fisticuffs between Max Schmeling and Jack Sharkey on June 21, the new stadium is a shallow bowl built by piling up, on the outside of a 12-acre lot, dirt excavated from the middle. It holds 75,000 people. The 25,000 who were in it last week discovered that while the bowl might be suitable for boxing, the sides were not quite steep enough to provide good views of wrestlers, particularly wrestlers like Shikat and Lewis, who spent most of their time lying down in a flat impenetrable tangle on the ring floor. Shikat’s idea was to evade Lewis’s famed headlock, and to tire him with leg holds. Lewis got one headlock, then another, but Shikat broke them both. Presently, he took to cuffing at Lewis’s jaw with his elbow. After an hour and six minutes of grunting and thumping, both had reached the crisis of exhaustion in which serious wrestling matches almost always end. Shikat seized Lewis by his fat middle, tried to whirl him over his head in an airplane spin. This was what Lewis had been arduously waiting for. He had just enough strength left to seize Shikat’s skull in his headlock, throw him down backward three times, fall on him the fourth time to win the match.

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