Joe Louis is considered to be the sport icon in the United States and, probably, the name which comes in association first hearing the word BOXING. He is widely regarded as the first African American to achieve the status of a nationwide hero within the United States. He also was one of the first who broke the sport's color barrier in America. The stadiums and the sport arenas are named after him. He is all-time craftsman of the ring- The Great Joe Louis!
Joseph Louis Barrow was born on May 13, 1914 in a ramshackle dwelling on Bell Chapel Road, located about a 1.6 km (1 mile) off Alabama's Route 50 and roughly 10 km (six miles) north of Lafayette in rural Chambers County, Alabama. Louis was the seventh of eight children. Both Louis' parents were the children of former slaves. 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.
Louis attended Bronson Vocational School and his mother attempted to get him interested in playing the violin. For quite a long time Joe tried to hide his pugilistic ambitions from his mother by carrying his boxing gloves inside his violin case. In April 1934, he followed up his Chicago performance by winning the United States Amateur Champion National AAU tournament. By the end of his amateur career, Louis's record was 50-4, with 43 knockouts.
Joe Louis had 72 professional fights with only three losses. He tallied 57 knock outs, endured only three defeats, and held the championship from 1937-1949. Louis' championship reign lasted 140 consecutive month, which is almost 12 years, the longest span of any heavyweight titleholder. Beating James Braddock in 1937, he defended his belt for 25 consecutive times, which is real unique achievement if we compare those days with nowadays, when the opponents are picked up from TOP 60 and the champions are fighting only 1 or 2 times a year. Joe lost his title to Ezzard Charles by the 15 round decision, in 1950. Amongst the most notable fights of Louis can be underlined two clashes, loss and win, against The German Max Schmeling, and the wins over the best fighters of his time, such as; Jack Sharkey, John Henry Lewis, Arturo Godoy, Abe Simon, Billy Conn, Jersey Joe Walcott. Louis retired in 1951, after eight round stoppage from the upcoming star and the other future legend, Rocky Marciano. Joe was nicknamed The Brown Bomber.
During The World War II, realizing Louis' potential for elevating esprit de corps among the troops, the Army placed him in its Special Services Division. Louis would go on a celebrity tour with other notables and staged 96 boxing exhibitions before two million soldiers. In England during 1944, he was reported to have enlisted as a player for Liverpool Football Club as a publicity stunt. In a famous wartime recruitment slogan, Louis echoed his prior comments of 1942: "We'll win, because we're on God's side." 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. 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. He invested in a number of businesses, all of which eventually failed.
Louis died of cardiac arrest in Desert Springs Hospital near Las Vegas on April 12, 1981, being just a month short to his 67-th Birthday! Ronald Reagan waived the eligibility rules for burial at Arlington National Cemetery and Louis was buried there with full military honors. Even until this day there are a lot of debates going on about who could really being named as The King of the Ring- Marciano, Ali, Robinson, Louis? I think there are few of them... On this year's May 13 Joe Louis would celebrate his 100!