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Thread: With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

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    With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

    No boxer has inspired more monuments than Joe Louis. He is the only boxer to have an arena named after him. Statuary dedicated to his memory can be found in places as diverse as the Detroit Institute of Art and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He was the first boxer to appear on a United States postage stamp.

    The record book testifies to his greatness. After winning the title, he made 25 successful defenses. By contrast, the eight heavyweight champions before him had 18 successful defenses combined.

    Louis was lethal in rematches. He avenged his first defeat with a sensational knockout and upended the other seven men he fought twice with wins inside the distance that were briefer than the first encounter. He suffered only three losses in 66 fights -- to a former, a current, and a future heavyweight champion - and two of those losses came after a two-year retirement when his best years were behind him. Nonetheless, I submit that those who insist that Louis was head-and-shoulders above any heavyweight that ever lived are all wet.

    The nickname that stuck to Joe Louis was Brown Bomber, but he was also dubbed Shufflin' Joe, a favorite of New York Times sportswriter John Kieran. Yes, Kieran was guilty of insensitivity - or worse - but it was a fairly accurate description of Louis's fighting style.

    Joe was an economical fighter -- "dangerous in a tight circumference" in the words of legendary trainer Eddie Futch, an early sparring partner -- but his economy of motion was less a strategy than an involuntary constraint.

    Louis had blinding hand speed and could knock a man unconscious with one short punch, but he was remarkably slow-footed for a man of his stature. This was never more apparent than in his 1941 fight with slick Billy Conn who flustered the 27-year-old Louis for 12 rounds until he recklessly charged inside the Brown Bomber's web with his jaw exposed and became another knockout victim.

    Joe Louis fought only two fighters of his color during the first 13 years of his pro career, a figure that does not include two quasi- exhibitions with former sparring partners. The first African-American to test him was Willie Davies, a fellow novice. The second was light heavyweight champ John Henry Lewis who was without lateral vision in his left eye when he opposed Louis in 1939.

    It wasn't until his 24th title defense that Louis finally risked his belt against a man of color who was a true heavyweight, Jersey Joe Walcott. Louis was younger than Walcott but yet fortunate to beat him in their first of two encounters, winning a widely disputed decision.

    In 1937, when Louis won the title, an estimated 35 percent of licensed professional boxers in the United States were black. Their number included Leroy Haynes and Jack Trammell, both of whom would be ranked as high as third in The Ring ratings.

    Louis avoided these men -- more exactly his management avoided them; promoter Mike Jacobs had the final say -- in favor of defending his title against the likes of Jack Roper, Tony Musto, and Al McCoy. Roper was an electrician at Warner Brothers Studio who had won barely half of his 99 fights. Musto, a bartender by trade, carried 200 pounds on a five-foot-eight frame, but was a powder puncher with only six knockouts to his credit in 36 fights. McCoy, a beefed-up middleweight, had lost seven of his last 11 starts and was 39-17-6 in bouts outside his native Maine.

    During the 1940s, the heavyweight division was fortified by good black heavyweights like Walcott, Curtis Sheppard, Turkey Thompson, Elmer Ray, Ezzard Charles, and Jimmy Bivins. Charles and Walcott would become champions when Louis left the scene, but the others were consigned to a treadmill, fighting mostly other blacks. (Louis eventually fought Bivins and outpointed him in a non-title fight.)

    An amazing fact about Louis is that he was favored by odds of 6/1 or higher in 20 of his 27 title fights. This says a great deal about him, but perhaps even more about his opponents.

    These comments aren't meant to disparage Joe Louis the man. He became a public figure as America was clawing out of the Great Depression, reached the pinnacle of his fame during a horrific war, and was a beacon of inspiration to millions who were buffeted by this great trauma. "We will win (World War II) because we are on God's side," Louis famously said in 1942 when he was honored for his work on behalf of the Navy Relief Society. Those words, uttered extemporaneously by a humble sharecropper's son with little formal education were words of comfort to those whose loved ones were overseas in the theaters of war.

    But that was Louis the man, whose contributions to mankind should be kept separate from Louis the fighter.

    "God made only one perfect prizefighter and that was Joe Louis," wrote a boxing correspondent whose work I respect. But I'm compelled to play devil's advocate. In my mind, the Brown Bomber could not have defeated Jack Johnson or Muhammad Ali.

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    Re: With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

    Quote Originally Posted by ArneK. View Post
    No boxer has inspired more monuments than Joe Louis. He is the only boxer to have an arena named after him. Statuary dedicated to his memory can be found in places as diverse as the Detroit Institute of Art and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He was the first boxer to appear on a United States postage stamp.

    The record book testifies to his greatness. After winning the title, he made 25 successful defenses. By contrast, the eight heavyweight champions before him had 18 successful defenses combined.

    Louis was lethal in rematches. He avenged his first defeat with a sensational knockout and upended the other seven men he fought twice with wins inside the distance that were briefer than the first encounter. He suffered only three losses in 66 fights -- to a former, a current, and a future heavyweight champion - and two of those losses came after a two-year retirement when his best years were behind him. Nonetheless, I submit that those who insist that Louis was head-and-shoulders above any heavyweight that ever lived are all wet.

