Joe Louis revisited at Arlington National Cemetery

Former heavyweight champion of the world Joe Louis was remembered at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday on the 25th anniversary of his death.

One of the greatest boxing champs in history Louis ruled heavyweight division with an iron fist from 1937 to 1949 was given the star treatment in Virginia. Not far from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, family and friends gathered around a tombstone on which the words “The Brown Bomber” were chiseled. Joe Louis’ son, Joe Louis Barrow Jr., told the gathering: “Joe Louis challenged the conscience of the country. You couldn’t have it both ways. You couldn’t put Joe Louis on a pedestal and admire him as the heavyweight champion of the world and yet not allow him and his people to eat where they wanted to eat, live where they wanted to live, and be educated where they needed to be educated.” Louis became such a prominent part of American folklore primarily because of his two fights with Max Schmeling during the years when Germany and Adolf Hitler were annexing Europe. Joe got stopped in their first fight in ’36, but avenged the loss in dramatic fashion on June 22, 1938, when he demolished Max in the first round at Yankee Stadium. Louis also served during World War II, achieving the rank of Army staff sergeant. Although Joe Louis did not meet the requirements for burial at Arlington National when he died at in 1981 at the age of 66, President Ronald Reagan honored the request of Louis’ widow and granted a waiver. “It’s extraordinary to me that it doesn’t seem to fade,” said Barrow, who is working with Spike Lee on his eagerly awaited Joe Louis biopic Save Us Joe Louis. “I’ll be reading a paper somewhere, even in Europe, and the bottom line is there’s a reference to Joe Louis. He died 25 years ago. He held the title from ’37 to ’49. He was essentially out of the limelight, and yet they still make reference to him. I don’t know why the world doesn’t want to let go of this man, and I’m thankful that it doesn’t.” May the Brown Bomber rest in peace. A man we’d like to let live in peace is The Greatest, the former Cassius Marcellus Clay, the former Cassius X, also known as Muhammad Ali, who has decided, no doubt after careful thought and long deliberation, to sell the rights to his name. A company called CKX, Inc. currently holds the rights to the goldmines called American Idol and Elvis Presley and has just added Ali to their roster. CKX paid the former champ $50 million to acquire 80 percent of the marketing rights to his name and likeness. Ali will keep a 20% share in the venture. “This relationship with CKX will help guarantee that, for generations to come, people of all nations will understand my beliefs and my purpose,” Ali said in a statement issued Tuesday by the company. The new project will be operated by a company called G.O.A.T. LLC, an acronym for The Greatest Of All Time, also the name of a book by the same name published by Taschen in 2003, GOAT GREATEST OF ALL TIME, a 792-page, 75-pound, $4000 behemoth of a tome. The book was described as the biggest, heaviest, most radiant thing ever printed in the history of civilization in Der Spiegel on October 6, 2003, when it crushed its first bookshelf in Hamburg. But not every boxing guy is happy about Ali’s just-closed deal with CKX. The most distinguished dissenter is Tim Dahlberg, longtime boxing correspondent for Associated Press. The lead for Dahlberg’s Greatest disappointment: Even Ali can be bought reads, Muhammad Ali is for sale. Actually, he’s already been sold. Recalling classic moments like I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong and It’ll be a chilla, and a killa, and a thrilla, when I get the gorilla in Manila, Dahlberg now dreads seeing a Ali bobblehead showing the former heavyweight champion climbing the stairs and lighting the Olympic torch in 1996 in Atlanta. Flip on a switch and Ali even trembles while he does it. The besmirching of legends happens all the time. It’s called branding and in our culture is manna from heaven, but Dahlberg asks, Do we need a new generation remembering Ali for selling something rather than for what he did in the ring and in his life? Will he go down as Joe Dimaggio did, known to most at the end of his life as Mr. Coffee rather than one of the greatest outfielders who ever lived? Rather then let those questions dangle in the air like chads or participles, the AP scribe contacted Robert F.X. Sillerman , the rich guy who put up all that dough to buy Ali’s name. Sillerman told Dahlberg, You will have to wait a long time before you see Muhammad Ali’s picture on a coffee mug. As a coffee drinker, I find that reassuring. But as a coffee drinker, I’d also like to know approximately how long is long? A year? A decade? A lifetime? According to Dahlberg, Sillerman, who is rated by Forbes magazine as the 375th richest American with a net worth of $975 million, said he didn’t buy Ali’s name to lose money on the deal, but it’s not like he needs to start churning out Ali keychains tomorrow to make a quick buck. As a key user, I find that reassuring as well. I hope people understand, continued Sillerman, finally getting to the crux, that this transaction is protective for a man who is very much alive. I also hope people are respectful that this is a decision that Muhammad Ali and Lonnie Ali made together. We second that emotion. Ali has been trading on his name forever; only the numbers have changed. There was an Ali cologne. There was an Ali shoe polish. There was even an Ali roach spray. So getting too up in arms is not only beside the point, it’s unseemly, but no one needs to tell that to Tim Dahlberg And finally, word comes from the NY Post that energetic former boxing champion Mike Tyson, at the tale end of a whirlwind worldwide tour, has stormed out of a rehabilitation center just days after starting therapy for cocaine addiction, aka blown off rehab. Iron Mike checked into Meadows Clinic in Arizona, not far from where he has a home, to undergo a 30-day, $35,000 treatment program. Tyson claimed during an encounter group during his 3-day stay at the exclusive clinic that he was inspired to go straight after he visited Chairman Mao’s tomb in Beijing. But, as a source told the British Daily Mirror, “He flipped and stormed out.” Mike Tyson’s long march continues.