Joe Louis






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        Joseph Louis Barrow or Joe Louis as the world will always remember him as. The Brown Bomber. Outside the ring he was the epitome of all things great in sport: a gentleman, courteous (apart from when Jersey Joe Walcott was getting in his face on the 1970s nostalgia programme The Way It Was recalling their bouts and then his tetchy behaviour was only remarkable because it was Joe Louis being tetchy! Or an irritation with Tony Galento on the same programme but anyone sitting next to Galento would be made to feel irritable!), hardworking, honest, as unassuming as say a Cary Cooper or a Jimmy Stewart. If he could have acted he would have been perfect for It's A Wonderful Life if 'race' hadn't been an issue in those days. By that I mean he is a true American hero. An icon of the American spirit, the American way of life.

        Just three defeats in his glittering career. Three! And two of these were at the end of his career when the sole factor for fighting was money. They were to Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano.

        He transcended boxing. He transcended sport for that matter. I would venture that with Jesse Owens he is the most important sportsman of the 20th century if only for the fact that he was the first African American to become a nationwide icon within the United States. He and Owens were to sport what Abraham Lincoln was to politics or what Elvis was to music

        Which makes his fall from grace or the more inexplicable. By the time of his death in 1981 he was a cocaine addict working as a 'meet'n'greet' doorman at the big Las Vegas casinos. As far as I can tell the only person outside of his family who went out of his way to help Joe over the years was his great nemesis, the German Max Schmeling, who he fought twice. Their friendship is one of the most touching you will read about in sport. When the widow of Louis calls Max a 'true friend' then you know it was something special.

        Of course this should never of happened. Plenty of people made fortunes on the back of Joe Louis; couldn't they have helped? His descent doesn't reflect badly on Louis; just on those people who could have helped. Shame on them.

        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis


        • Real name: Joseph Louis Barrow
        • Nickname: Brown Bomber
        • Rated at: Heavyweight
        • Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
        • Reach: 76 in (190 cm)
        • Nationality: United States American
        • Born: May 13, 1914, Lafayette, Alabama
        • Died: April 12, 1981 (aged 66), Paradise, Nevada
        • Stance: Orthodox

          Boxing record

        • Total fights: 72
        • Wins: 69
        • Wins by KO: 57
        • Losses: 3
        • Draws: 0
        • No contests: 1

        A BRIEF HISTORY OF A LEGEND:

        Joe Louis (Joseph Louis Barrow - May 13, 1914 - April 12, 1981), was the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949. He is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Nicknamed Brown Bomber, Louis helped elevate boxing from a nadir in popularity in the post-Jack Dempsey era by establishing a reputation as an honest, hardworking fighter at a time when the sport was dominated by gambling interests.

        Louis's championship reign lasted 140 consecutive months, during which he participated in 27 championship fights, 26 championship fights during his reign; the 27th, against Ezzard Charles, was a challenge to Charles' heavyweight title and so is not included in Louis' reign. All in all, Joe was victorious in 25 successful title defenses, a record for the heavyweight division.

          He was a credit to his race - the human race
          - JIMMY CANNON

        In 2005, Louis was named the greatest heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization, and was ranked number one on The Ring's list of 100 Greatest Punchers of All Time.

        Paul Page, Dec. 2012

        MORE:

        Joe Louis defended his heavyweight boxing title an astonishing twenty-five times and reigned as world champion for more than eleven years. He got more column inches of newspaper coverage in the 1930s than FDR did. FDR actually visited him before a fight - that was how famous he was. His racially and politically charged defeat of Max Schmeling (though Schmeling was never a Nazi and about as far removed from being a rascist as is possible to be) in 1938 made Louis a national hero. But as important as his record is what he meant to African-Americans: at a time when the boxing ring was the only venue where black and white could meet on equal terms, Louis embodied all their hopes for dignity and equality.

        He was passionate about golf. According to his son the only time he was called off the golf course was not at the birth of his children but when he was told Max Schmeling was visiting him. I remember seeing Joe get off a plane and Schmeling was waiting for him. The look of joy when both first saw each other is a sight to behold. No words can convey that special bond the two had forged by the battles in the ring the two shared.

        Like movies I think the iconography of Joe Louis is also helped by the stark strength of black & white over colour. The flickering, ghostlike imagery gives a distance to us, the audience now. Forever preserved in black & while while we have moved onto colour. Progress it is called. That distance is always needed from the star to the fan. Garbo & Brando had that distance; Joe Louis has it as he is trapped inside the black & white film far, far away.

        I don't think we ever knew the real Joe Louis. Outside of the ring, he was very reserved. It was because he came after Jack Johnson. For various reasons, his manager and promoter had to made his acceptable to the white American public for the fundamental reason that if they accepted him he would get a world title shot. Sounds weird now but that was what it was like in the 1930s. So he had to wear a mask. He had to be polite at all times, unthreatening outside the ring. He kept this mask on right up until he died. All very well but we never got to see the real Louis. But you can see it in his soulful eyes, that there is a hurt there, sometimes an anger. I think it is safe to say that the Brown Bomber remains an enigma.

        When he first made money he helped all his brothers and sisters by paying for their homes, healthcare etc.

        Jack "Chappy" Blackburn was his trainer. Initially he didn't want to take Louis on as he thought it would be impossible for him to get any meaninful bouts because of his colour. Blackburn, also black, had a long boxing career himself.

        Early in his career, he was quite a ladies man.

        FURTHER READING:

        Joe Louis: Hard Times Man

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        Gallery
        J O E  L O U I S


        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis and Max Schmeling
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        Joe Louis
        April/May 1938 - Knockout- Joe Louis
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        Joe Louis
        The Joe Louis Story, 1953
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis, 1936
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis by Norman Hunter
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis by Norman Hunter
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis by Norman Hunter
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis by Norman Hunter
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis by Norman Hunter
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis by Isaac Sutton
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis with Don King by Ozier Muhammad
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis with Frank Sinatra, 1978, by Isaac Sutton
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis by Norman Hunter
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis Former Ex-Heavyweight Champion of the World at the Pigalle Sporting Club
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        Joe Louis
        Boxer Joe Louis Sitting in His Harlem Apartment
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis Standing Beside Truck Distributing His Soft Drink Product
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis Sitting on Front Steps of His Home
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        Joe Louis
        Boxer Joe Louis Being Interviewed About the Boxing Monopoly Legislation
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        Joe Louis
        Boxer Joe Louis Preparing for an Exhibition Bout During a Tour of Fort Devons
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        Joe Louis
        Boxer Joe Louis Standing in Door of Dressing Room
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis: America's Hero... Betrayed
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis Sitting with His Mother Mrs Lilie Brooks Outside Her Home He Bought for Her
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        Joe Louis
        Joe Louis and Joe Walcott Boxing in Front of a Wide Eyed Crowd
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        Joe Louis
        Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis Lies on Canvas, after Floored by Jersey Joe Walcott by Gjon Mili
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        Joe Louis
        St. Joe Louis Surrounded by Snakes, 1982 by Jean-Michel Basquiat
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        These prints are available at: Print Available at: ebay.com

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