Growing up in abject poverty in Detroit Joe Louis did what lots of people before him had done he turned to sport as a means of escape. Fortunately for boxing Joe turned to the noble art for his means of earning a fortune. Joe was born in Lafayette, Alabama on 13 May 1914 standing just over 6ft weighing in at 196lbs he won 63 fights with 49 KO's and lost 3. Joe Louis died on 12 April 1981 and is still regarded by some as the greatest ever heavy weight boxing champion.
Joe like lots of black boxers suffered from the racism that marred boxing in it's early years, white America couldn't face the fact that a black man could box better than a white man this caused lots of aspiring black boxers to be passed over for boxers of lesser quality when it came to having shots at the title. Joe set about despatching all the top boxers of the day Carnera, Baer, then he had a setback, he came up against Max Schmeling in June 1936, some say this was Schmeling's greatest fight either way he handed Joe Louis his first defeat.
Joe didn't let this defeat stop him he continued to despatch opponents until finally a challenger was being line ded up for James Braddock's first defence of his title, it should have gone to Max Schmeling but for once prejudice worked in Joe Louis's favour, although Schmeling hated Nazi's and all they stood for, he was German and for most people that was enough so Joe Louis was given a crack.
June 22 1937 saw Joe Louis meet Jim Braddock in Chicago it was a magnificent fight for six rounds with Braddock putting Louis down in the first but Joe fought back by the seventh Braddock was struggling and in the eighth round Joe caught Braddock with a marvelous right and the fight was over.
Joe went onto fight two easy defences when his third defence brought him up against Tommy Farr. Farr had lost recently to Braddock on points and everyone thought Joe would despatch him with ease, Farr became one of the three fighters who took Joe the full distance, he still lost but what a fight.
Joe's fourth defence was an honour thing having lost to Schmeling he wanted his revenge he also felt that the way the German had been robbed of a shot at the title was wrong so on 22 June 1938 the two met, however this was no love match Louis had declared It's revenge I'm after, sadly for Schmeling he was being hailed as the model of Aryan supremacy. Schmeling was mortified. The fight lasted short of two minutes one body blow from Joe make Schmeling cry out in pain it turned out later that Joe had broken one of his lumber vertebrae and driven it into his kidney. German radio was covering the fight but somehow the plug was pulled before Schmeling was carried out of the ring.
Joe next defended his title in January 1939 then saw off 17 challengers in just over three years. The next man to take Louis the distance was Chile's Arturo Godoy he was an awkward fighter they met in February 1940. The last fight before the Second World War was against Billy Conn, Conn was a fighter or remarkable speed, with skill and confidence to match. For 12 rounds he had the champion beat, all he had to do was keep out of trouble in the 13th round but he decided to slug it out with Joe, who gratefully knocked him out. Joe then went off and enlisted in the US Army.
He returned to boxing after the war and his first fight was again against Billy Conn, however this time he knocked Conn out in the eighth. Time was beginning to tell on Joe Louis and he had three more defences two of them against Jersey Joe Walcott, Walcott became only the third boxer to take Joe the distance. After this fight Joe retired from the ring stating that the $250,000 purse should be able to keep him unfortnately crippling tax bills forced him back into the ring two years later it was to prove a huge mistake.