It wasn’t very often that the great Joe Louis heard the sound of boos when he was in the ring. It did happen, the odd time. After scraping past the tricky Jersey Joe Walcott in his first fight with the box of tricks from Camden, Louis’s decision win was met with boos, and Joe dutifully gave Walcott a rematch, this time getting the stoppage win.
One other time the beloved “Brown Bomber” was showered with boos came after the defending heavyweight king had scored a points win over Chilean warrior Arturo Godoy. This split decision win for Louis – scored on this day back in 1940 – angered plenty of the fans that were crammed inside Madison Square Garden in New York.
Rough, tough and, as later described by the media, fearless, Godoy had pushed Louis into fighting a sloppy fight. “This was the worst fight I ever had,” a downbeat Louis grumbled after winning the 15 rounder against the 10/1 underdog.
27 year old Godoy, who had fought to a record of 54-10-7 since going pro ten years before, and who had earned good wins over the likes of “Two Ton” Tony Galento, Tommy Loughran, and Luis Angel Firpo, was indeed a rugged brawler. Stopped in his second pro fight, Godoy’s beard had served him mighty well since then. And Louis, one of the single hardest hitters the sport has ever seen, was unable on this night to put a dent in Godoy or his chin. One judge had Godoy winning the fight by a score of 10 rounds to 5, the other two had Louis winning 10-4-1 and 10-5.
Always a true champion in every sense of the word, Joe agreed to fight Godoy a second time. And once again, Louis proved he was a killer in return fights. The sequel came in June of that year, once again in New York, with Yankee Stadium this time hosting the bout.
It was a completely different fight. Louis, having trained harder and focused likewise, served up a horrific beating to Godoy. His face busted up, his mouth hanging open with exhaustion, Godoy soaked up almost inhuman amounts of punishment. For almost eight rounds.
Dropped in round seven and then twice in the following round, Godoy got up after the second knockdown of the round and, the referee waving the fight off without issuing a count, an enraged, out of it Godoy tried to attack Louis. Later, when he had regained his senses, the challenger shook Louis’ hand and told him he was a great champion. This time, Louis was moved to say “That’s the worst beating I ever gave a man.”
It may well have been.
Louis, now 43-1 and having retained the crown 11 times, would remain champion until June of 1948, when the ageing great hung up his gloves after the second Walcott fight. Sadly, Joe was forced to come back to pay IRS debts, and he was badly beaten by Ezzard Charles and then Rocky Marciano.
As for Godoy, he fought on for 11 more years, plenty of his fights taking place in South America. Never again did Godoy fight as big and as meaningful a fight as his two goes with Louis. Godoy’s final fight was a draw in his homeland, this in November of 1951. Godoy, one of the most gutsy of heavyweight contenders, finished with a record of 92-22-12(52). He was stopped just three times. Godoy passed away in August of 1986, aged 73.
Arturo lived out his days as a genuine hero in Chile.