Joe Louis Bio
Joe Louis real name Joseph Louis Barrow was an American professional boxer who competed from 1934 to 1951. He reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1937 to 1949 and is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time.
Joe Louis Age
Joe was born in the year 1914 May 13th but died at the age of 66 years old with only a month to reach 67, he died on 12th April 1981.
Joe Louis Spouses/Divorce
Louis had two children by wife Marva Trotter (daughter Jacqueline and son Joseph Louis Barrow Jr.). They divorced in March 1945 only to remarry a year later but were again divorced in February 1949. Marva moved on to an acting and modeling career.
On Christmas Day 1955, Louis married Rose Morgan, a successful Harlem businesswoman; their marriage was annulled in 1958. Louis’s final marriage—to Martha Jefferson, a lawyer from Los Angeles, on St. Patrick’s Day 1959—lasted until his death.
They had four children: another son named Joseph Louis Barrow Jr, John Louis Barrow, Joyce Louis Barrow, and Janet Louis Barrow. The younger Joe Louis Barrow Jr. lives in New York City and is involved in boxing. Though married four times, Louis discreetly enjoyed the company of other women like Lena Horne and Edna Mae Harris.
Joe Louis Death/Cause of Death
Drugs took a toll on Louis in his later years. In 1969, he was hospitalized after collapsing on a New York City street. While the incident was at first credited to “physical breakdown,” underlying problems would soon surface. In 1970, he spent five months at the Colorado Psychiatric Hospital and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Denver, hospitalized by his wife, Martha, and his son, Joe Louis Barrow Jr. for paranoia.
In a 1971 book, Brown Bomber, by Barney Nagler, Louis disclosed the truth about these incidents, stating that his collapse in 1969 had been caused by cocaine and that his subsequent hospitalization had been prompted by his fear of a plot to destroy him. Strokes and heart ailments caused Louis’s condition to deteriorate further later in the decade. He had surgery to correct an aortic aneurysm in 1977 and thereafter used a POV/scooter for a mobility aid.
Louis died of cardiac arrest in Desert Springs Hospital near Las Vegas on April 12, 1981, just hours after his last public appearance viewing the Larry Holmes–Trevor Berbick Heavyweight Championship.
Ronald Reagan waived the eligibility rules for burial at Arlington National Cemetery and Louis was buried there with full military honors on April 21, 1981. His funeral was paid for in part by a former competitor and friend, Max Schmeling, who also acted as a pallbearer.
Joe Louis Record
By the end of his amateur career, Louis’s record was 50–3, with 43 knockouts.
Joe Louis vs Rocky Marciano
The End of an Era: Joe Louis vs. Rocky Marciano
A huge amount of hype preceded this fight. Behind the scenes, the Brown Bomber knew he had lost a step. It’s the reason he had retired as champion in 1949. The retirement was cut short, however, when the IRS went after him for back taxes in 1950. It seems promoter Mike Jacobs had forgotten to pay the income tax on Joe’s monthly allowance, during his time in the U.S. Army.
Louis had donated all his purses during the war to the Army-Navy Relief Fund. This gesture was not enough for the IRS, even though those purses more than made up for what he owed. Now with interest and penalty, Louis’s tax bill had ballooned to over $500,000. Joe had to stage a comeback and lost a 15-round decision to the new champion Ezzard Charles on September 27, 1950, at Yankee Stadium.
He then won eight fights in a row, in pursuit of a return shot at Charles and the big money he desperately needed. The eight wins he had run up were against opponents far from the best. The purses didn’t even pay the interest on the tax bill. So to build the gate for another Charles fight, he first had to beat the top contender, Rocky Marciano, aka the Brockton Blockbuster. Joe had to show he still had something left. The bout was set for October 26, 1951, at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Marciano had mixed feelings about the fight with the Brown Bomber. Sure he wanted to break into the big money but Joe Louis was like a god to him. A lot of Americans felt that way. There were two things that people could count on as we came into the war years. Two things that they thought would never change.
Franklin Roosevelt would always be the President of the United States and Joe Louis would always be the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Other characters would come and go, battles would be won and lost, but these two men were always there. It made the country feel a little bit safer in those bad times.
Both men stayed on top for about twelve years, their careers overlapped. They are remembered as two of the best at what they did.
Still, Marciano had to figure out a strategy to beat Louis. The Rock had some problems of his own to work out. Most of his opponents were bigger and faster than he was. Rocky at 5’10” and one hundred and eighty-five pounds was one of the smallest champions in the history of the heavyweight division. His arms were the shortest of any heavyweight champion at sixty-nine inches! He often had to leap at an opponent to land a punch!
Louis, on the other hand, stood 6’2” tall and had a reach of seventy-six inches. The former champ also had a weight advantage, with a fighting weight of two hundred pounds.