    The nickname that stuck to Joe Louis was Brown Bomber, but he was also dubbed Shufflin' Joe, a favorite of New York Times sportswriter John Kieran. Yes, Kieran was guilty of insensitivity - or worse - but it was a fairly accurate description of Louis's fighting style.

    Joe was an economical fighter -- "dangerous in a tight circumference" in the words of legendary trainer Eddie Futch, an early sparring partner -- but his economy of motion was less a strategy than an involuntary constraint.

    Louis had blinding hand speed and could knock a man unconscious with one short punch, but he was remarkably slow-footed for a man of his stature. This was never more apparent than in his 1941 fight with slick Billy Conn who flustered the 27-year-old Louis for 12 rounds until he recklessly charged inside the Brown Bomber's web with his jaw exposed and became another knockout victim.

    Joe Louis fought only two fighters of his color during the first 13 years of his pro career, a figure that does not include two quasi- exhibitions with former sparring partners. The first African-American to test him was Willie Davies, a fellow novice. The second was light heavyweight champ John Henry Lewis who was without lateral vision in his left eye when he opposed Louis in 1939.

    It wasn't until his 24th title defense that Louis finally risked his belt against a man of color who was a true heavyweight, Jersey Joe Walcott. Louis was younger than Walcott but yet fortunate to beat him in their first of two encounters, winning a widely disputed decision.

    In 1937, when Louis won the title, an estimated 35 percent of licensed professional boxers in the United States were black. Their number included Leroy Haynes and Jack Trammell, both of whom would be ranked as high as third in The Ring ratings.

    Louis avoided these men -- more exactly his management avoided them; promoter Mike Jacobs had the final say -- in favor of defending his title against the likes of Jack Roper, Tony Musto, and Al McCoy. Roper was an electrician at Warner Brothers Studio who had won barely half of his 99 fights. Musto, a bartender by trade, carried 200 pounds on a five-foot-eight frame, but was a powder puncher with only six knockouts to his credit in 36 fights. McCoy, a beefed-up middleweight, had lost seven of his last 11 starts and was 39-17-6 in bouts outside his native Maine.

    During the 1940s, the heavyweight division was fortified by good black heavyweights like Walcott, Curtis Sheppard, Turkey Thompson, Elmer Ray, Ezzard Charles, and Jimmy Bivins. Charles and Walcott would become champions when Louis left the scene, but the others were consigned to a treadmill, fighting mostly other blacks. (Louis eventually fought Bivins and outpointed him in a non-title fight.)

    An amazing fact about Louis is that he was favored by odds of 6/1 or higher in 20 of his 27 title fights. This says a great deal about him, but perhaps even more about his opponents.

    These comments aren't meant to disparage Joe Louis the man. He became a public figure as America was clawing out of the Great Depression, reached the pinnacle of his fame during a horrific war, and was a beacon of inspiration to millions who were buffeted by this great trauma. "We will win (World War II) because we are on God's side," Louis famously said in 1942 when he was honored for his work on behalf of the Navy Relief Society. Those words, uttered extemporaneously by a humble sharecropper's son with little formal education were words of comfort to those whose loved ones were overseas in the theaters of war.

    But that was Louis the man, whose contributions to mankind should be kept separate from Louis the fighter.

    "God made only one perfect prizefighter and that was Joe Louis," wrote a boxing correspondent whose work I respect. But I'm compelled to play devil's advocate. In my mind, the Brown Bomber could not have defeated Jack Johnson or Muhammad Ali.
    Wow! Awesome piece! A TSS Universe Special if there ever was one! I like it. That's stuff that could go on the front page.

    EM, can you copy/paste this to the front? This deserves an audience!

    Or maybe not... This should encourage people to join in!

    Anyway, I love the perspective you give to his career. And because of the mythical standards we hold our legends to, it almost becomes blasphemous to express something that doesn't support that godly standard.

    What it does support, however, is what Radam has said on numerous occasions: every champion is managed, and managed carefully.

    The notion of "back in the day, the best fought the best -- not like now," has been proven to be a fallacy. Over and over.

    And over.

    Truth is every champ was steered carefully. Radam often points out Sugar Ray Robinson avoiding the "Black Murderer's Row." And as you point out, Louis same well. And they had lots of reasons to avoid the black fighters of the day.

    Another immortal in Rocky Marciano was moved with guile as well. He has that mythical record, yet only fought at championship level for a handful of fights.

    The Rock's successor Floyd Patterson was notoriously carefully managed. For years, Patterson's management -- specifically, Cus D'Amato -- avoided Sonny Liston like the plague, listing excuses such as the mob, Liston's criminal background (which Floyd had, too!) and every other manufactured reason they could think of.

    In fact, his team ducked Liston with such vehemence that the honest Patterson felt like a fraud for holding the heavyweight title hostage, finally forcing his management to give Liston a shot in 1962.

