Sunday, February 6, 2011
Today, since the Superbowl is on I’m going to take a look at a very important African American sports figure, Joe Louis. Joe was born Joe Louis Barrow on May 13, 1914 in Alabama and was seventh of eight siblings. He started boxing at a young age even though his mother didn’t approve, but he boxed under the name Joe Louis so she didn’t find out.
His first professional fight took place on July 4, 1934. He fought Jack Kracken during this fight and kayoed Kracken. By the end of 1935 he had made over $350,000 in professional purses. Later in his career, after winning 27 professional fights, 23 by knockout, he fought a man by the name of Max Schmelling, who had both been trying for heavyweight titles. He ended up losing by knockout in the 12th round, which affected the spirit of many African Americans at the time. They looked up to Louis as a hero and an idol and when he lost that fight, the community was extremely affected. During the time that Louis had been prime in his fighting years, it was at the time of Adolf Hitler’s headline making war threats. In Louis’ attempt to beat Schmelling around this time, his promoter had to work with building hype that wouldn’t be out shadowing the progress before World War II, but still creating hope for the African American people.
Louis finally got to be in a title match against Schmelling again, this time to beat him in the eighth round by knockout. He ended up holding the heavyweight title for 12 years, longer than anyone before or since. By the time the United States entered WWII, Louis had enlisted in the army. Louis retired as the undefeated champion in 1949. He eventually ended up a penniless champion after making many failed investment decisions and helping out people in need. After his retirement from boxing he took a job as a greeter for a Las Vegas casino. He died in 1981 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with military honors.