Joe Louis
American boxer
Joe Louis
Joseph Louis Barrow, better known as Joe Louis, was an American professional boxer and the World Heavyweight Champion from 1937 to 1949. He is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Nicknamed the 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.
Biography
Joe Louis's personal information overview.
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Photo Albums
Popular photos of Joe Louis
News
News abour Joe Louis from around the web
Today in sports history - Hamilton Spectator
Google News - over 5 years
1937: Joe Louis beat Tommy Farr in 15 rounds for the heavyweight boxing title. 1939: New York Yankees' Atley Donald pitched a baseball a record 94.7 miles per hour. 1941: St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Lon Warneke no-hit the Cincinnati Reds, 2-0
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Nicklas Lidstrom likes Red Wings' additions on defense - The Detroit News
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The Wings will be a blend of the old and the new, in the coming season, which begins Friday, Oct. 7, at Joe Louis Arena against the Ottawa Senators. Three long time regulars retired — Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski
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Will Floyd Mayweather's age catch up with his perfection in ring vs. Victor Ortiz? - MLive.com
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The sight of Joe Louis' head dangling off the ring apron, right leg draped over the bottom rope, after his career-ending confrontation with Rocky Marciano, still ranks among the great cautionary tales for fighters who cling too long to the rapture of
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Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom / JULIAN H. GONZALEZ/DFP - Detroit Free Press
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10 at Joe Louis Arena. Activities will run from 11 am to 6 pm, with autograph sessions, photo opportunities and tours of the locker room. There also will be question-and-answer sessions with players, staff and alumni, and a memorabilia exhibition
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Baseball roundup: Cattle Baron's Ball fund-raiser coming back to Detroit - Detroit Free Press
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Kid Rock will perform at the Cattle Baron's Ball, which will be held on Oct. 29 at Joe Louis Arena. BY CHRISSIE THOMPSON General Motors Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick is bringing the Cattle Baron's Ball fund-raiser back to Detroit -- complete
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Chris Brown Brings The F.A.M.E. Tour to Joe Louis Arena 9/18 - Broadway World
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Chris Brown's "FAME" North American Tour comes to downtown Detroit's Joe Louis Arena on Sunday, September 18 at 7 pm Chris' fourth studio album, FAME, continues to produce chart-topping songs spawning three consecutive #1 singles ("Look At Me Now,"
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Chris Brown, Kelly Rowland to stop at Joe Louis Arena on September 18 - MLive.com
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By Aaron Foley | MLive.com Chris Brown announced North American tour dates for his "FAME" tour, which includes a September 18 stop at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Joining him will be Kelly Rowland, Tyga and T-Pain. Brown is touring support of his album
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Sowell: These stars unfortunately forgotten - Covington News
Google News - over 5 years
Three recent sports biographies, two about baseball stars Stan Musial and Hank Greenberg, and another about boxing great Joe Louis, are not only interesting in themselves, but also recall an era that now seems as irretrievably past as the Roman Empire
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Why Cy Young's Win Record Is the Most Unbreakable in All of Sports - Bleacher Report
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Chamberlain's 50.4 ppg average or Joe Louis's 26-straight Heavyweight Title defenses. All of these are unbelievably impressive, but frankly none come close to Cy Young's 511 wins as a major league pitcher. No record in sports can match the scope of
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Man Charged With Throwing Octopus Has Charges Dropped - SB Nation (blog)
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One of the fans who was fined and charged with disorderly conduct late last season for throwing an octopus on the ice at Joe Louis Arena had the charges against him dropped by the city of Detroit
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Forgotten Stars: Musial, Greenberg, Louis - The New American
Google News - over 5 years
Three recent sports biographies — two about baseball stars Stan Musial and Hank Greenberg, and another about boxing great Joe Louis — are not only interesting in themselves, but also recall an era that now seems as irretrievably past as the Roman
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In wake of Jeff Blashill's departure, WMU shares 'Why Western' campaign ... - MLive.com
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By Graham Couch | Kalamazoo Gazette Kalamazoo Gazette fileWestern Michigan's hockey program beat Michigan 5-2 in the CCHA tournament semifinals last March at Joe Louis Arena. It was the signature win of Jeff Blashill's one-year tenure as head coach
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Big gospel concert coming to Joe Louis Arena - The Detroit News
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Some of the biggest names in gospel music will appear at the Verizon How Sweet the Sound concert and competition, which hits Joe Louis Arena on Sept. 24, Olympia Entertainment announced Friday. Grammy-winning gospel singer CeCe Winans, a Detroit native
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Joe Louis
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1981
    Age 66
    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.
