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Joe Louis

Titles: World heavyweight champion 1937-1949

Record: 68-3

Born: May 13, 1914 in Lafayette, AL, USA

Years active: 1934-1951

Nickname:  The Brown Bomber 

Where do you start with a great fighter like Joe Louis? His crippling power, killer 
instinct, supreme balance or the great hand eye coordination? Maybe the way he took 
small steps toward his prey slowly shuffling in for the kill, always seeking even 
the smallest of openings with his stinging left jab. Perhaps his quite dignity 
which won over a entire nation that was still racially divided? Louis is still 
considered one of the 3 greatest heavyweights ever, even 50 years after his last 
fight. Louis was called the perfect fighting machine and his rule of the heavy-
weight is unmatched..... and likely will never be! Think about this. He was the 
heavyweight champ for 11 years, defended the title 25 (only 4 lasted the distance, 
2 were knocked out in rematches) times before retiring undefeated, two of is 3 
losses came after his first retirement when he was perhaps 60 percent of the 
fighters he was. In my eyes no fighter has ever thrown a short punch with more 
power and accuracy. If you gave Louis 6 inches of space between his fist and a 
chin he could knock most any man down because of his balance. His finishing skills 
are second to none and once he knocked a man down he had little chance of surviving 
the follow up attack, Louis was never wild when finishing off opponents. Of course 
Louis was not perfect and I count his chin (knocked down 8 times) as steady but 
by no means great, he was knocked down but only failed to raise up again on 2 
occasions to Rocky Marciano (when he was shell of the man he used to be) and Max 
Schmeling after 12 rounds of punishment. In  a time when blacks still had to ride 
in the back of the bus Louis was not just respected he was loved. Louis was born 
Joseph Louis Barrow on May 13, 1914, the son of a sharecropper in a shack in the 
cotton field country near Lafayette, Alabama of a racially diverse background 
(African American and small part Cherokee Indian) the seventh of 9 children. At 
the age of 2 his father was committed to a state hospital for the mentally ill, 
a fact that would play a role in his later life. After Louis' mother heard her 
husband had died (a false rumor), she remarried. At the age of 10 Joe Louis and 
his family moved to Detroit in the 1920s. Joe was learning cabinet making in a 
vocational school and supposedly taking violin lessons (he went to maybe 6 lessons) 
when he turned to boxing at the request of a friend at the Brewsters gym in Detroit. 
He used his violin lesson money to learn how to box, it would turn out to be a wise. 
Fighting amateur under the name Joe Louis (so his mother wouldn't find out) Joe won 
50 of 54 amateur bouts and gained the attention of John Roxborough, a local bookie. 
But it was not greatness from the start, in his first amateur bout Louis was 
knocked down 7 times. But as he showed later in his career he was quick study. 
Some have derided Louis for being a "Uncle Tom" or servant of white people but 
they easily forget that it was two black men Roxborough and Julian Black, who Louis 
chose to be his managers. His trainer Jack Blackburn (who had fought Langfod, Gans 
and Greb among others) was also black. People did not realize it wasn't in his 
character to be militant. Yet he would not be bullied into doing things he did not 
believe in. For instance he refused to be pictured with a slice of watermelon for 
a publicity picture and would not box exhibitions unless the crowds were 
un-segregated at American serviceman performances. Picking a white manager would 
have been far easier for him professionally. As a amateur Louis became the 1934 
AAU Lightheavy Champ. Louis turned pro in 1934 at the age of 20, standing 6-foot-2  
and weighing 196 pounds. Louis won his first 27 fights, 23 by knockout, with his 
most impressive victories a sixth round TKO of Primo Carnera and a fourth round 
KO of Max Baer, both former heavyweight champions. In his first year as a pro Louis 
won 12 bouts all in Chicago or Detroit. Louis quickly made a name for himself and 
in his second year was already traveling to the West Coast for fights, all was 
in preparation for his invasion of boxings capital New York City. That came on 
