Joe Louis

Joe Louis

name=Joe Louis
realname=Joseph Louis Barrow
reach=cm to in|num=193|abbr=yes|spell=American|precision=0|wiki=yes|ft=no
nationality=flagicon|USA American
birth_date=birth date|1914|5|13|df=y
death_date=death date and age|1981|4|12|1914|5|12|df=y
birth_place=La Fayette, Alabama, USA
death_place=Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
home=Detroit, Michigan
no contests=0

Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914April 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 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. [cite web
last = International Boxing Research Organization
title = All Time Rankings
date = March, 2005
accessmonthday = October 14 | accessyear=2006
] 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 La Fayette, 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." Comedian Dick Gregory jokingly said that it was "probably the first and only time in history that a black man could end up being a white hope".

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 awardFact|date=September 2008 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. Their rivalry and long-lasting friendship is the main focus of the 1978 TV movie "Ring of Passion" [ [ Ring of Passion] , Internet Movie Database, retrieved 2008-09-21.] .

Other matches

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." ["Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase & Fable", by John Ayto, Ian Crofton (2006)] 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. ["America: From Freedom to Fascism" by Aaron Russo]

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 1950, plagued by debts to the IRS, Louis attempted a comeback. He fought Ezzard Charles, but lost on a decision after a 15-round bout.

On October 26, 1951, Louis faced Rocky Marciano. Although he was a 6-5 betting favorite, people in boxing that really cared about Louis pleaded with him not to take the fight. They feared his unwillingness to quit would get him seriously hurt or even killed at the hands of Marciano, especially those that had witnessed Marciano's punching power first hand. Fighting back tears, Ferdie Pacheco said in the SportsCentury documentary about Louis' life, "Everyone knew he wasn't just going to lose. He was going to take a vicious, savage beating. Before the eyes of the nation, Joe Louis, an American hero if ever there was one, was going to get beaten up." Louis was dropped in the eighth round by a Marciano left, and knocked out of the ring less than thirty seconds later. 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. [cite web |title=The Brown Bomber's Green Legacy |publisher=The Golf Channel |author=Lerner, Rich |date=November 12, 2007 |url=] 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.Burton W. Folsom. [ Schmeling K.O.’d by Louis! Louis K.O.’d by the U.S. Government!] June 6, 2005.] 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. [Bloomberg. [ Max Schmeling, Joe Louis's Friend and Foe, Dies at 99] February 4, 2005.] Louis performed as a professional wrestler in the 1950s and 60s, and as late as 1972. [Dave Meltzer. [ Boxers in wrestling a rich tradition] . March 27, 2008.]

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."Fact|date=July 2007

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,Fact|date=July 2007 and Louis was buried there with full military honors on April 21, 1981.cite web |accessdate=2007-07-04|url=
title=Joe Louis (Barrow), "The Brown Bomber," Heavyweight Champion of the World
work=Arlington National Cemetery: Shrine to America's Heroes
author=Peters, James Edward
publisher=Woodbine House |date=2000
Published on the Official website of Arlington National Cemetery] [cite web|accessdate=2007-07-04
title=Joe "The Brown Bomber" Louis
] 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."


Joe Louis lives on in popular memory. Among other contributions, Louis coined two of boxing's most famous quotes: "He can run, but he can't hide" and "Everyone has a plan until they've been hit."Fact|date=June 2007 In 1936, a beat writer for the Winnipeg Tribune used Joe Louis's nickname to refer to the Winnipeg Football Club after a game. From that point, the team became known popularly as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.


Louis was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award given by the U.S. legislative branch, in 1982. Congress stated that he "did so much to bolster the spirit of the American people during one of the most crucial times in American history and which have endured throughout the years as a symbol of strength for the nation." He has a sports complex named after him in Detroit, the Joe Louis Arena, where the Detroit Red Wings play their NHL games. A memorial to Louis was dedicated in Detroit (at Jefferson Avenue & Woodward) on October 16, 1986. The sculpture, commissioned by Time, Inc. and executed by Robert Graham, is a 24-foot long arm with a fisted hand suspended by a 24-foot high pyramidal framework. It represents the power of his punch both inside and outside the ring. Because of his efforts to fight Jim Crow laws, the fist was symbolically aimed toward the south. Joe Louis is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

A street near Madison Square Garden is named after Joe Louis. In 1993, he became the first boxer to be honored on a postage stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service.

American Legion Post 375 was named after "Joe Louis" and is located in Detroit, MI.

Career record

See also

*List of heavyweight boxing champions

*Joe Louis Arena (located in Detroit, Michigan)


* Joe Louis, Edna Rust, Art Rust Jr., "Joe Louis: My Life"
* [ "Joe Louis, 66, Heavyweight King Who Reigned 12 Years, Is Dead"] , Obituary, NY Times, April 13, 1981.
* [ Louis' TAX issues]
* Jenny Nolan, [ "The Brown Bomber -- The Man Behind The Fist"] , "The Detroit News"
* [ "Remembering Joe Louis"] , WTVM
*findagrave|644 Retrieved on 2008-02-07


External links

* [ Joe Louis HBO special February 23, 2008]
* [ Louis' TAX issues in video documentary clip]
* [ Joe Louis biography International Boxing Hall of Fame]
* [ Solid boxing] Joe's bio and Profile
* [ The Fight of the Century] NPR special on the selection of the radio broadcast to the National Recording Registry
* [] Watch footage of the fight on JustOneTV
*imdb name|id=0521876|name=Joe Louis

NAME=Louis, Joe
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Barrow, Joseph Louis (full name)could he beat 50 cent
DATE OF BIRTH=May 14, 1914
PLACE OF BIRTH=LaFayette, Alabama, United States
DATE OF DEATH=April 12, 1981

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