Joe Louis story

joe louis30.05.07 - By Sam Gregory: Joe Louis was one of the greatest and most colorful boxers in modern pugilistic history. It’s been written that only Jack Dempsey since the gloved era and John L Sullivan in the bare knuckle era of boxing compared to Louis in popularity and ability. Born May 13, 1914 in Lafayette Alabama, Joseph Louis Barrow is considered by most to be the finest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing. Louis’ career is one that won’t soon be forgotten.

Joe Louis won his first 27 professional fights, 23 by knockout having beaten the best contenders along with former heavyweight boxing champions Primo Carnera and Max Baer in his first two years as a pro. On June 6, 1936 Joe Louis lost his first professional fight to Max Schmeling in a non title bout at Yankee Stadium, he was KOed in the 12th round.

The odds were 10 to 1 on the fight that Louis would win, 4 to 1 by KO and 2 to 1 that Schmeling wouldn’t be on his feet in the seventh round. Louis quickly recovered from the loss and won seven straight bouts including wins over Jack Sharkey and Bob Foster to earn a shot at the heavyweight title.

On June 22, 1937 Joe Louis stopped Jim Braddock in eight rounds to win the heavy- weight championship of the world. He held the title until June 25, 1948; successfully defending the title a division record twenty five times. That’s a record that still stands today, 58 years later.

When Louis won the heavyweight title from Braddock he became the first black man to hold the title since Jack Johnson held it from 1908 to 1915. At a time when this country was living under the household rule, “If you wanna be heavyweight champion, you’ve gotta be white.” Joe Louis was widely respected by Americans of all colors. World War II reporter Jimmy Cannon wrote, “Joe Louis was a credit to his race…the human race.” Louis refusing to be referred to as the champion until he redeemed his non title lose to Max Schmeling. After winning the heavyweight title from Braddock he fought three title defenses until signing to fight the only man that defeated him as a pro.

On June 22nd 1938 Joe Louis fought Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium to defend the heavyweight title for the fourth time. The fight only lasted 124 seconds. The event was more than a boxing match; the outcome of that fight would live in history forever. The rematch between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling was the height of Louis’ career and will forever be remembered as one of the major sporting events of all time.

The United States was on the heals of World War II and a fight between a black American and a white German that Hitler portrayed as a symbol of the superior Arian race had major political implications.

According to a story written in a 1938 edition of The New York Times Joe Louis was summoned to the White House a few days before the fight. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told Louis, “Joe we need muscles like yours to beat Germany.” In his 1976 biography Louis wrote, “I knew I had to get Schmeling good. I had my own personal reasons and now the whole damn country was depending on me.”

The Louis-Schmeling boxing rematch was fought in front of 70,043 paying attendants at Yankee stadium on a hot humid night in June of 1938. Millions more heard the fight broadcast throughout the world on radio in four languages; English, German, Portuguese and Spanish.

From the opening bell Louis controlled the fight landing power punches that forced Schmeling to grab the top ropes to steady himself. Schmeling wobbled toward Louis and was hit by a right that sent him to the canvas in the first few seconds of the fight. Gamely getting to his feet Schmeling was met by a barrage of Louis’ punches sending him down again.

Schmeling’s corner than threw a towel into the center of the ring, referee Art Donovan waved the boxing bout off after just two minutes and four seconds of action.

In his prime Joe Louis is considered the most perfect heavyweight fighter that ever lived.

To quote an expert on Joe Louis, Mike Silver wrote in the 1998 Ring Almanac, “There was kayo power in ever one of Joe Louis’ punches, but the most important of all was the battering ram of a jab, which was equal in power to an ordinary heavyweights right cross.” The quality of Louis’ competition, Max Baer, Billy Conn, Jersey Joe Walcott to name a few, the fast pace length of the fights and the frequency of fights, an average of one a month was unparalleled by today’s standards.

A great heavyweight boxing champion is more than just fight stats. In 1942 Joe Louis fought two times, donating both his purses to the war effort. When Louis enlisted in the armed services he fought 96 exhibition bouts in front of 2 million GI’s in the U.S. and over seas. He received the Legion of Merit for his contribution to the armed services.

With his comment the United States would win the war because “we’re on Gods side” further endeared him to the American public. Today Joseph Louis Barrow lay buried next to thousands of other distinguished men in Arlington National Cemetery, a true American hero.

Article posted on 30.05.2007

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