“I could have struggled up once more, but when I get executed, people are going to have to pay more than twenty-five dollars a seat to watch it.” — Max Baer
“Joe’s punches could paralyze you … Anywhere he hit you, you’d feel it. [J]ust blocking those shots was like being in an automobile accident.” — Eddie Futch
On this day back in 1935 a most extraordinary boxing match took place. Tens of thousands crammed the stands in New York’s Yankee Stadium to see a showdown between two heavyweight power-punchers, one on his way down, the other, seemingly, on an unstoppable flight to the very top.
Joe Louis had already demolished Lee Ramage, King Levinsky and Primo Carnera in brutal fashion and the ease with which he had rendered helpless such formidable opposition had been a startling sight for even the more grizzled pundits of pugilism. It appeared certain that a new champion had arrived and indeed Louis was already a star, a phenomenon, not to mention a huge draw.
But Max Baer represented his sternest test to date, a cut above everyone he had faced thus far. Because not only was Baer the former heavyweight champion of the world; he was also one of the hardest punchers the ring had ever seen. At this point “The Brown Bomber” was a sensation, but it was this match which would confirm if he was in fact the heavyweight king in waiting. If Louis was not the goods, surely Baer would make that clear for all to see. At the very least, he would give young Joe all he could handle.
But it didn’t turn out that way. On that electrifying September night, in front of some eighty-five thousand sports fans, the fighter from Detroit was nothing less than pugilistic perfection. He dominated Baer with seeming ease, sending him to the floor twice at the end of round three. These were the first knockdowns of Baer’s long career and only the bell saved him from being stopped then and there. Another brutal assault followed in round four and this time, when Baer went down, he stayed down. And suddenly there was no doubt: the next great champion of the heavyweights would soon be one Joseph Louis Barrow.
No less a wordsmith than Ernest Hemingway was ringside that night and maybe he put it best when he described Louis as “Too good to be true, and absolutely true … the most beautiful fighting machine I have ever seen.”
But what precisely accounts for the awesome effectiveness of a prime Joe Louis? No doubt one of the best answers to that question is to be found in Lee Wylie’s aptly titled video on the longest-reigning champion in heavyweight history. Here Wylie reveals the subtle nuances of Joe’s technique, the details of his ring work which made him so deadly. As boxing historian Gilbert Odd put it: “Louis was ice cold in action, rarely wasted a punch, and had an uncanny way of anticipating and avoiding a blow by the merest move of the head.” Let Lee Wylie show you exactly what Odd, and Hemingway, had observed, so you can renew your appreciation for the great Joe Louis. Check it out: