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The 1930's saw incredible growth in the publics appetite for sport. Now is not the time to chart the reasons for this. It is just one of those things. In the gladiatorial arena of boxing Joe Louis emerged as the Heavyweight Champion of the Word. He was quite simply the best there was and can lay claim to being the best there has ever been.

You can spend your entire life considering 'what if' and you can waste a darn large proportion of it in the process. In boxing you can only beat the person in front of you, it is one on one, forget the job in hand for a few moments can be quite a silly thing to do. You can see why it is often regarded as a good tutor.

Joe Louis was darn good at beating the people that were put in front of him and darn good at it for a long time.

On the 22 June 1937 Joe, at the age of 23 knocked out Braddock in the 8th round to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Joe's left was described as having a light-bulb shoved in your face and screwed. His right was a crowbar.

If only the story ended there we could all go home with smiles on our faces.

His first defence was against the Welshman, Tommy Farr. The bout went the distance and there were many that thought the Welshman had done enough to win the match. It was not to be though and the decision went to Joe. The fight was close and it would not be far to consider this a home decision despite the close nature of the bout.

Farr would be the last man for three years to take Joe the full distance. The next six fighters would not see round six.

Perhaps the most important bout of these was against the German Max Schmeling.

Max was the only defeat on Joe's record. Previously Max had been World Champion himself when in June 1930 he had been awarded the bout against Sharkey because of a low blow.

The fight was arranged for June 1938 and it was a very different bout to the one they had fought two years previously.

Germany had been re-arming and all the signs were global conflict was inevitable. Hitler was pushing the idea of racial superiority and here was the White German, Max against the Black American, Joe.

Max was never comfortable with the propaganda message he trailed behind him and the bout had all the ingredients of being a very unpleasant affair.

As it turned out it was. It lasted 124 seconds and could well be the most brutal display of boxing there has ever been. For a goodly proportion of the time Max was hooked over the ropes as Joe wailed into him with the referee watching closely. Max got off the ropes but only to walk into a barrage of punches which saw him go down mercifully quickly.

Max was not spend the best part of three months in hospitals after this bout as he had broken his back in two places during the fight.

Joe was living the high life by now and branching out, he went into movies (although he was thankfully less wooden when in the ring). 'Spirit of Youth' was one of his acting 'successes'.

On 25 Jan 1939 Joe stepped into the ring with John Henry Lewis the light heavyweight champion of the world. Lewis was actually nearly blind in his left eye and certainly would not be boxing today, let alone holding a championship. Joe knocked him out in the first round.

This fight was a bit of boxing history though as it was the first all black Heavyweight championship of the World. Looking at this fact from a distance of 60 years down the time tunnel, it seems almost incredible.

Although Joe was enjoying life fighting was not the big paycheck industry it is today and getting in the ring was the method of making money and if you wanted to keep eating you kept fighting. Mike Jacobs came up with the idea of the 'bum a month' plan. Joe would fight every month in order to keep in fighting shape.

I do not want to put Buddy Baer in this group. Buddy was a brave fighter; having been punched clear out of the ring over the top rope he climbed back in to continue the fight. Buddy's bravery was equalled, if not beaten, by that of the referee who kept the bout going on far too long. Mind you if you thought the ref was brave this was nothing to Buddy's corner men who despite having to almost carry Buddy thought the fight should continue. Buddy had been badly beaten and was never really the same fighter again.

The bombing of Pearl Harbour brought a reluctant US into World War II.

The war affected millions of people in millions of ways but for Joe Louis it had a special twist. He decided to dedicate his next two fights to the war effort, his entire purse would go to the army and to the navy. This he duly did.

The fight purse was made out in his name and he countersigned the cheque and it went to the war effort. The internal revenue deemed that it was his money, arguing the cheques had been made out in his name. He was free to do with the money what he wanted after that. Logically they were right but morally they were off-beam. They demanded the tax from these two fights and this remain unpaid and disputed. Interest gathered and it was to haunt Joe and keep him in the ring far longer than acceptable.

For the next 4.5 years Joe Louis was controlled by the war department for motivational and promotional purpose. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his war work.

Now at the age of 32 Joe was to make a return to the boxing ring. His best years were behind him now but the war had robbed many people of much more and it was a different world he was fighting in.

A re-match with Billy Conn was arranged in June 1946. There first fight had been a bruising affair in June 1941. In that fight things had been on a knife edge right up to the 13th round. A lot of the fight could have been conducted inside a telephone box the fighting was that close and intense. Conn had refused to go down, perhaps after 13 rounds he only knew how to stand up but eventually he had been clubbed senseless.

Both men were older though and the re-match was reasonably convincing for Joe.

Then followed Tami Mauriello in September 1946. The first few seconds of this fight meant Joe nearly retired. Caught cold at the bell Tami hit him with a punch which staggered him mightily. A proud man Joe was to punish Tami for this but it still hurt him.

He did not fight again for 15 months as he attempted to carve out a different business path with some other ventures. The public loved to see him at his clubs but they did not spend enough money at them so Joe was forced back into the ring to make money.

In December 1947 he got into the ring with Walcott, who was in fact three months his senior. The fight was desperate for Joe supporters and it was quite evident to the crowd that Walcott had ended the great man's reign. The fight went the distance and the verdict was given in favour of Joe. The crowd boo'ed him from the ring, it was a home decision which could only be accepted on the basis that the champion can only lose if he is carried from the ring on his shield.

The decision was so 'rum' that a commission was set up to investigate what happened.

A re-match was arranged for June 1948 and a large crowd gathered to see the end of Joe Louis.

Walcott was 34, a few months older than Joe, but was going to be the oldest man to hold the World Heavyweight Championship.

In the third round Joe was knocked to the canvas but the man had a bigger heart than that. Joe had fought 24 title defences and 20 of those ended in knock-out. Louis made one final supreme effort which put him on a different plain of fighting existence to make his record 25 defences, 21 by knock-out.

He did then retire.

If only the story ended there we could all go home with smiles on our faces.

Boxing is a hard game and the bright lights of the fight game have an unpleasant tendency to draw ex-fighters back.

At first things were fine, Joe, even promoted his would-be successor, Ezzard Charles.

However 19 months later it was the taxman that dragged him back into the ring and in September 1950, Joe was getting into the ring with none other than Ezzard.

Ezzard did not really appear to have the heart to finish off a very faded Joe and Joe no longer had the skills to polish off Ezzard. The fight lurched about the ring and Ezzard won by unanimous decision, (12-3, 13-2, 10-5 and the last of these could be considered a home decision).

If this had been the last fight then okay but it was not to be. In 1951 Joe was put into the ring with a fighter on the way up. Joe was by now a name which was good to have in a fighter's win column. So 1951 saw Joe step into the ring with Rocky Marciano. We all know Rocky was undefeated in his career, so the result is no surprise and I will not describe the events within the ring, they were not edifying ending in Joe being punched out of the ring.

Joe continued to fight in a number of exhibition matches and really at this point I am going to leave the fellow alone as his career does take a number of miserable twists as he attempts to pay off a tax bill he no longer had a hope of paying.

The Internal Revenue did finally relent on the tax issue but Joe was almost past caring at this stage, his heath was failing.

That is not the way to remember the Brown Bomber, lets remember him as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, his record 25 defences ensuring he held the title for a record 11 years 242 days which is a record for any weight division.

He is rightly one of my top three fighters of all time.

Most of these fighters can be found on the set, Churchmans, Boxing Personalities [1938] which is part of the reason it is so popular.