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One of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, nicknamed the Brown Bomber. He grew up in a poor, rural childhood. He eventually rose through the ranks to become heavyweight champion of the world by defeating Max Baer. Joe Louis holds the record for the most fights defending his title after gaining the Champion status.

He had a short romance with legendary Lena Horne and had acquaintances to many famous people. An extravagant spender, he often bought his mother houses and cars. After losing his title to Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis went on to make a baseball team called the Brown Bombers and have a short stint as a professional wrestler in order to pay for his debts. Besides just a great athlete, Joe Louis was a role-model and a champion for rights for blacks. He was not the first black heavyweight champion. Jack Johnson was the first but he was a boozer, womanizer, and a very amoral person who brought shame upon the black community. Joe Louis instead brought honor to the title of heavyweight champion by living a clean life and giving considerable money to charities.

A few corrections to the above, first:
  • Louis won the heavyweight championship by defeating James Braddock, not Max Baer

  • Louis did not lose his title to Rocky Marciano. Louis had retired, and thus the title became vacant. He unretired and several fights later, lost to Marciano (who himself would become champion 11 months later)

Joe Louis (DOB: 5/13/1914 in Lafayette, Alabama, as Joseph Louis Barrow) is regarded by many as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all-time.

Louis grew up in Detroit and turned pro at the age of 20. From 1934 through the middle of 1936, Louis won his first 27 bouts (23 by knockout; including fights with former champions Primo Carnera and Max Baer) before suffering his first defeat to another former champion, German Max Schmeling on June 19, 1936.

After 7 more wins, Louis (nicknamed the "Brown Bomber") got a shot at the heavyweight title, and slightly more than a year to the day of the Schmeling fight, on June 22, 1937, Louis knocked out James Braddock to become heavyweight champion of the world. He would retain the title for nearly 12 years.

Perhaps most notably historically, was his rematch with Schmeling in 1938. Schmeling was seen as a symbol of Hitler and Nazi Germany. Louis got his revenge and knocked Schmeling out in the first round.

Louis served in the army during World War II, and was widely respected by both blacks and whites.

After 2 tough title defenses against Jersey Joe Walcott in 1947 and 1948, Louis announced his retirement on March 1, 1949. However, he needed money badly, and came out of retirement a year later to fight champion Ezzard Charles. Louis lost a close decision. After a few more bouts versus much weaker competition, Louis fought the up-and-coming Rocky Marciano on October 26, 1951. A much younger Marciano knocked Louis out in the 8th round, and this time the "Brown Bomber" retired for good.

Louis's professional record was 68-3-0, with 54 knockouts.

Joe Louis passed away on April 12, 1981, at the age of 66.

Detroit's sports arena is named The Joe Louis Arena ("The Joe" for short) in his honor.

In 1999, ESPN's SportsCentury selected Louis as #11 on their list of the 100 greatest North American athletes of the 20th century (Muhammad Ali was #3, Rocky Marciano was #51).

Joe Louis is often considered to be the best heavyweight in history. He was a classic boxer-puncher, someone who uses his boxing skills to set up his power shots. By all accounts, he didn't like to fight much, but did it because he was very good at it, and it paid the bills rather nicely.

His money problems were legendary. He couldn't say no to anyone, and would often give slight aquaintances money just because they asked. He was a gambler, betting on all kinds of things. He helped uncounted numbers of down-and-out fighters. He bought family members, wives (there were 3 of them), and business associates expensive presents. Contrary to popular opinion, he had many girlfriends and affairs, claiming Lena Horne and Sonja Henne (the skater) among them. In spite of these things, his legacy is assured. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetary.

As a fighter, Louis combined efficiency, sound fundamentals, tremendously fast hands, and crushing power in both hands. He had a heavy, accurate jab that one opponent described as like 'having a lightbulb smashed in your face.' He had a tremendously powerful left hook, and one of the hardest right crosses ever. He could also fight well inside using the 'six-inch punch', in which he punched quickly, accurately, and hard using his bodyweight while his hands travelled a very short distance.

Those that saw him fight, however, remember his patience, his expressionless relentlessness, and his efficiency. He wasted little movement in the ring. Everything he did was done with a purpose.

His best known win was his first-round knockout of Max Schmeling. In 1936, Schmeling defeated Louis, knocking him out in the 12th round. Schmeling and his trainer had spotted a weakness in Louis' style, in which he dropped his left shoulder whenever he was going to throw his left hand. Schmeling, who was a very respectable 48-7-4 at the time, and an excellent fighter, timed his punches, and caught Louis time and again. The 1938 rematch was made much of by the press of both Germany and the United States, but Louis wanted most to prove that he could beat Schmeling decisively. This he did, in one of the most devastating knockouts in ring history. The left hook that dropped Schmeling, crying out in pain, was so powerful that it reportedly fractured Schmeling's vertebra.

Joe Louis had other memorable fights as well, including his first against former light-heavyweight champion Billy Conn (considered by many to be one of the two or three top light-heavyweights ever), in which Louis injured his right hand early in the fight, and in which master boxer Conn was doing very well indeed before being knocked out in the 13th round. Many consider this to be one of the most thrilling fights in boxing history.

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