    More Details Hide Details His funeral was paid for in part by former competitor and friend, Max Schmeling, who also acted as a pallbearer.
  • 1977
    Age 62
    He had surgery to correct an aortic aneurysm in 1977 and thereafter used an POV/scooter for a mobility aid.
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  • FIFTIES
  • 1971
    Age 56
    In a 1971 book, Brown Bomber, by Barney Nagler, Louis disclosed the truth about these incidents, stating that his collapse in 1969 had been caused by cocaine, and that his subsequent hospitalization had been prompted by his fear of a plot to destroy him.
    More Details Hide Details Strokes and heart ailments caused Louis's condition to deteriorate further later in the decade.
  • 1970
    Age 55
    In 1970, he spent five months at the Colorado Psychiatric Hospital and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Denver, hospitalized by his wife, Martha, and his son, Joe Louis Barrow Jr., for paranoia.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1969
    Age 54
    Drugs took a toll on Louis in his later years. In 1969, he was hospitalized after collapsing on a New York City street.
    More Details Hide Details While the incident was at first credited to "physical breakdown," underlying problems would soon surface.
  • FORTIES
  • 1959
    Age 44
    Louis's final marriage – to Martha Jefferson, a lawyer from Los Angeles, on St. Patrick's Day 1959 – lasted until his death.
    More Details Hide Details They had four children: another son named Joseph Louis Barrow Jr, John Louis Barrow, Joyce Louis Barrow, and Janet Louis Barrow. The younger Joe Louis Barrow Jr. lives in New York City and is involved in boxing. Though married four times, Louis discreetly enjoyed the company of other women like Lena Horne.
  • 1956
    Age 41
    He made his professional wrestling debut on March 16, 1956 in Washington, D.C., defeating Cowboy Rocky Lee.
    More Details Hide Details After defeating Lee in a few matches, Louis discovered he had a heart ailment and retired from wrestling competition. However, he continued as a wrestling referee until 1972.
  • 1955
    Age 40
    On Christmas Day 1955, Louis married Rose Morgan, a successful Harlem businesswoman; their marriage was annulled in 1958.
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  • THIRTIES
  • 1953
    Age 38
    In 1953, when Louis's mother died, the IRS appropriated the $667 she had willed to Louis.
    More Details Hide Details To bring in money, Louis engaged in numerous activities outside the ring. He appeared on various quiz shows, and an old Army buddy, Ash Resnick, gave Louis a job greeting tourists to the Caesars Palace hotel in Las Vegas, where Resnick was an executive. For income, Louis even became a professional wrestler.
  • 1952
    Age 37
    In 1952, Louis was invited to play as an amateur in the San Diego Open on a sponsor's exemption, becoming the first African American to play a PGA Tour event.
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  • 1951
    Age 36
    After facing Marciano, with the prospect of another significant payday all but gone, Louis retired for good from professional boxing. He would, as before, continue to tour on the exhibition circuit, with his last contest taking place on December 16, 1951, in Taipei, Taiwan, against Corporal Buford J. deCordova.
    More Details Hide Details Despite Louis's lucrative purses over the years, most of the proceeds went to his handlers. Of the over $4.6 million earned during his boxing career, Louis himself received only about $800,000. Louis was nevertheless extremely generous to his family, paying for homes, cars and education for his parents and siblings, often with money fronted by Jacobs. He invested in a number of businesses, all of which eventually failed, including the Joe Louis Restaurant, the Joe Louis Insurance Company, a softball team called the Brown Bombers, Joe Louis Milk Company, Joe Louis pomade (hair product), Joe Louis Punch (a drink), the Louis-Rower P.R. firm, a horse farm and the Rhumboogie Café in Chicago. He gave liberally to the government as well, paying back the city of Detroit for any welfare money his family had received.
