West Berlin is a special city, quite as individual in its own way as Paris. Like New York with its Brooklynese and London with its cockney, Berlin has its own rapid give-and-take language (it's really more than a dialect), its own earthy humor and its own enthusiasms.
The city's biggest enthusiasm at the moment is a prizefighter, a 28-year-old middleweight named Gustav Scholz, who would be called Gus in New York but whom no Berliner ever would call anything but Bubi.
It is a pet name as well as a nickname, and it indicates fully the feeling Berliners have for Scholz and why they have it. Bubi is hard to translate into English, but this may give you an idea of what it means: if a German mother had an especially attractive young son she would call him Bubi. All Berliners feel that way about Bubi Scholz.
He is almost six feet tall, slender, with black hair and brows, and he has a straight, unboxerlike nose. To Berliners he has the face of a movie star. Indeed, he hobnobs with movie stars. A well-spoken young man, he is polite and always poised or, as one Berlin sportswriter put it, he can talk to his neighbor and he can talk to the Oberb√ºrgermeister.
The rest of Germany follows Bubi's career with as much avidity as Berlin, though not with the Berliners' special warmth of ownership.
So up and down the length of West Germany for the past few weeks people were talking about and waiting for Bubi's second fight with France's Charles Humez, the fourth-ranked middleweight contender, to whom Bubi had lost a decision after being knocked down twice. Newspapers appraised his chances, not too optimistically, and reviewed his career.
The career began with Bubi hanging around a Berlin gym for months, hoping that he'd be picked for a fight, though he had never fought before, even as an amateur. Then an opponent scheduled to face Werner Eichler, an experienced welterweight, fell ill. A frantic promoter rushed Bubi to the fight, held under a circus tent, and Bubi, though he showed neither experience nor skill, made good. He displayed the now famous Scholz guts and ability to recover from disaster. He was knocked down three times in four rounds, but he won.
That launched him. In time he acquired shrewd and wealthy Fritz Gretzschel, a businessman, as his manager. Together they plotted an assault on the world championship. By 1954 he was ready for Madison Square Garden where, as the first German to appear as a Garden main eventer in his first U.S. fight, he won a decision over Al Andrews.
The future was bright but Bubi fell ill of tuberculosis and retired to a Black Forest sanitorium. He fought not at all in 1956 and was told by a doctor, in fact, that he must never box or even train again.
But Bubi did begin training, in the spring of 1957, and won the German middleweight title from Peter Muller. Berlin made him its darling again, thrilled as much by his victory over TB as by his record.
Training for Humez, Bubi, who is, no longer a natural middleweight, had trouble getting down to the 160-pound limit. Breakfasts were a glass of red wine with an egg in it. He got nothing else until 5 p.m. when he had a steak and green salad.
With but five losses in 102 professional fights, Humez is still no one's darling. He is quite unlike Bubi. An ex-miner, he looks it. He has a receding hairline, and his ears and nose are clearly those of a prizefighter. And in boxing style he is quite the opposite of Scholz, who fights from a straight-up, classic stance and is a lightning counterpuncher. Humez' stance is crablike. He is a stalking, aggressive infighter.
The fight took place in the huge, 100,000-seat stadium built for the 1936 Olympics. About 30,000 persons were crowded into tiers at one end. Humez was greeted by a tight claque of French soldiers, but they were drowned out by the rest of the crowd chanting "Bubi, Bubi, Bubi."
As always in the first round of a fight, Bubi was pale and nervous. But in the second round Bubi opened the Frenchman's nose, which bled badly for the rest of the fight, and as the rounds passed it became apparent that, probably because he had trouble breathing, Humez was tiring. By the eighth round Bubi had become the aggressor and chased Humez about the ring. In rounds 10 and 11 Humez tried desperately with wild, ineffective charges, and Bubi just loved them. He counterpunched savagely, and in the 12th round he punched Humez at will. Fifteen seconds before the end of the 12th, Humez just turned his back and walked away, not out, but completely defeated. From his corner a towel floated into the ring.
Even in Hitler's day the stadium had not heard such shouting. After the fight the audience lighted matches twice, forming a wonderful band of color across the east end of the stadium. This is a special Berlin method of congratulation.
"I quit," said Humez in his dressing room. "It's no use any more."
But Bubi and his manager were planning to leave for New York to talk over with the International Boxing Club the possibility of a title fight with Sugar Ray Robinson.