- Category : Boxer
- Type : PE
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Split - Small (36)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Explanation 2
Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914 – April 12, 1981), better known as Joe Louis, was a heavyweight boxing champion.
Nicknamed the Brown Bomber, he is considered to be one of the greatest champions in boxing history. Louis held the heavyweight title for over 11 years, more than anyone else before or after him, recording 25 successful defenses of the title.
In 2003, Ring Magazine ranked him No. 1 on its list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. In 2005, Louis was named the greatest heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization. He participated in 27 heavyweight championship fights, a record which still stands.
In the turbulent era during World War II, he became a national hero in America, partly because of his comment about the Allies, "We're gonna win 'cause we're on God's side".
Early life and career of Joe Louis
Louis was born in LaFayette, Alabama, son of Barry Jerry Barrow, a sharecropper, and Lilly Louis. He had a successful amateur career which he ended with winning Michigan's Golden Gloves title. He turned professional in 1934, making his debut on July 4 of that year, knocking out Jack Kracken in the first round itself at Chicago, Illinois. He won 12 fights that year, all in Chicago, 10 by way of knockout. Among his opponents in 1934 were Art Sykes and Stanley Poreda.
Originally, Louis' trainer, Jack Blackburn, wanted him to only fight other African-American boxers. Louis, however, decided to ignore this advice, and fought white boxers as well.
In 1935, Louis fought 13 times, creating history. He knocked out the former world heavyweight champion, the 6'6", 265-pound Primo Carnera, in six rounds. Louis then knocked out the iron-chinned former heavyweight champion Max Baer in four rounds. Before losing to Louis, Baer had been knocked down only once, by Frankie Campbell. Louis also knocked out Paolino Uzcudun, who had never been knocked down or out before.
In his next fight, he was matched with former world heavyweight champion Max Schmeling. Although not considered a threat, the German had studied Louis' style intently, and believed he had found a weakness. By exploiting Louis' habit of dropping his left low after a jab, Schmeling handed Louis his first loss by knocking him out in round 12 in Yankee stadium.
Louis, despite the loss, was awarded a title shot by champion James J. Braddock after negotiations with Madison Square Gardens number 1 contender Schmeling broke down. Braddock, looking to retire on a large payoff, was promised a more lucrative fight with the Brown Bomber after Louis bounced back up the pecking order by knocking out former champion Jack Sharkey.
Schmeling (and the Nazi German government) were furious, and insisted that a win over highly ranked Sharkey did not reverse the Louis defeat by Schmeling, which was considered a title eliminator. The matter was settled in court, and Madison Square Garden and Schmeling lost. The fight was staged in Chicago, and Braddock's heavyweight championship would be up for grabs. Despite a knock down in round 1, Louis defeated the "Cinderella Man" by KO in round 8. Joe Louis was heavyweight champion of the world.
The Louis-Schmeling Fight, 1938
The rematch between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling is one of the most famous boxing matches of all time, and is remembered as one of the major sports events of the 20th century. Following his defeat of Louis in 1936, Schmeling became a national hero in Germany. Schmeling's victory over an African-American man was touted by Nazi officials as proof of their doctrine of "Aryan superiority."
When the rematch was scheduled, Louis retreated to his boxing camp in upstate New York and trained incessantly for the fight. A few weeks before the fight, Louis visited the White House, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt told him, "Joe, we need muscles like yours to beat Germany." Louis later wrote in his autobiography, "I knew I had to get Schmeling good. I had my own personal reasons and the whole damned country was depending on me."
When Schmeling arrived in New York in June, 1938, for the rematch, he was accompanied by a Nazi party publicist who issued statements that a black man could not defeat Schmeling, and that when Schmeling won, his prize money would be used to build tanks in Germany. Schmeling's hotel was picketed by anti-Nazi protesters in the days before the fight.
On the night of June 22, 1938, Louis and Schmeling met for the second time in the boxing ring. The fight was held in Yankee Stadium before a crowd of 70,043. It was broadcast by radio to millions of listeners throughout the world, with radio announcers reporting on the fight in English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Before the bout, Schmeling weighed in at 193 pounds; Louis weighed in at 198¾ pounds.
The fight lasted two minutes and four seconds. Louis battered Schmeling with a series of swift attacks, forcing Schmeling against the ropes and giving him a paralyzing body blow. (Schmeling later claimed it was an illegal kidney punch.) Schmeling was knocked down three times, and only managed to throw two punches in the entire bout. On the third knockdown, Schmeling's trainer threw in the towel and referee Arthur Donovan stopped the fight.
Louis's victory was seen as a major victory for America. The German press recounted Schmeling's story that Louis had won the bout thanks to an illegal kidney punch. But in America, and throughout the world, Louis's victory was seen as a major rebuff of German claims of racial superiority.
Ironically, while most people associate the German Schmeling with the Nazi party, he never joined it, and indeed once refused to accept an award from Adolf Hitler. His resistance of the Nazi party made him a hero in post-war Germany, and he became a life-long friend of Joe Louis.