    After facing several club-level opponents, the International Boxing Club guaranteed Louis $300,000 to face undefeated heavyweight contender Rocky Marciano on October 26, 1951.
    More Details Hide Details Despite his being a 6-to-5 favorite, few boxing insiders believed Louis had a chance. Marciano himself was reluctant to participate in the bout, but was understanding of Louis's position: "This is the last guy on earth I want to fight." It was feared, particularly among those who had witnessed Marciano's punching power first hand, that Louis's unwillingness to quit would result in serious injury. Fighting back tears, Ferdie Pacheco said in the SportsCentury documentary about his bout with Marciano, "He Louis 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 through the ropes and out of the ring less than thirty seconds later.
  • 1950
    Age 35
    At the time of Louis's initial retirement, the IRS was still completing its investigation of his prior tax returns, which had always been handled by Mike Jacobs's personal accountant. In May 1950, the IRS finished a full audit of Louis's past returns and announced that, with interest and penalties, he owed the government more than $500,000.
    More Details Hide Details Louis had no choice but to return to the ring. After asking Gibson to take over his personal finances and switching his management from Jacobs and Roxborough to Marshall Miles, the Louis camp negotiated a deal with the IRS under which Louis would come out of retirement, with all Louis's net proceeds going to the IRS. A match with Ezzard Charles—who had acquired the vacant Heavyweight title in June 1949 by outpointing Walcott—was set for September 27, 1950. By then, Louis was 36 years old and had been away from competitive boxing for two years. Weighing in at 218, Louis was still strong, but his reflexes were gone. Charles repeatedly beat him to the punch. By the end of the fight, Louis was cut above both eyes, one of which was shut tight by swelling. He knew he had lost even before Charles was declared the winner. The result was not the only disappointing aspect of the fight for Louis; only 22,357 spectators paid to witness the event at Yankee Stadium and his share of the purse was a mere $100,458. Louis had to continue fighting.
    After returning from retirement, Louis failed to regain the championship in 1950, and his career ended after he was knocked out by Rocky Marciano in 1951.
    More Details Hide Details The man who had been called the Brown Bomber was finished.
  • 1949
    Age 34
    Louis would not defend his title again before announcing his retirement from boxing on March 1, 1949.
    More Details Hide Details In his bouts with Conn and Walcott, it had become apparent that Louis was no longer the fighter he once had been. As he had done earlier in his career, however, Louis would continue to appear in numerous exhibition matches worldwide.
  • 1948
    Age 33
    On June 25, 1948, about 42,000 people came to Yankee Stadium to see the aging champion, who weighed 213½, the heaviest of his career to date.
    More Details Hide Details Walcott knocked Louis down in the third round, but Louis survived to knock out Walcott in the eleventh.
  • 1947
    Age 32
    After trouble finding another suitable opponent, on December 5, 1947, Louis met Jersey Joe Walcott, a 33-year-old veteran with a 44–11–2 record.
    More Details Hide Details Walcott entered the fight as a 10-to-1 underdog. Nevertheless, Walcott knocked down Louis twice in the first four rounds. Most observers in Madison Square Garden felt Walcott dominated the 15-round fight. When Louis was declared the winner in a split decision, the crowd booed. Louis was under no delusion about the state of his boxing skills, yet he was too embarrassed to quit after the Walcott fight. Determined to win and retire with his title intact, Louis signed on for a rematch.
  • 1946
    Age 31
    Despite the financial pressure on Louis to resume boxing, his long-awaited rematch against Billy Conn had to be postponed to the summer of 1946, when weather conditions could accommodate a large outdoor audience.
    More Details Hide Details On June 19, a disappointing 40,000 saw the rematch at Yankee Stadium, in which Louis was not seriously tested. Conn, whose skills had deteriorated during the long layoff, largely avoided contact until being dispatched by knockout in the eighth round. Although the attendance did not meet expectations, the fight was still the most profitable of Louis's career to date. His share of the purse was $600,000, of which Louis' managers got $140,000, his ex-wife $66,000 and the state of New York $30,000.
