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.
1934 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 1935 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 1936 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 1937 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) 1938 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) 1939 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) 1940 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) 1941 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) 1942 9 Jan Buddy Baer New York, NY KO1 (Retained World Heavyweight Title) 27 Mar Abe Simon New York, NY KO6 (Retained World Heavyweight Title) 1942-1945 Louis joined the Army and toured with the armed forces giving exhibitions 1946 9 Jun Billy Conn New York, NY KO8 (Retained World Heavyweight Title) 18 Sep Tami Mauriello New York, NY KO1 (Retained World Heavyweight Title) 1947 5 Dec Jersey Joe Walcott New York, NY W15 (Retained World Heavyweight Title) 1948 25 Jun Jersey Joe Walcott New York, NY KO11 (Retained World Heavyweight Title) 1949 Announces his retirement. 1950 7 Sep Ezzard Charles New York, NY L15 (For World Heavyweight Title) 29 Nov Cesar Brion Chicago, IL W10 1951 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