June 25th, 1935 against former heavyweight champion Primo Carnera. Boxing before 
62,000 thousand people he blasted the much slower Carnera out in six one sided 
rounds. It was a impressive opening performance which he would better only three 
months later when he knocked another former champion and much more talented (than 
Carnera) Max Baer out in only 4 rounds. A fight later Louis knocked out Paulino 
Uzcudun (who had never been down before) and in the process drove Paulino's 
mouthpiece through his upper lip. 1 fights later however disaster struck the young 
Louis in the ring. A 22 year old, overconfident (but not under trained) Louis lost 
his undefeated streak on June 19, 1936 when former champion Max Schmeling detected 
a chink in Louis' armor. Schmeling and his handlers noticed that because Louis 
carried his left hand low, he was vulnerable to a counter right. Others had surely 
seen this flaw also, but to the 31 year old Schmeling's credit he was the only one 
who could take advantage of it. It was also good that the overhand right was 
Schmeling favorite weapon. In the fourth round, Schmeling's overhand right dropped 
Louis, who never quite recovered from the blow. Louis lasted until the 12th taking 
a heavy battering before two overhand rights by Schmeling in the 12th round ended 
the fight. In the dressing room after the bout, Louis cried thinking  he had lost 
his title shot at James Braddock. But after quickly bouncing back with 7 more 
fights over decent opposition (including former champ Jack Sharkey) his handlers 
persuaded Braddock to fight Louis by giving him a percentage of Louis' purses for 
the next 10 years. On June 22, 1937, Louis became the first African-American heavy-
weight champ since Johnson when he paid $300,000 to have the chance to dethrone 
James Braddock, he did so by knocking out "The Cinderella Man" in the eighth round. 
But it was not as easy as thought, in the first round Braddock dropped Louis with 
a right hand he had learned from the Schmeling bout. It was the last serious threat 
of the fight from Braddock as Louis moved forward smothering Braddock who could 
not throw the overhand right while retreating. Louis ended the fight with a great
straight right hand of his own in the 8th round. Louis would make his first title 
defense only two months after he won it when he defeated the excellent former 
light heavy champ Tommy Farr of Wales over 15 rounds. It was the beginning of a 
long reign which was highlighted by his rematch with Schmeling. It was more than 
a boxing match it was a world event! Almost exactly two years after he lost to 
Schmeling, Louis exacted his revenge on Schmeling. The fight was for more than the 
heavyweight championship, more than two boxer. It was built into a battle of two 
diverse ideologies. In one corner was Schmeling,  Hitler's (though Schmeling wasn't 
a Nazi and even hid two jewish children endangering his own life by doing so) 
symbol of Arian supremacy. In the other corner was Louis, representing the U.S. 
and everything democracy meant. Louis was even invited to the White House, where 
President Franklin Roosevelt said "Joe, we need muscles like yours to beat Germany" 
Hitler also hailed Schmeling and telephoned him personally before he left the 
dressing room for the fight. Before over 70,000 fans at Yankee Stadium, Louis 
destroyed the reluctant German who seemed nowhere near his best, perhaps the moment 
had gotten the better of him. Louis knocked Schmeling to the canvas three times 
in 124 seconds leaving him literally lying broken on the canvas. Schmeling received 
two broken vertebrae in the fight and had to spend two months recovering from the 
damage of the 40 punches. The German radio transmission of the fight was pulled off 
the air when it caught Schmeling groaning in pain from the shots Louis was dealing 
out. In my opinion the Joe Louis who came into the ring on this night would beaten 
any heavyweight past or present! The two men bore no ill will to each other however 
and would become good friends in the coming years. When Joe became ill Schmeling 
paid for some of Louis' medical bills and gave a eulogy at the Louis funeral. After 
this fight Louis went through a "Bum of the Month" club featuring men who were no 
match for Louis but still the best the world had to offer. Louis ducked no one in 
his time. This went on until he met former light heavyweight champ Billy Conn on 