What Rocky had going for him was his manager Al Weill and trainer Charley Goldman. (Charley later taught Angelo Dundee the training business.) They were his “A-Team” and Marciano needed all the help he could get. He was clumsy, awkward and started late as a pro. Goldman realized that if a fighter had a certain style, the trick was to go with it but improve it. He often said, “If you got a tall fighter, make him taller.
If you got a short fighter to make him shorter.” This he proceeded to do by teaching Rocky to fight from a crouch. He became a very hard target to hit. Very much like the style of 1930s heavyweight contender Paolino Uzcudun. The Basque Woodchopper would scurry back and forth in the ring, something like a crab on the beach. He was always too low to hit with a solid punch.
Goldman just shined Marciano up a bit, taught him basic footwork and how to throw simple combinations. The raw power of Rocky was already in there. It was something that couldn’t be taught.
The Rock had big plans after this fight. He wanted to get his immigrant father out of the shoe factory in his hometown of Brockton, Mass. The old man had been squeezing out a living there for too long. It was time for him to retire and relax.
But the name Joe Louis was legendary. It gave many contenders, including Marciano, pause for concern, just as the legend of mighty Rome had later kept barbarian armies at bay. The name Joe Louis still struck fear into fighters who had to get in the ring with the Brown Bomber. Many opponents were already beaten mentally before they even threw a punch.
Rocky could give and take a punch with the best of them. But his main edge was his ability to anticipate his opponent’s next move and be ready with a response. Believe it or not, Marciano used brain over brawn. He and Goldman used to pour over scouting reports and films, looking for flaws to exploit in their next bout. His final record shows that he knocked out forty-three of his forty-nine opponents.
Joe Louis had his own unique fighting style. In his prime his punches were heavy and if you add in his quick combinations, he was hard to beat. But now his timing and reflexes had eroded. The Brown Bomber still had a tremendous right hand and his left hook and jab were always on target.
Some sportswriters of the day wrote that he had the quickness of a jungle cat. It is not a politically correct statement today but it was true. Louis could take a punch but he also could be knocked down or out, as Max Schmeling, Tony Galento and Buddy Baer had proved years before.
The fight took place at Madison Square Garden on October 26, 1951. Louis was guaranteed $300,000 for the fight. He badly needed that money for Uncle Sam. So twenty-seven-year-old Rocky Marciano would take on thirty-seven-year-old Joe Louis. The winner would get a shot at champion Ezzard Charles.
It was brutal to watch. Louis turned into an old man overnight. It was not a pretty sight. In the eighth round, Marciano caught Louis twice for two knockdowns. The fight was finally stopped without a count by referee Ruby Goldstein. It was a TKO8 for Marciano.
The next morning sports columnist Red Smith described the action this way: “Rocky hit Joe a left hook and knocked him down. Then Rocky hit him another hook and knocked him out. A right to the neck followed that knocked him out of the ring. And out of the fight business. The last wasn’t necessary, but it was neat. It wrapped the package neat and tidy.”
After the fight, Louis told the press, “This kid knocked me out with what? Two punches. Schmeling knocked me out with-musta been a hundred punches. But, I was twenty-two years old. You can take more than later on.” Joe later joked that after the fight, he had a hard time combing his hair, so bruised and weak were his arms after trying to block the Rock’s punches for eight rounds.
He could barely raise them high enough to reach his head. Joe could see the punches coming but no longer had the speed to step out of the way. Marciano was in the dressing room with Louis when Joe had that interview with the press. Tears came to Rock’s eyes. Louis was his hero. He hated what he had done to him.
The former champion retired again that night for good. He was broke, but almost square with the government now. The U.S. Congress later passed a special bill, forgiving any remainder of the taxes still owed by Joe to the government. It was a nice gesture to an American icon but too little and way too late.
Louis spent the rest of his life scratching out a living on his name. He sold his autographs and took pictures with guests at various Las Vegas casinos. Even his old nemesis Max Schmeling sent him money to get by. Some folks claim that years later, Schmeling even paid for Joe’s funeral.
Marciano was respectful in his comments about Louis. “The man was a true champion. I didn’t enjoy what I did tonight. Ten years ago it might have gone the other way.”
Rocky returned home to Brockton. As soon as Marciano got his cut of the prize money from the Louis fight, he went down to the shoe factory, where his father, Pierino Marchegiano, had worked for thirty years. Rocky walked over to the old man and said, “Come on Pop, your done here. You don’t have to come back here no more.” The two men walked home together.
Marciano became the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated and stay that way. He left with a record of 49-0. He died in a plane crash on a stormy night in Iowa. Rocky was just forty-six years old.