Union Jack

     English Wordplay ~ Listen and Enjoy

JOE LOUIS 1914-1981

People said, "Oh, you don't have to train so hard 
because you're going to knock them out in the 
first round."  My response was the only way I 
could knock them out in the first round was to train.
joe Louis versus Max Schmeling 1936

He was the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949.  Nicknamed the Brown Bomber, Louis helped elevate boxing out of a nadir in popularity in the post-Jack Dempsey era by establishing a reputation as an honest, hardworking fighter at a time when the sport was dominated by gambling interests.  In 2005, he was named the greatest heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization.

Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling 1938

He is widely regarded as the first African American to achieve the status of a nationwide hero within the United States, and was also a focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to and during World War II.

PETER: You were born in Alabama, the seventh of eight children in an African-American cotton picker's family.  Did you choose your parents?
LOUIS: I knew I was going to be a boxer, or a fighter, and I wanted to have an energy surrounding me that had power behind it and quick reflexes.
PETER: People say you have to be angry to be a successful boxer.
LOUIS: I had some anger, because of discrimination, because in the automotive industry everybody is angry.  They are building cars they can't afford themselves; but I saw my opponent as someone going to beat the heck out of me, if I didn't maintain my technique.
PETER: In 1934 you became a professional boxer.  In Chicago you knocked out Jack Kracken in the first round.  You won all your twelve fights that year, and ten of them by a knockout.
LOUIS: I didn't get cocky.  I continued to train.
PETER: In 1936 the German boxer Max Schmeling, a former world heavyweight champion, knocked you out in the 12th round.  What went wrong?
LOUIS: Nothing went wrong, except my losing.  What went right was that I finally met somebody who trained as hard as I did.
PETER: What did your fame and fortune mean to you?
LOUIS: The main thing was security.  I did almost buy into the "greatness" of what a prizefighter was, and went a little outside of myself and got a little flamboyant; but then my family said, "What are you doing? This isn't you!"  So they were my fail-safe.
PETER: In 1938 you met Max Schmeling again.
LOUIS: He was billed as the superior human.  He was a publicity piece for the Nazi government to prove Aryan supremacy, particularly over the insignificant little black person.
PETER: You knocked him out in two minutes, but the Germans claimed it was an illegal kidney punch.
LOUIS: There wasn't anything illegal about it.  He was so cocky coming into the ring - he had so much information at his disposal that he was going to sit back and exploit my weaknesses - that I just blindsided him.
PETER: How does the spirit world view violent sports like prize-fighting and wrestling?
LOUIS: We don't judge violence any more than we judge cruelty.  It is just a life lesson.
PETER: Are you planning to come back to Earth anytime soon?
LOUIS: I've recently been looking at coming back as a teacher.  I think I probably will do that in a female body.

Toni comments: Although there was strength and a depth to this conversation, my biggest impression of Joe Louis was that he was a sweetheart.  He didn't take himself too seriously.  The main thing he was fighting was not other people but rather his own physical, psychological, and emotional impressions of himself, initially feeling a total lack of self-worth.  His life became a concern to finish whatever he began, and succeed.

Peter comments: When it came to recalling his women, an informative amnesia set in.   Actually, Joe was married four times - twice to Marva Trotter, whom he first wed just two hours before knocking out former heavyweight champ Max Baer in 1935.  (No doubt the honeymoon was spent with the blushing bride gently bathing his bloody bruises!)

In fact it's quite amazing that he had time to fight at all, considering his affairs with Lena Horne, Sonja Henie, and Lana Turner, and his dalliances with showgirls and other "distractions."  But I guess there's no point in arguing with him about all of them.  Not if you want to avoid a black eye.

Talking with Twentieth Century Men
The foregoing are excerpts from Talking with Twentieth Century Men.
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