From December 1940 to March 1942, before his career was shortly interrupted by World War II, Louis defended his title ten times, a frequency unmatched by any heavyweight champion since the end of the bareknuckle era. His nearly-monthly fights against every challenger, and his convincing wins, earned his opponents the unfair group nickname "Bum of the Month."
In all, Louis made 25 defenses of his heavyweight title from 1937 to 1949. He was a world champion for 11 years and 10 months. Louis set records for any division in number of defenses and longevity as world champion non stop, and both records still stand. His most remarkable record is that he knocked out 23 opponents in 27 title fights.
Other notable title defenses before Louis enlisted were:
His fight versus world Light Heavyweight champion John Henry Lewis, knocked out in the first.
His fight with "Two Ton" Tony Galento, who knocked Louis down in the third round with a left hook. Giving Galento a terrible beating, Louis knocked Galento out in the fourth round.
His two fights with Chilean Arturo Godoy. In their first bout Louis won by a decision, and then Louis won the rematch by a knockout in the eighth round.
His fight with world light heavyweight champion Billy Conn. Conn, smaller than Louis, said that he planned to "hit and run," prompting Louis's famous response, "He can run, but he can't hide." After 12 rounds, Conn was ahead on points, only to be knocked out by Louis in the 13th round.
During World War II
Joe served in the Army from 1942 to 1945 and spent that period traveling around Europe visiting with the troops and boxing in exhibitions. During this time, he donated over $100,000 awarded to him from these fights to the Army and Navy Emergency Relief Funds to show his support for the U.S. war effort. However, this income was fully taxed by the IRS, and this left him with serious tax debts. Even the $600 left to him by his dying mother was seized by the IRS.
When asked about his decision to enter the racially-segregated U.S. Army, Louis's explanation was simple: "Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain't going to fix them." During his time in the army, Louis used his connections in the State Department to get his friend Jackie Robinson and several other black soldiers admitted into Officers' Candidate School — a favor for which Robinson was especially grateful. Louis himself received the rank of Sergeant, and was awarded the Legion of Honor medal for his service.
Louis became a national spokesman for the Army, encouraging African-American men to enlist in the Armed Services, in spite of the racial segregation. He became a highly-visible symbol of the contributions of African-American soldiers to the war effort.
In 1943, Louis made an appearance in the wartime Hollywood musical This Is the Army, directed by Michael Curtiz. Louis appears as himself in a musical number, "The Well-Dressed Man In Harlem," which emphasizes the importance of African-American soldiers, and promotes their enlistment.
Retirement and later life
In 1946, following his war service, Louis returned to the ring for a rematch against Billy Conn. He won by a knockout in the eighth round. In 1947, Louis faced Jersey Joe Walcott. During the fight, Walcott scored two knockdowns over Louis but lost a disputed decision. In a rematch held in 1948, Walcott again knocked Louis down, but the aging Louis came on to knock out Walcott in the 11th round.
On March 1, 1949, Louis announced his retirement from boxing. In his matches with Conn and Wolcott, it became obvious that he was no longer the fighter he once had been. In 1951, plagued by debts to the IRS, Louis attempted a comeback. He fought Ezzard Charles, but lost on a decision after a 15-round bout. In October, 1951, Louis faced Rocky Marciano, and was knocked out in the eighth round. Afterwards, Louis retired for good from boxing.
In 1952, Louis was invited to play in the San Diego Open on a sponsor's exemption, and became the first African American ever to play in this PGA Tour event. A few years after his retirement, a movie about his life, The Joe Louis Story, was filmed in Hollywood. The role of Louis was played by fighter Coley Wallace.
By the end of the 1950s, Louis had owed over $1 million in taxes. To bring in money, Louis appeared on quiz shows. Old army buddy Ash Resnick gave him a job welcoming tourists to the Caesar's Palace hotel in Las Vegas, where Ash was an executive, just so Louis could make ends meet. Louis developed a friendship with former rival Max Schmeling in their retirement, and Schmeling offered financial assistance to Louis during this period. Louis performed as a professional wrestler in the 1950s and 60s, and as late as 1972.
Louis remained a popular celebrity in his twilight years. He was good friends with heroin dealer Frank Lucas, who paid off a $50,000 tax lien for him and wept when he died, calling him "my daddy."
Eventually, Louis's health began to deteriorate to the point where he had to be in a wheelchair. Louis suffered a stroke a year before his death and eventually his heart gave out."
Joe Louis died at age 66 of a heart attack in Desert Springs Hospital in 1981. Ronald Reagan waived the eligibility rules for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, and Louis was buried there with full military honors on April 21, 1981. It has been rumored that his funeral was paid for by a former competitor, Max Schmeling, though recent biographies claim this is false. His life and his achievements prompted famed New York sportswriter Jimmy Cannon to write "Joe Louis is a credit to his race - the human race."