My dad spoke of the fight often.
“I thought Louis could win,” he said with a smile.
Dad’s favorite fighter was Joe Louis. He had grown up with Louis – witnessing “The Brown Bomber” capture the heavyweight championship from James J. Braddock in 1937 at Comisky Park in Chicago, Ill. Dad was 10 and had been allowed by a kind Chicago cop to stand close enough to the ring to see the fight.
The memory was sweet and lasting. I never grew tired of listening to Dad reminisce about that night in Chicago.
But this was different. The fight Dad was referring to was Louis against power-punching tank Rocky Marciano.
Dad liked Marciano as well.
“Rocky was Italian,” said dad.
He was. And undefeated in 37 fights, scoring 32 knockouts. Louis had some advantages against Marciano. He was three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than his squatty opponent. The date was set: October 26, 1951.
But this Louis wasn’t the same guy who had once dominated the heavyweight division. This version was 37 years old, slower, and worn from 17 years as a professional fighter.
But he could still fight. Louis entered the ring winner of eight fights in succession. Granted, the fighters Louis defeated were not the caliber of Max Baer, Max Schmeling, Braddock, Lou Nova, Buddy Baer, Billy Conn, and Jersey Joe Walcott (twice).
Louis had retired in 1949 after knocking out Walcott in a rematch. The title defense was his 25th over 12 years.
Sadly, due to money issues, Louis, who had been treated terribly by the IRS, returned to the ring against reigning heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles in 1950. Charles beat up Louis over 15 one-sided rounds.
Call it career Joe, was the unanimous sentiment. Louis did not. He fought ranking heavyweight Cesar Brion two months later in Chicago, Ill. Louis jabbed his way to victory.
Louis fought often – eight times in nine months. He stopped #2 ranked heavyweight Lee Savold in six bloody rounds.
Rocky Marciano wanted a title shot, but the word was he had to defeat Louis, his boyhood idol, to get it. Like Louis, Marciano was busy fighting eight times in five months in 1949. His most notable victories were over Carmine Vingo, Roland LaStarza, and Rex Layne.
The LaStarza fight was tight. Underdog LaStarza boxed well, using footwork and counterpunches on the aggressive Marciano. Marciano’s right hand knocked him to the canvas in round four. That blow won him the fight in the eyes of the referee. Many felt at the time that the fight should have been a draw.
Marciano was a 4-1 underdog against the undefeated Layne. An overhand right dispatched Layne in round six. He fell in a heap after the blow landed.
“Rocky was crude,” Dad told me. “But he was so strong and determined. I felt Louis might outbox him.”
So did the oddsmakers, who installed Louis a 6-5 favorite. Louis held his own in the early rounds. His jab was scoring. Marciano, nine years younger and fresher, ignored the jab and fired. Louis won rounds four and five, but Marciano was in complete control by round eight. He was chopping Louis down with bludgeoning punches to the head and body.
Marciano floored a tiring Louis a minute into round eight. The Rock was rolling now. Seconds later, another left hook, followed by a right, drove Louis through the ropes and onto his back. It was over.
“I feel sorry for Joe,” said Marciano after the fight.
That sentiment was unanimous. A beloved fighter and hero, too many had fallen.
“I didn’t hear the ending,” Dad said. “I knew what was coming.”
Lous never fought again.
Marciano captured the heavyweight title less than a year later.
“Louis did win a few rounds,” said Dad.
Age waits for no man.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
Contact us: email@example.com
Players must be 21 years of age or older or reach the minimum age for gambling in their respective state and located in jurisdictions where online gambling is legal. Please play responsibly. Bet with your head, not over it. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, and wants help, call or visit: (a) the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey at 1-800-Gambler or www.800gambler.org; or (b) Gamblers Anonymous at 855-2-CALL-GA or www.gamblersanonymous.org.
This site is using Cloudflare and adheres to the Google Safe Browsing Program. We adapted Google's Privacy Guidelines to keep your data safe at all times.