Joe Louis: Mechanical Wonder

“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 … just blocking those shots was like being in an automobile accident.”    — Eddie Futch

Joe Louis
The great Joe Louis. Drawing by Damien Burton.

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 awesome heavyweight power-punchers, one on his way down, the other, seemingly, on an unstoppable journey 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, and a huge draw.

Louis humbles Primo Carnera.

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.

Joe Louis
Louis puts Baer on the defensive.

But it didn’t turn out that way. On that electrifying September night, in front of some eighty-five thousand 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.

Baer down in round four and about to be counted out for the first time in his career.

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 most dominant champion in heavyweight history. Here Wylie reveals the subtle nuances of Joe’s technique, the details 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, a “mechanical wonder.” Check it out:

4 thoughts on “Joe Louis: Mechanical Wonder

  • February 21, 2016 at 12:37 am
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    Amazing, the best boxing analyst in the world 😊.

    Reply
  • February 21, 2016 at 3:38 am
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    Fantastic work there Mr. Wylie. My all-time avorite boxer paired with my favorite musician. My opinion is, and this could be a biased one, that this has been among your very best videos to date (and I consider your work to be head and shoulders above the competition). Thank you very much for the insights and entertainment that you provide.

    Reply
    • February 26, 2020 at 5:53 pm
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      Fully agreed. Nobody explains so well the Sweet Science with so few words and so illustrating images. The music and the edition are classy as well. I’m an absolute fan of Mr. Wylie work.

      Reply
  • June 28, 2019 at 1:03 am
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    Mr Wylie, the video of Joe Louis was amazing. The piano sound track was also amazing. Can you give me the name and the artist of the sound track please.

    Reply

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