  • 1945
    Age 30
    Louis was eventually promoted to the rank of technical sergeant on April 9, 1945.
    More Details Hide Details On September 23 of the same year, he was awarded the Legion of Merit (a military decoration rarely awarded to enlisted soldiers) for "incalculable contribution to the general morale." Receipt of the honor qualified him for immediate release from military service on October 1, 1945. Louis emerged from his wartime service significantly in debt. In addition to his looming tax bill—which had not been finally determined at the time, but was estimated at greater than $100,000—Jacobs claimed that Louis owed him $250,000.
    They divorced in March 1945 only to remarry a year later, but were again divorced in February 1949.
    More Details Hide Details Marva moved on to an acting and modeling career.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1942
    Age 27
    Louis's celebrity power was not, however, merely directed toward African Americans. In a famous wartime recruitment slogan, he echoed his prior comments of 1942: "We'll win, because we're on God's side."
    More Details Hide Details The publicity of the campaign made Louis widely popular stateside, even outside the world of sports. Never before had white Americans embraced a black man as their representative to the world. Although Louis never saw combat, his military service saw challenges of its own. During his travels, he often experienced blatant racism. On one occasion, a military policeman (MP) ordered Louis and Ray Robinson to move their seats to a bench in the rear of an Alabama Army camp bus depot. "We ain't moving", said Louis. The MP tried to arrest them, but Louis forcefully argued the pair out of the situation. In another incident, he allegedly had to resort to bribery to persuade a commanding officer to drop charges against Jackie Robinson for punching a captain who had called Robinson a "nigger."
    Louis fought a charity bout for the Navy Relief Society against his former opponent Buddy Baer on January 9, 1942, which generated $47,000 for the fund.
    More Details Hide Details The next day, he volunteered to enlist as a private in the United States Army at Camp Upton, Long Island. Newsreel cameras recorded his induction, including a staged scene in which a soldier-clerk asked, "What's your occupation?" and Louis replied, "Fighting and let us at them Japs." Another military charity bout on March 27, 1942, (against another former opponent, Abe Simon) netted $36,146. Before the fight, Louis had spoken at a Relief Fund dinner, saying of the war effort: "We'll win, 'cause we're on God's side." The media widely reported the comment, instigating a surge of popularity for Louis. Slowly, the press began to eliminate its stereotypical racial references when covering Louis and instead treated him as an unqualified sports hero. Despite the public relations boon, Louis's charitable fights proved financially costly. Although he saw none of the roughly $90,000 raised by these and other charitable fights, the IRS later credited these amounts as taxable income paid to Louis. After the war, the IRS pursued the issue.
    The contest created an instant rivalry that Louis's career had lacked since the Schmeling era and a rematch with Conn was planned for late 1942.
    More Details Hide Details The rematch had to be abruptly canceled, however, after Conn broke his hand in a much-publicized fight with his father-in-law, major league ballplayer "Greenfield" Jimmy Smith. By the time Conn was ready for the rematch, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had taken place, detouring Louis's heavyweight career.
  • 1940
    Age 25
    In 1940 Louis endorsed and campaigned for Republican Wendell Willkie for president.
    More Details Hide Details Louis said, "This country has been good to me. It gave me everything I have. I have never come out for any candidate before but I think Wendell L. Willkie will give us a square deal. So I am for Willkie because I think he will help my people, and I figure my people should be for him, too." In 1953, Robert Gordon directed a movie about Louis's life, The Joe Louis Story. The movie, filmed in Hollywood, starred Golden Gloves fighter Coley Wallace in the role of Louis. Starting in the 1960s, Louis was frequently mocked by segments of the African-American community (including Muhammad Ali) for being an "Uncle Tom."
  • 1939
    Age 24
    In the 29 months from January 1939 through May 1941, Louis defended his title thirteen times, a frequency unmatched by any Heavyweight Champion since the end of the bare-knuckle era.
