Remembering Joe Louis

Tomorrow will mark the anniversary of the birth of the great Joe Louis and no serious fight fan needs to be reminded as to why he will always be a legend of pugilism. He was the most dominant heavyweight champion ever, the division’s all-time deadliest puncher and finisher, the undisputed king of the big men for almost twelve years. Larger than life and admired by millions, Louis became a beloved icon of America and even now, more than four decades after his death, his legacy remains unassailable.

Louis with trainer and fellow legend Jack Blackburn.

In her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou recalls listening to one of Louis’ fights on the radio and how much it meant to Black people in America when he triumphed in the ring. “Every day Joe Louis fought, it was ‘our day,'” she states. Similarly, author Langston Hughes, the poet of the Harlem Renaissance, wrote in his autobiography: “Each time Joe Louis won a fight in those depression years, even before he became champion, thousands of black Americans on relief or WPA and poor would throng out into the streets all across the land to march and cheer and yell and cry because of Joe’s one-man triumphs.”

Joe Louis
Harlem residents raise a jubilant toast after Louis defeated Max Schmeling in 1938.

As for his status among the great champions of all-time, it has never waned. All knowledgeable fight fans know Joe Louis has to be counted among the top three heavyweights to ever step through the ropes and many have him holding the number one spot. A cursory look at his record easily explains why. Twenty-five consecutive title defenses; twelve straight years as world champion; only one defeat in his first sixty-two bouts; ten victories over legit world champions.

Beyond that, there are the opinions of the pundits and historians of the game, including those who saw him in action and know first-hand what a formidable warrior he was. Herewith, a collection of quotes from the boxing intelligentsia which makes vividly clear Joe’s unsurpassed status as one of the longest-reigning and most accomplished champions of all-time.

Joe Louis
A young Joe Louis poses for the camera.

“The Joe Louis who knocked out Max Schmeling in one round, the Louis who took the title from Jimmy Braddock, the Louis who went up and down the line taking them all on, the Louis who dodged nobody and was eager to meet everybody, was the greatest heavyweight of all time. The Louis who was threatened on points by Billy Conn and then stopped him, the Louis whose second effort against Jersey Joe Walcott was devastating, the Louis who could box, who could hit, who could pile up points or end a fight with one punch – that man had no equal among the heavies I have seen.” –author Dan Daniel.

“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
Louis’ hand is raised after he scored a 6th round TKO over Primo Carnera.

“Although I saw Dempsey, Tunney and Max Baer in action during my childhood, my first connection with boxing as a profession began during the reign of Joe Louis. I have seen motion pictures of championship bouts previous to this but I still vote for Louis as the best of the heavyweight champs. As a fighting machine, he was not fabricated. He was born to his profession. A natural with all the instinct of a great fighter and superb gentleman.”       –Nat Loubet

“Louis is the hardest puncher that I’ve ever seen.”        — Max Schmeling

“Many experts consider Louis to be the greatest counter-puncher among the heavyweights. When the slightest opportunity presented itself, the right-left exploded. His offensive capability was most likely unequalled in the ring. He performed at optimum efficiency, with little wasted motion. His style was that of a stand-up boxer with quick reflexes. His defense consisted of a superb offence.”  –Tracy Callis

Louis wins the world title with an 8th round KO of James Braddock.

“Louis is another Joe Gans, whom I consider the greatest fighter of all time… He can hit, he is fast and is no slouch at employing ring craft. I am glad I am still able to see enough to watch the boy. He is the marvel of the age.”     –Sam Langford

“There’s never been a better boxer than Joe Louis.”        — George Foreman

“Too good to be true, and absolutely true … the most beautiful fighting machine I have ever seen.”                         — Ernest Hemingway

Louis overwhelms tough Arturo Godoy for an 8th round TKO in 1940.

“He was quite possibly the greatest boxer-puncher of all time, certainly the best among the heavyweights. His style was to put subtle pressure on his opponents, cutting the ring, forcing them back and then taking precise steps backwards to lead his opponents into his terrifying counter punches. In his prime, Louis threw perfect jabs, triple left hooks and short jolting right hands that landed literally with bone-crushing power and laser accuracy. ‘The Brown Bomber’ also threw some of the most magnificent combinations ever seen. [He was] a true master of the counter-punching art.”    –Monte Cox

Louis scoring a first round KO over Buddy Baer in 1942.

“I used to tease him by reminding him that I was the greatest of all time. But Louis was the greatest heavyweight fighter ever.”             — Muhammad Ali

“Joe Louis is a credit to his race — the human race.”             — Jimmy Cannon

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2 thoughts on “Remembering Joe Louis

  • October 24, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    Greatest puncher of all time for me always was and always will be.

  • December 4, 2023 at 1:42 pm

    Joe is at the top of my list.
    His skill only rivaled by his class


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