Other Free Encyclopedias » Famous Sports Stars » Boxing » Joe Louis Biography - Growing Up, The Amateur Years, Turning Pro, Chronology, The Brown Bomber, Awards And Accomplishments - SELECTED WRITINGS BY LOUIS:

Joe Louis - A National Hero

champion war losing toll

Between the Schmeling match and the outbreak of World War II, Joe Louis would defend his title fifteen times against opponents who were so clearly outmatched they were nicknamed the "Bums of the Month." Only light-heavyweight champion Billy Conn seemed to offer any kind of challenge, taking Louis thirteen rounds to defeat on June 18, 1941. Before the match, Joe Louis introduced a memorable phrase into the American lexicon by declaring of Conn, "He can run, but he can't hide."

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Joe Louis enlisted in the U.S. Army, cementing his reputation in white America. The army sent him on a series of exhibition matches for the troops, as well as speaking engagements. Twice he donated the proceeds from title fights to the Navy Relief Fund. At the same time, he worked quietly to desegregate the armed forces, often participating in interracial events.

When Joe Louis left the service in 1945, he was at the peak of his popularity. He was finally accepted as an all-American hero, and in press coverage, words like "integrity" and "dignity" took the place of the old savage stereotypes. He successfully defended his championship against all comers, earning huge purses and retiring undefeated in 1949 after the longest reign of any boxing champion in history. His legendary generosity to his family, old neighborhood friends, and virtually any worthy black cause, endeared him to the public.

But below the surface, things were not always so good. His constant womanizing, carefully shielded from the press, had taken its toll on his marriage. In 1945, he and Marva divorced. They remarried a year later, but finally called it quits in 1949. His generosity also took a toll, and throughout the war he'd actually had to borrow significant sums from his managers. Even more alarming, he owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes. A year after his retirement, financial considerations forced him back into the ring. He went up against the new heavyweight champion, Ezzard Charles, on September 27, 1950, losing in a fifteen-round decision. On October 26, 1951, he made one last comeback attempt, losing to future champion Rocky Marciano in an eighth-round knockout.

Joe Louis - Declining Years [next] [back] Joe Louis - The Schmeling/louis Matches

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