    More Details Hide Details The pace of his title defenses, combined with his convincing wins, earned Louis' opponents from this era the collective nickname "Bum of the Month Club". Notables of this lambasted pantheon include: Despite its derogatory nickname, most of the group were top-ten heavyweights. Of the twelve fighters Louis faced during this period, five were rated by The Ring as top-ten heavyweights in the year they fought Louis: Galento (overall #2 heavyweight in 1939), Bob Pastor (#3, 1939), Godoy (#3, 1940), Simon (#6, 1941) and Baer (#8, 1941); four others (Musto, Dorazio, Burman and Johnny Paychek) were ranked in the top ten in a different year. Louis' string of lightly regarded competition ended with his bout against Billy Conn, the Light Heavyweight Champion and a highly regarded contender. The fighters met on June 18, 1941, in front of a crowd of 54,487 fans at the Polo Grounds in New York City. The fight turned out to be one of the greatest heavyweight boxing fights of all time.
  • 1938
    Age 23
    On the night of June 22, 1938, Louis and Schmeling met for the second time in the boxing ring.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
    When Schmeling arrived in New York City 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.
    More Details Hide Details Schmeling's hotel was picketed by anti-Nazi protesters in the days before the fight.
  • 1937
    Age 22
    In all, Louis made 25 defenses of his Heavyweight title from 1937 to 1948, and was a world champion for 11 years and 10 months.
    More Details Hide Details Both are still records in the heavyweight division, the former in any division. His most remarkable record is that he knocked out 23 opponents in 27 title fights, including five world champions. In addition to his accomplishments inside the ring, Louis uttered two of boxing's most famous observations: "He can run, but he can't hide" and "Everyone has a plan until they've been hit". Louis was named fighter of the year four times by The Ring magazine in 1936, 1938, 1939, and 1941. His fights with Max Baer, Max Schmeling, Tommy Farr, Bob Pastor and Billy Conn were named fight of the year by that same magazine. Louis won the Sugar Ray Robinson Award in 1941. In 2005 Louis was named the #1 heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization. In 2007 he was ranked #4 on ESPN.com's 50 Greatest Boxers of all-time list. In 2002 The Ring ranked Louis #4 on their 80 best fighters of the last 80 years list. Louis was also ranked #1 on The Rings list of 100 Greatest Punchers of All Time.
    On August 30, 1937, after a postponement of four days due to rain, Louis and Farr finally touched gloves at New York's Yankee Stadium before a crowd of approximately 32,000.
    More Details Hide Details Louis fought one of the hardest battles of his life. The bout was closely contested and went the entire 15 rounds, with Louis being unable to knock Farr down. Referee Arthur Donovan was even seen shaking Farr's hand after the bout, in apparent congratulation. Nevertheless, after the score was announced, Louis had won a controversial unanimous decision. Time described the scene thus: "After collecting the judges' votes, referee Arthur Donovan announced that Louis had won the fight on points. The crowd of 50,000 amazed that Farr had not been knocked out or even knocked down, booed the decision. It seems the crowd believed that referee Arthur Donovan, Sr. had raised Farr's glove in victory. Seven years later, in his published account of the fight, Donovan spoke of the "mistake" that may have led to this confusion. He wrote:
    Louis's manager Mike Jacobs attempted to arrange a rematch with Schmeling in 1937, but negotiations broke down when Schmeling demanded 30% of the gate.
    More Details Hide Details When Schmeling instead attempted to arrange for a fight against British Empire Champion Tommy Farr, known as the "Tonypandy Terror",—ostensibly for a world championship to rival the claims of American boxing authorities—Jacobs outmaneuvered him, offering Farr a guaranteed $60,000 to fight Louis instead. The offer was too lucrative for Farr to turn down.
    The stage was set for Louis's title shot. On the night of the fight, June 22, 1937, Braddock was able to knock Louis down in round one, but afterward could accomplish little.
    More Details Hide Details After inflicting constant punishment, Louis defeated Braddock in round eight, knocking him out cold with a strong right hand that bust James' teeth through his gum shield and lip and paralyzed him to the ground for a few minutes. It was the first and only time that Braddock was knocked out (the one other stoppage of Braddock's career was a TKO on a cut). Louis's ascent to the World Heavyweight Championship was complete. Louis's victory was a seminal moment in African American history. Thousands of African Americans stayed up all night across the country in celebration. Noted author and member of the Harlem Renaissance Langston Hughes described Louis's effect in these terms: Each time Joe Louis won a fight in those depression years, even before he became champion, thousands of black Americans on relief or W.P.A., and poor, would throng out into the streets all across the land to march and cheer and yell and cry because of Joe's one-man triumphs. No one else in the United States has ever had such an effect on Negro emotions—or on mine. I marched and cheered and yelled and cried, too.