June 18, 1941. It appeared as if Louis was about to lose his title after 12 rounds, 
as he trailed by three and two rounds on two officials' scorecards. Conn confused 
the champ with his movement and Louis ever stalking just could not cut of the ring 
against the fleet footed Conn. But Conn ignored his corner's instruction to box 
with caution, after he hurt Louis in the 11th round Conn believed he could win 
by knockout. The result was Louis knocking him out with two seconds left in the 
13th round after Conn no longer moving away from Louis tried to come at the champ 
looking for a convincing knockout.  World War II would take away some prime years 
of Joe Louis as the heavyweight championship was no longer fought over during the 
war. Louis' war-time patriotism in a racially divided country made him a symbol 
of national pride. In his only two bouts in 1942 Louis donated his entire purse to 
military relief funds. He endeared himself even more to the American public when 
he said the U.S. would win World War II "because we're on God's side." Louis 
enlisted in the Army in 1942 and fought close to 100 exhibitions before some two 
million servicemen in America, Europe and North Africa. After the war, Louis 
returned to the ring he knocked out Conn again (The famous "He can run, but he 
can't hide" fight). Now 32 years old and past his prime Louis continued to box. 
In 1947 he fought Jersey Joe Walcott and was lucky to walk away with a 15 round 
decision few believed he had deserved. In the fight Louis had been knocked down 
twice and was out of the ring and walking back to his dressing room believing he 
had lost when the announcement came that he had won the fight. A rematch with 
Walcott had Louis whipping himself into great shape once again. The fight featured 
both men on the canvas before Louis prevailed in the 11th round. Louis immediately 
retired knowing he was no longer able to be the best in a demanding sport. In one 
of the most shameful acts of the American government it went after Joe Louis for 
back taxes. Louis! The man who was the symbol of American pride during World War II 
and donated his earnings to military relief funds before and during the war was now 
being sued by his government which he helped in hard times and fought for. Louis' 
fights earned him close to $5 million, but the money was spend fast and loose, 
mostly due to Louis' extravagances and generosity. Louis also made bad investments 
on schemes of his friends. The IRS, conveniently forgot Louis' generosity during 
the war, demanded a reported $1.2 million in back taxes, interest and penalties. 
Louis now had to return to the ring pay back the U.S government and even suffered 
the humiliation of competing as a pro wrestler to help pay his debts. After not 
fighting for two years, he lost a one-sided decision to his successor as champ, 
Ezzard Charles, in 1950. Louis would continue to box and went on a 8 fight winning 
streak against soft opposition with the exception of Lee Savold and Jimmy Bivins. 
In 1951 Louis retired for good after Rocky Marciano knocked him out in the eighth 
round in 1951. It was a sad shell of a man that walked into that ring to take a 
beating at the hands of one of the heaviest hitters the sport had ever seen. At 
ringside fans of Louis including Frank Sinatra were seen crying at the site of 
their one time hero taking a beating but refusing to lie down. Louis was still 
trying his best to win but no longer had the tools to compete. Referee Ruby 
Goldstein could not bring himself to count Louis out so he stopped the fight (with 
Louis on his back) rather than reach the count of 9. After the loss to Marciano, 
Louis sold his image to any product that would pay for it in attempts to earn a 
living without taking punches. Following several stays in hospitals for cocaine 
addiction and paranoia (which his father had also suffered), Louis became an 
"official greeter" at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. It was the one job after boxing 
he truly enjoyed, he loved talking with his fans of all ages. Louis crippled by 
paranoia and physical ailments spent his last four years in a wheelchair before 
dying of a heart attack at age 66 on April 12, 1981 in Las Vegas. Louis was buried 
in Arlington National Cemetery (burial place of American armed forces combat 
veterans) at the request of President Ronald Reagan.                          

