Joe Louis: The Life of a Heavyweight
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Joe Louis held the heavyweight boxing championship longer than any other fighter and defended it a record 25 times. (In the 1930s and 1940s, the owner of the heavyweight title was the most prominent non-team sports competitor.) In addition, Louis helped bridge the gap of understanding between whites and blacks. During World War II he not only raised money for Army and Navy relief and entertained millions of troops as a morale officer, but became a symbol of American hope and strength. This biography of Louis outlines his rise from poverty in Alabama to become the best-known African American of his time and describes how an uneducated man, simple at his core, became so articulate and ended up on the side of right in the battles he fought, with fist or voice.
himself into the symbol of the weakest white men’s nightmares. He was a big, strong, powerful, black man accomplished with his ﬁsts, and God Almighty he was bedding white women, too! Oh, how they hated him. So the Johnson of the recent past presented the image of the heavyweight black ﬁghter that Louis had to conquer to get where he wanted to go. The white world’s cry after Johnson lost his title was “Never again!” Clearly, Johnson and Louis were two different people. Clearly, what Johnson did
Braddock said.10 That could hardly be the truth because he was putting his coveted prize on the line and risking the title for the ﬁrst time. It should have been no real surprise that Braddock said something like that. He had been the underdog in every ﬁght he had been in for some time, but won all of them. People cheered for him, but they didn’t risk their bankrolls betting on him. Same thing this time. Somewhat more bizarrely in the time-honored tradition of April Fool’s jokes, the NEA
a couple of weeks. While it was not broken it was harmed as the result of a punch that broke Farr’s nose. Only days later, while Louis was nursing his aching hand, Jacobs announced that the long-awaited Schmeling-Louis second ﬁght was on. Schmeling capitulated for less money than he originally sought. Jacobs had the upper hand and threatened to cut Schmeling out of the picture altogether and conduct an elimination tournament to name a new No. 1 contender. But Schmeling and Louis would still have
boxing “the Sweet Science.” As practiced by Louis, it was. As practiced by Galento it might as well have been a different sport. It was easy to envision Galento as being a movie tough, a bodyguard protecting some underworld kingpin. Galento was not a shy man and he was willing to promote himself in just about any way possible. He once fought a 550-pound bear and also a kangaroo, and he wrestled an octopus. Some wags ﬁgured wrestling an eightarm octopus was what it was going to be like when
power because in the ﬁfth round of their ﬁrst contest Louis belted him on the chin and it didn’t hurt very much. “It was the most shocking punch Louis ever landed, for it shocked two people, him and me!” Godoy wrote. “It was shocking to me that the punch, landing as it did with 174 Joe Louis all that Louis could possibly put into it, merely jarred me and that was all! I wasn’t even dazed!”15 Well, if Godoy wanted to be dazed, Louis obliged him the second time out. Again scheduled for the