    He tallied 52 knock outs and held the championship from 1937 to 1949, the longest span of any heavyweight titleholder.
    More Details Hide Details
    He held the world heavyweight championship from 1937 to 1949, and is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
    More Details Hide Details Nicknamed the "Brown Bomber". Louis' championship reign lasted 140 consecutive months, during which he participated in 26 championship fights; a 27th fight, against Ezzard Charles, was a challenge to Charles' heavyweight title and so is not included in Louis' reign. Louis was victorious in 25 title defenses, a world record second only to Julio César Chávez with 27. In 2005, Louis was ranked as the #1 heavyweight of all-time by the International Boxing Research Organization, and was ranked #1 on The Ring magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Punchers of All-Time. Louis' cultural impact was felt well outside the ring. He is widely regarded as the first African American to achieve the status of a nationwide hero within the United States, and was also a focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to and during World War II. He was instrumental in integrating the game of golf, breaking the sport's color barrier in America by appearing under a sponsor's exemption in a PGA event in 1952.
  • 1936
    Age 21
    Each of the parties involved worked to facilitate the controversial Braddock-Louis matchup. Louis did his part by knocking out former champion Jack Sharkey on August 18, 1936.
    More Details Hide Details Meanwhile, Gould trumped up anti-Nazi sentiment against Schmeling, and Jacobs defended a lawsuit by MSG to halt the Braddock-Louis fight. A federal court in Newark, New Jersey eventually ruled that Braddock's contractual obligation to stage his title defense at MSG was unenforceable for lack of mutual consideration.
    Conversely, Schmeling prepared intently for the bout. Schmeling had thoroughly studied Louis's style and believed he had found a weakness. By exploiting Louis's habit of dropping his left hand low after a jab, Schmeling handed Louis his first professional loss by knocking him out in Round 12 at Yankee Stadium on June 19, 1936.
    More Details Hide Details After defeating Louis, Schmeling expected a title shot against James J. Braddock, who had unexpectedly defeated Max Baer for the Heavyweight title the previous June. Madison Square Garden (MSG) had a contract with Braddock for the title defense and also sought a Braddock-Schmeling title bout. But Jacobs and Braddock's manager Joe Gould had been planning a Braddock-Louis matchup for months. Schmeling's victory gave Gould tremendous leverage, however; if he were to offer Schmeling the title chance instead of Louis, there was a very real possibility that Nazi authorities would never allow Louis a shot at the title. Gould's demands were therefore onerous: Jacobs would have to pay 10% of all future boxing promotion profits (including any future profits from Louis's future bouts) for ten years. Braddock and Gould would eventually receive more than $150,000 from this arrangement. Well before the actual fight, Jacobs and Gould publicly announced that their fighters would face for the Heavyweight title on June 22, 1937. Figuring that the New York State Athletic Commission would not sanction the fight in deference to MSG and Schmeling, Jacobs scheduled the fight for Chicago.
  • 1935
    Age 20
    By this time, Louis was ranked as the No. 1 contender in the heavyweight division and had won the Associated Press' "Athlete of the Year" award for 1935. What was considered to be a final tune-up bout before an eventual title shot was scheduled for June 1936 against former World Heavyweight Champion Max Schmeling.
    More Details Hide Details Although a former champion, Schmeling was not considered a threat to Louis, then with an undefeated professional record of 27-0. Schmeling had won his title on a technicality when Jack Sharkey was disqualified after giving Schmeling a low blow in 1930. Schmeling was also 30 years old at the time of the Louis bout and allegedly past his prime. Louis' training retreat was located at Lakewood, New Jersey, where Louis was first able to practice the game of golf, which later became a lifelong passion. Noted entertainer Ed Sullivan had initially sparked Louis' interest in the sport by giving an instructional book to Joe's wife, Marva. Louis spent significant time on the golf course rather than training for the Schmeling match.