Joe Louis

Career Record: 68 W, 3 L (54 K.O's)


     4 Jul   Jack Kracken            Chicago, IL             KO1
     12 Jul  Willie Davis            Chicago, IL             KO3
     30 Jul  Larry Udell             Chicago, IL             KO2
     13 Aug  Jack Kranz              Chicago, IL             W8
     27 Aug  Buck Everett            Chicago, IL             KO2
     11 Sep  Alex Borchuk            Detroit, MI             KO4
     26 Sep  Adolph Wiater           Chicago, IL             W10
     24 Oct  Art Sykes               Chicago, IL             KO8
     31 Oct  Jack O'Dowd             Detroit, MI             KO2
     14 Nov  Stanley Poreda          Chicago, IL             KO1
     30 Nov  Charley Massera         Chicago, IL             KO3
     14 Dec  Lee Ramage              Chicago, IL             KO8


     4 Jan   Patsy Perroni           Detroit, MI             W10
     11 Jan  Hans Birkie             Pittsburgh, PA          KO10
     21 Feb  Lee Ramage              Los Angeles, CA         KO2
     8 Mar   Donald "Reds" Barry     San Francisco, CA       KO3
     28 Mar  Natie Brown             Detroit, MI             W10
     12 Apr  Roy Lazer               Chicago, IL             KO3
     22 Apr  Biff Benton             Dayton, OH              KO2
     27 Apr  Roscoe Toles            Flint, MI               KO6
     3 May   Willie Davis            Peoria, IL              KO2
     7 May   Gene Stanton            Kalamazoo, MI           KO3
     25 Jun  Primo Carnera           New York, NY            KO6
     7 Aug   King Levinsky           Chicago, IL             KO1
     24 Sep  Max Baer                New York, NY            KO4
     14 Dec  Paolino Uzcudun         New York, NY            KO4


     17 Jan  Charley Retzlaff        Chicago, IL             KO1
     19 Jun  Max Schmeling           New York, NY            KO by 12
     18 Aug  Jack Sharkey            New York, NY            KO3
     22 Sep  Al Ettore               Philadelphia, PA        KO5
     9 Oct   Jorge Brescia           New York, NY            KO3
     14 Dec  Eddie Simms             Cleveland, OH           KO1


     11 Jan  Steve Ketchell          Buffalo, NY             KO2
     29 Jan  Bob Pastor              New York, NY            W10
     17 Feb  Natie Brown             Kansas City, MO         KO4
     22 Jun  James Braddock          Chicago, IL             KO8
             (Won World Heavyweight Title)
     30 Aug  Tommy Farr              New York, NY            W15
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)


     23 Feb  Nathan Mann             New York, NY            KO3
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     1 Apr   Harry Thomas            Chicago, IL             KO5
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     22 Jun  Max Schmeling           New York, NY            KO1
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)


     25 Jan  John Henry Lewis        New York, NY            KO1
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     17 Apr  Jack Roper              Los Angeles, CA         KO1
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     28 Jun  Tony Galento            New York, NY            KO4
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     20 Sep  Bob Pastor              Detroit, MI             KO11
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)


     9 Feb   Arturo Godoy            New York, NY            W15
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     29 Mar  Johnny Paychek          New York, NY            KO2
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     2o Jun  Arturo Godoy            New York, NY            KO8
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     16 Dec  Al McCoy                Boston, MA              KO6
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)

     31 Jan  Red Burman              New York, NY            KO5
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     17 Feb  Gus Dorazio             Philadelphia, PA        KO2
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     21 Mar  Abe Simon               Detroit, MI             KO13
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     8 Apr   Tony Musto              St. Louis, MO           KO9
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     23 May  Buddy Baer              Washington, DC          W D.Q 7
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     18 Jun  Billy Conn              New York, NY            KO13
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     29 Sep  Lou Nova                New York, NY            KO6
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)


     9 Jan   Buddy Baer              New York, NY            KO1
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     27 Mar  Abe Simon               New York, NY            KO6
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)

   Louis joined the Army and toured with the armed forces giving exhibitions


     9 Jun   Billy Conn              New York, NY            KO8
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)
     18 Sep  Tami Mauriello          New York, NY            KO1
                  (Retained World Heavyweight Title)


     5 Dec   Jersey Joe Walcott      New York, NY            W15
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)


     25 Jun  Jersey Joe Walcott      New York, NY            KO11
             (Retained World Heavyweight Title)

     Announces his retirement.


     7 Sep   Ezzard Charles          New York, NY            L15
             (For World Heavyweight Title)
     29 Nov  Cesar Brion             Chicago, IL             W10

     3 Jan   Freddie Beshore         Detroit, MI             KO4
     7 Feb   Omelio Agramonte        Miami, FL               W10
     23 Feb  Andy Walker             San Francisco, CA       KO10
     2 May   Omelio Agramonte        Detroit, MI             W10
     15 Jun  Lee Savold              New York, NY            KO6
     1 Aug   Cesar Brion             San Francisco, CA       W10
     15 Aug  Jimmy Bivins            Baltimore, MD           W10
     26 Oct  Rocky Marciano          New York, NY            KO by 8