Karl Stern is is 14 during the time of world war 2. He is an ethnic Jew, but does not practice the religion. In Nazi Germany this means little and Karl experiences relentless personal attacks from boys at school. Because of this he believes that he needs to prove to them that he is just as good as they are. Max Schmeling, a national boxing hero agrees to give Karl boxing lessons even though Karl is more interested in drawing. However, Max becomes the mentor and friend that Karl has needed and both his boxing skills as well as his art take off. As the war intensifies Max must side with the Nazi party, leaving Karl wondering where their friendship stands. Karl must now protect his family from some of the very people he once called friends.