    In September 1935, on the eve of Louis' fight with the former title holder Max Baer, Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich wrote about some Americans' hopes for the white contender; "They say Baer will surpass himself in the knowledge that he is the lone white hope for the defense of Nordic superiority in the prize ring."
    More Details Hide Details However, the hopes of white suprematists would soon be dashed. Although Baer had been knocked down only once before in his professional career (by Frankie Campbell), Louis dominated the former champion, knocking him out in fourth round. Unknowingly, Baer suffered from a unique disadvantage in the fight; earlier that evening, Louis had married Marva Trotter at a friend's apartment and was eager to end the fight in order to consummate the relationship. Later that year, Louis also knocked out Paolino Uzcudun, who had never been knocked down before.
    Likewise, biographer Bill Libby asserted that "The sports world was hungry for a great champion when Louis arrived in New York in 1935."
    More Details Hide Details While the mainstream press was beginning to embrace Louis, many still opposed the prospect of another black Heavyweight Champion.
    With the backing of major promotion, Louis fought thirteen times in 1935.
    More Details Hide Details The bout that helped put him in the media spotlight occurred on June 25, when Louis knocked out 6'6", 265-pound former World Heavyweight Champion Primo Carnera in six rounds. Foreshadowing the Louis-Schmeling rivalry to come, the Carnera bout featured a political dimension. Louis' victory over Carnera, who symbolized Benito Mussolini's regime in the popular eye, was seen as a victory for the international community, particularly among African Americans, who were sympathetic to Ethiopia, which was attempting to maintain its independence by fending off an invasion by fascist Italy. America's white press began promoting Louis' image in the context of the era's racism; nicknames they created included the "Mahogany Mauler", "Chocolate Chopper", "Coffee-Colored KO King", "Safari Sandman", and one that stuck: "The Brown Bomber". Helping the white press to overcome its reluctance to feature a black contender was the fact that in the mid-1930s boxing desperately needed a marketable hero. Since the retirement of Jack Dempsey in 1929, the sport had devolved into a sordid mixture of poor athletes, gambling, fixed fights, thrown matches, and control of the sport by organized crime. New York Times Columnist Edward Van Ness wrote, "Louis is a boon to boxing. Just as Dempsey led the sport out of the doldrums so is Louis leading the boxing game out of a slump."
    The contract, however, did not keep Roxborough and Black from attempting to cash in as Louis' managers; when Louis turned 21 on May 13, 1935, Roxborough and Black each signed Louis to an onerous long-term contract that collectively dedicated half of Louis' future income to the pair.
    More Details Hide Details Black and Roxborough continued to carefully and deliberately shape Louis' media image. Mindful of the tremendous public backlash Johnson had suffered for his unapologetic attitude and flamboyant lifestyle, they drafted "Seven Commandments" for Louis' personal conduct. These included: As a result, Louis was generally portrayed in the white media as a modest, clean-living person, which facilitated his burgeoning celebrity status.
    After Louis' narrow defeat of Natie Brown on March 29, 1935, Jacobs and the Louis team met at the Frog Club, a black nightclub, and negotiated a three-year exclusive boxing promotion deal.
    More Details Hide Details
    If Louis were to rise to national prominence among such cultural attitudes, a change in management would be necessary. In 1935, boxing promoter Mike Jacobs sought out Louis' handlers.
    More Details Hide Details
    Trotter later became Louis's first wife in 1935.
    More Details Hide Details During this time, Louis also met Truman Gibson, the man who would become his personal lawyer. As a young associate at a law firm hired by Julian Black, Gibson was charged with personally entertaining Louis during the pendency of business deals. Although Louis' management was finding him bouts against legitimate heavyweight contenders, no path to the title was forthcoming. While professional boxing was not officially segregated, many white Americans had become wary of the prospect of another black champion in the wake of Jack Johnson's highly unpopular (among whites) "reign" atop the heavyweight division. A glass ceiling kept black boxers out of championship bouts, and there were few heavyweight black contenders at the time, though there were African Americans who fought for titles in other weight divisions, and a few notable black champions such as Tiger Flowers. During an era of severe anti-black repression, Jack Johnson's unrepentant masculinity and marriage to a white woman engendered an enormous backlash that greatly limited opportunities of black fighters in the heavyweight division; Louis and his handlers would counter the legacy of Johnson by emphasizing the Brown Bomber's modesty and sportsmanship. Biographer Gerald Astor stated that "Joe Louis' early boxing career was stalked by the specter of Jack Johnson".
