LAS VEGAS -- When tonight's heavyweight title fight between International Boxing Federation champion George Foreman and Axel Schulz of Germany was announced in February, ring historians recalled the spring of 1936, when fans all over America were talking about the unlimited potential of a young heavyweight named Joe Louis.
Louis seemed destined to become champion of the world after (( reeling off 27 straight victories, all but four by knockouts.
But in Germany, former champion Max Schmeling began campaigning for a match against the unbeaten Louis after watching films of his fights.
"I see something," Schmeling told his manager, Ancil Hoffman, suggesting he could land an overhand right to Louis' chin as a counter to the hook.
Schmeling backed up his words by flooring Louis in the fourth round with the predicted overhand right. A dazed Louis would regain his feet and fight instinctively until the 12th round, when Schmeling ended it with two more powerful overhand rights.
The New York World Telegram branded Louis an "ordinary boxer," and Schmeling became the toast of the burgeoning Third Reich and a symbol for Adolph Hitler's Ayran supremacy.
Two years later, however, Louis stopped Schmeling in one brutal round.
Now German sports enthusiasts are fantasizing that the little-known Schulz, a 7-1 underdog, can upset Foreman the same way Schmeling stunned Louis in their first fight.
Schulz's veteran trainer, Manfred Wolke, has said he spotted a flaw in Foreman's style during his title-winning fight here with Michael Moorer last November.
And Schulz's German promoter, Wilfried Sauerland, grabbed the early odds of 9-1 to wager $30,000 on his nation's heavyweight hope.
Still, comparing Schulz (21-1-1) to Schmeling, a talented boxer who reigned briefly as champion in the early '30s, is stretching credulity.
Before leaving for America, Schulz sought the counsel of Schmeling, still in good health at the age of 89 and a millionaire thanks to his Coca-Cola distributorship in Hanover, Germany.
"We didn't really talk about boxing tactics," said Schulz. "Boxing has changed too much over 60 years. But Herr Max told me, 'America is the place for heavyweights. Stay as you are. Do not change your personality and the Americans will like you.' "
Some ring analysts have predicted that the light-punching Schulz will follow the elusive tactics employed by Tommy Morrison, who avoided Foreman's bludgeoning blows to score a surprising 12-round victory in June 1993.
But Schulz, a methodical stand-up boxer trained by the once-powerful East German sports machine, said that will not be his strategy against Foreman, 46.
"I will have to be cute and not get hit," said Schulz, 26. "But Morrison used up too much energy by running. That is not my style."
Foreman (73-4, 68 KOs) will earn $10 million compared to Schulz's $350,000 purse. The champion has avoided denigrating his carefully chosen opponent.
He labeled Schulz as "dangerous" and said he was not making any plans beyond this fight despite lucrative offers from boxing promoters in Germany, Brazil, Japan and South Africa to complete his farewell tour.
"Michael Moorer was looking past me to a possible fight with [Mike] Tyson, and you know what happened," he said.
Foreman said this will be his last year of fighting, with or without a projected $100 million dream match against former titlist Tyson.
Since his memorable loss to Muhammad Ali in Zaire 21 years ago, Foreman has been obsessed with leaving his mark on boxing, and he is not about to let a pretender like Schulz ruin the status he has achieved by regaining the heavyweight crown.
In one of his news conferences this week, Foreman said: "People can joke about my age, my weight, my bald head. But when I
look at the mirror, I see the heavyweight champion of the world, and no one can rain on my parade."
Who: George Foreman (73-4, 68 KOs), Houston, vs. Axel Schulz (21-1-1, 10 KOs), Frankfurt Oder, Germany.
What: For Foreman's IBF heavyweight title, 12 rounds.
When: Tonight, 10
Where: MGM Grand Garden, Las Vegas; 16,000 capacity
TALE OF THE TAPE .. .. .. .. .. Foreman .. Schulz
Age . .. .. .. .. . 46 . . .. 26
Weight . .. .. ... 256 ... . 221
Height . .. .. ... 6-4 .. .. 6-4
Reach .. .. .. .. . 79 .. ... 75
Chest (normal) .. . 48 .. ... 44
Chest (exp.) . .. . 50 .. ... 46
Biceps . .. .. .. . 17 .. ... 16
Forearm ... .. ... 14 3/4 .. ... 13
Waist .. .. .. ... 39 1/2 .. ... 35
Thigh .. .. .. ... 28 1/2 .. ... 29
Calf ... .. .. .. . 20 .. ... 16
Ankle .. .. .. .. . 13 .. ... 9 3/4
Neck ... .. .. .. . 20 .. .. 17 3/4
Wrist .. .. .. .. . 12 .. .. . 8
Fist ... .. .. ... 13 1/2 .. .. 12 1/4