    Now, Patterson could've continued his spectacular career that had already set several historically significant marks, well before turning 30 at that:

    1) the first Olympic gold medalist to become heavyweight champion of the world

    2) the youngest heavyweight champion of all time

    3) the first to ever regain the world heavyweight championship

    Had he continued the course of his up-to-then well-managed career and avoided Liston, Patterson could've held the title until inevitably bumping into Cassius Clay.

    Or he could've retired at a young age with many questions unanswered, much like The Rock. Then where would his place in history be?

    It would be lofty! (Much like Roy Jones' mythical all-time statues, had he elected to quit after beating John Ruiz.) Just something to ponder.

    So Arne, your point is very well taken. The immortal Joe Louis, much like most champions in history, were carefully managed by those who invested in them.

    As for his skill-set for A-Z? I tend to agree with you. I'm not familiar enough with Jack Johnson to agree or disagree (he's simply too boring for me to watch) but I definitely believe Muhammad Ali beats him, easily at that, by virtue of dimensions and ability.

    That said, I also believe the aforementioned Liston beats him -- again, by virtue of ability and dimensions.

    Liston's jab would be too much, the power would be too much -- George a Foreman has said that Liston was the only person EVER who stood toe-to-toe with him and forced him to box off the back-foot -- and his underrated boxing smarts would be troublesome as well.

    All that said, slow feet aside and overmatched opponents aside, Louis was an awesome fighter. His clinical dissection of opponents is a beauty to behold.

    At least from I can see on those black/white films. Lol.

    Again, awesome piece. Thanks

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    Re: With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

    Appreciate it.

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    Re: With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

    Awesome piece ArneK. You brought thunder with this one. You always post good stuff and this one stands well with the rest of them.

    Now, I may be blaspheming when I say this........................but could you do one and replace the words Joe Louis with Roberto Duran?

    (Ran out of the room to duck all things being thrown at him)

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    Re: With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

    Thank you, Doctor...Thrown at him, or thrown at you?

    I saved my Joe Louis "blasphemy" for my last post as a mod so that I could make a quick getaway.

  6. #6

    Re: With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

    Quote Originally Posted by ArneK. View Post
    Thank you, Doctor...Thrown at him, or thrown at you?

    I saved my Joe Louis "blasphemy" for my last post as a mod so that I could make a quick getaway.
    Sorry I should say thrown at me. (Escapes again)

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    Re: With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

    Wow! Danggit! ArneK just gangsta rode through history and gunned down the bodyguards of myths and lies surrounding the great "Brown Bomber." But who would be surprised? Just the believers and groupies of myths and lies who want to believe yesteryears to be of great perfection, enchantment and magic. And not one day in one yesteryears is/was that way. Of course, the Brown Bomber was a serial sucker -- I mean ducker. And it comes with the territory. All the great ones are great duckers. And those fans, fan boys, and fanfaronades who don't believe it are great rationalizing suckas.

    Even if you make 'em Jesus-flied. That ain't no big thing. Religious Dudes and Dudettes -- probably kinfolks of El Dude -- told me that Jesus walked on water. So I showed them some P-Islands insects and amphibious animals running, dancing, walking and doing flips on water. The Jesus exploits didn't look so good then. And now the any fighter's exploits don't look so good. Holla!

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    Re: With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

    I can't tell you how many times my late great Father would tell me how great Joe Louis was. How he could knock a man out with a punch from "six inches". It's hard to tell whats real and what is mythology. Pops also was a big fan of the Rock. I am sure Rocky would have be beaten like a drum had he fought in another era. People always look back with the rose colored glasses. Great article Arne and great job as Mod. I look forward to your third term whenever in comes.

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    Re: With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

    First of all, super job as moderator the last few weeks.

    Secondly, that was oneamazing piece. It was truly a TSS classic. I want to copy it, print it out and have you autograph it for me.

    As former Editor-in-Chief of The Ring, I am always being asked "Was Joe Louis the greatest fighter ever or greatest heavyweight ever. My answer of "No" has often been met by derision, so much to the point that it is a topic I usually steer away from.

    It took guts--chutzpah!--to write those words, which were masterfully constructed. You did so at the risk of being mauled by a boxing universe of some very passionate and knowledgeable fans. You never attacked Louis--the great person that he was--you just pointed out facts about a few of his opponents and about the men who pulled the strings of his boxing career.

    Of all the words ever put on this site, the ones you posted were just incredible!

    Truly a TSS Classic!

    -Randy G

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    Re: With all due respect......JOE LOUIS IS OVERRATED

    I have a soft spot for Joe. Best heavyweight ever? Probably not. Great champion though. Good man. Quiet man. When two Ton Tony Galento said , "he never heard of the bum, and would murda him" Joe turned vicious.

    It was Joe Louis vs Hitler and Joe won. I think most of his accolades come from that. I don't think he is overrated but others are underrated. Let's get more stadiums named after other boxers,more books written,and more movies made. There will always be the next great champ out there somewhere.

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