  • TEENAGE
  • 1934
    Age 19
    In September 1934, while promoting a Detroit-area "coming home" bout for Louis against Canadian Alex Borchuk, Roxborough was pressured by members of the Michigan State Boxing Commission to have Louis sign with white management.
    More Details Hide Details Roxborough refused and continued advancing Louis's career with bouts against heavyweight contenders Art Sykesand and Stanley Poreda. When training for a fight against Lee Ramage, Louis noticed a young female secretary for the black newspaper at the gym. After Ramage was defeated, the secretary, Marva Trotter, was invited to the celebration party at Chicago's Grand Hotel.
    Louis' initial professional fights were all located in the Chicago area, his professional debut coming on July 4, 1934 against Jack Kracken in the Bacon Casino on Chicago's south side.
    More Details Hide Details Louis earned $59 for knocking out Kracken in the first round. Louis won all twelve of his professional fights that year, ten by way of knockout.
    In April 1934, he followed up his Chicago performance by winning the United States Amateur Champion National AAU tournament in St. Louis, Missouri.
    More Details Hide Details By the end of his amateur career, Louis's record was 50-4, with 43 knockouts. Joe Louis had 70 professional fights with only three losses.
  • 1933
    Age 18
    In 1933, Louis won the Detroit-area Golden Gloves Novice Division championship against Joe Biskey for the light heavyweight classification.
    More Details Hide Details He later lost in the Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions. The next year, competing in the Golden Gloves' Open Division, he won the light heavyweight classification, this time also winning the Chicago Tournament of Champions. However, a hand injury forced Louis to miss the New York/Chicago Champions' cross-town bout for the ultimate Golden Gloves championship.
  • 1932
    Age 17
    Louis made his debut in early 1932 at age 17.
    More Details Hide Details Legend has it that before the fight, the barely-literate Louis wrote his name so large that there was no room for his last name, and thus became known as "Joe Louis" for the remainder of his boxing career. More likely, Louis simply omitted his last name to keep his boxing pursuits a secret from his mother. After this debut – a loss to future Olympian Johnny Miller – Louis compiled numerous amateur victories, eventually winning the club championship of his Brewster Street recreation centre, the home of many aspiring Golden Gloves fighters.
  • 1926
    Age 11
    In 1926, shaken by a gang of white men in the Ku Klux Klan, Louis's family moved to Detroit, Michigan, forming part of the post-World War I Great Migration.
    More Details Hide Details Joe's brother worked for Ford Motor Company (where Joe would himself work for a time at the River Rouge Plant) and the family settled into a home at 2700 Catherine (now Madison) Street in Detroit's Black Bottom neighborhood. Louis attended Bronson Vocational School for a time to learn cabinet-making and his mother attempted to get him interested in playing the violin. The Great Depression hit the Barrow family hard, but as an alternative to gang activity, Joe began to spend time at a local youth recreation center at 637 Brewster Street in Detroit. Legend has it that he tried to hide his pugilistic ambitions from his mother by carrying his boxing gloves inside his violin case.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1920
    Age 5
    Around 1920, Louis's mother married Pat Brooks, a local construction contractor, having received word that Munroe Barrow had died while institutionalized (in reality, Munroe Barrow lived until 1938, unaware of his son's fame).
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  • 1916
    Age 1
    Louis spent twelve years growing up in rural Alabama, where little is known of his childhood. He suffered from a speech impediment and spoke very little until about the age of six. Munroe Barrow was committed to a mental institution in 1916 and, as a result, Joe knew very little of his biological father.
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  • 1914
    Born
    Born on May 13, 1914.
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Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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