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#3 Joe Louis - Top 10 of Boxing’s Most Terrifying Fighters

Joe Louis

When it comes to talking about the greatest boxer ever in the heavyweight division, it almost always boils down to Muhammad Ali or Joe Louis. Both fighters extended their careers perhaps a bit too long, Ali probably more guilty of this than Louis. But for the “Brown Bomber” he fought 69 times, won 66 bouts, and knocked out 79% of his foes (52 KOs). Louis won one fight by DQ (a fight with Buddy Baer in 1941 when Baer’s manager refused to leave the ring in the seventh round).

Joe Louis suffered three defeats but they were years apart. His first loss was legendary. It came in Yankee Stadium on June 19, 1936, at the height of Adolph Hitler’s reign, and Germany’s own Max Schmeling was the opponent. It was a non-title fight won by the German who scored a knockout in the 12th round. Of course, Germany and Hitler were reveling in the victory.

At the time of his first loss, Louis was undefeated with a record of 24-0. Only four of those first 24 fights went the distance. After losing to Schmeling, Joe Louis would win his next 34 fights including a championship victory over James J. Braddock on June 22, 1937, as the Brown Bomber scored an eighth KO.

Louis would then go on the longest championship reigns in history. Louis held the heavyweight belt for 11 years and 252 days. Incredibly and almost unbelievably, Joe Louis would defend his title 25 times. In doing so he took on all comers, feared no one, and destroyed many. In his rematch with Schmeling which Louis scored a knockout, the punches were so brutal it left Schmeling prone on the canvas with his leg shaking from the onslaught.

Joe Louis knocked out all the boxers considered to be the best of his era: Schmeling, Jack Sharkey, Braddock, Tony Galento, Billy Conn, and Jersey Joe Walcott. His only losses were to Schmeling and then losing the title by decision to Ezzard Charles only to never get another crack at reversing that decision. Following the Charles loss, Louis fought just eight more times winning them all but he was clearly at the end of his career when he made the ill-fated decision to climb through the ropes to face a young tiger named Rocky Marciano.

Joe Louis was 37 when he faced the 28-year-old Marciano and the Rock was not yet champion. Marciano had apprehension about fighting a guy he so respected, much like when Larry Holmes fought Muhammad Ali. But the fight went down in Madison Square Garden and unfortunately, Louis was a shadow of himself getting beat terribly and knocked out in the eighth round.

Sadly, Louis who served in the Army and was a true gentleman went through stages of financial difficulty and became poor finally succumbing to heart failure on April 12, 1981, only 66 years of age. Physically he appeared much older and the difficulties of his life had taken their toll. His legacy is monumental. Louis vs. Ali would have been an amazing fight. Put Louis in against any other heavyweight in history and he probably wins them all.

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Harv Aronson

Harv Aronson

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