Joe Louis Bio And Facts

joe louis

Joe Louis

Joseph Louis Barrow, more commonly known as Joe Louis, was a legendary professional American boxer. Louis had an overall amateur boxing record of 50-3, with 43 of his wins ending in knockouts, and a professional boxing record of 69-3, with 52 of his wins coming from knockouts. He held that World Heavyweight Champion title from 1937-1949 for a total of 12 years, which is the longest running record in history. He brought a new level of skill to the game that was unheard of during his time in boxing.

As a young African-American male from Alabama that rose to the top, Joe Louis created waves in the industry that were felt years after his retirement. He dominated the game for over a decade and stood his ground against some of the best fighters that the sport has ever seen, including John Henry Lewis, Tony Galento, and Arturo Godoy. He retired for good in 1951 when he lost a match by knockout to another one of boxing’s greats, Rocky Marciano. He passed away in 1981 due to cardiac arrest, but his legacy lives on in the world of boxing.

  • Birthday: May 13, 1914 (13-05-1914)
  • Died On: April 12, 1981 (12-04-1981)
  • Education: Bronson Vocational school
  • Occupation: Boxer
  • Height: 6’2” (1.88 m)
  • Weight: 214 lbs (97.07 kg), Heavyweight Division 
  • Years Active: 18 years
  • Career Wins: 69
  • Career Losses: 3
  • Nicknames: Brown Bomber

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Boxing Career

Joe Louis made his amateur boxing debut at just 17 years old. In 1933, Joe won the Detroit Area Championship in the Light Heavyweight division, and won in the same division in the Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions the next year. In 1934, he won the US Amatuer National AAU tournament. After this, he produced 43 knockouts in 54 matches which caught the eye of professional promoters, and he then went on to his professional boxing career.

In 1937, after a downfall to Max Schmeling, Louis fought Jim Braddock for the heavyweight crown and won. He set a record as a heavyweight champion, got the nickname the “Brown Bomber,” and kept his title for 12 years. Louis later beat Schmeling as well in an intense 1938 match, which ended in a knockout. From 1939 to 1942, he secured a heavyweight title 13 times and beat some of the biggest names in the game.

In 1942, Joe Louis enlisted in the army and was absent from boxing for several years. He officially retired in March 1949, but made a brief return after having monetary issues. He left fans hopeful of a comeback until he retired again in 1951 after a knockout by Rocky Marciano, another up-and-coming star.

Titles and Awards

If holding an amateur career record of 50-3 with 43 knockouts wasn’t enough, Joe Louis was also acknowledged with various titles and awards over the years. In 1934, at 19 years old, Joe took his first large competition by winning the Light Heavyweight Division of the Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament. That same year, he won the Light Heavyweight Division at the National AAU Boxing Championship. Two years later, he was granted the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year Award and truly began to make waves in the industry. 

Joe Louis’ overall career record was 69-3 and he held the World Heavyweight Championship title from 1937 to 1949. He also held the title of the Youngest Heavyweight Champion from 1937 to 1956. In 1941, he received the Edward J. Neil Trophy, one of the most coveted awards by boxers. He was truly one of the boxing kings of his era.  In addition to boxing awards, Joe was awarded the prestigious Legion of Merit award by the US Army in 1945. 

Personal Life

Joseph Louis Barrow was born on May 13, 1914 to Munroe Barrow and Lily Reese in Lexington, Alabama. His father was an Alabama sharecropper and passed away when Joe was only four years old. His mother was a washer that supported Joe and his seven other siblings. He was extremely close with his family, especially his mother who taught him the importance of family and religion. She got remarried to Patrick Brooks, and the family relocated to Detroit, Michigan in 1926. In his teenage years, Joe became an amazing boxer and won the National Light Heavyweight Amateur Crown of the Golden Gloves in 1934 as a 19 year old.

Joe married his first wife, Marva Trotter, and had two children together. They divorced in 1945, remarried in 1946, and divorced again in 1949. His second marriage to Rosa Morgan was annulled after three years. His final marriage was to Martha Jefferson, who he had four children with. In later life, Joe suffered from drug addiction, mental illness, and cardiac issues. He died on April 12, 1981 due to cardiac arrest. 

Fun Facts

  • Joe Louis’ ring nickname was the “Brown Bomber”
  • “Joe” and “Louis” were the boxer’s first and middle names, and he did not want to go by his last name for unknown reasons
  • As an amateur boxer, Joe had a record of 50-3
  • Joe’s overall professional boxing record was 69-3, with 52 of his wins coming from a knockout
  • Joe holds the longest reign by a heavyweight champion at an astounding 12 years
  • Joe’s 1950s comeback ended when he was knocked out by the undefeated Rocky Marciano
  • Joe was a dedicated golfer and broke the PGA's all-white color barrier when he became the first black golfer to participate in PGA events during the 1950s
  • Joe married a total of four times and had six children from two of his marriages
  • Joe Louis enlisted as a private during World War II and his job was to raise troop morale by fighting exhibition bouts for the troops that were based in Europe


Why did Joe Louis come out of retirement?

The reason for Joe Louis’ return was not motivated by the sport itself but rather by the incredible debt that he found himself in. The IRS was coming for the money, so he got back in the game in order to make enough to pay off the nearly $1 million dollars he owed. The comeback was short lived, and he retired again after being knocked out by undefeated Rocky Marciano.

What was Joe Louis’ boxing record?

In total, Louis’ professional boxing record stands as 69-3. 52 out of the 69 wins that he had were knockouts, and 2 out of the 3 losses he has were knockouts. Joe Louis competed as a boxer from 1934-1951. He retired in 1951 after losing to up-and-coming star Rocky Marciano by a knockout. Joe Louis is commonly known as one of the most successful boxers of all time due to his astounding record.

Was Joe Louis married?

Joe was married four times to a total of three different women. Joe’s first wife was Marva Trotter and they had two children together, Jacqueline and Joseph. They got divorced in 1945, remarried in 1946, and divorced again in 1949. Joe then married a woman named Rosa Morgan, but that marriage was annulled less than three years later. His final marriage was to Martha Jefferson, with whom he had four children.

How did Joe Louis pass away?

On April 12, 1981 Joe Louis passed away from cardiac arrest. Joe Louis struggled significantly in his later years after retirement. He was having financial troubles while also battling drug addictions. His health began to decline both physically and mentally, and he was even committed to a psychiatric facility in 1970. In 1977, he had open heart surgery to combat his elongated heart issues and he was left in a wheelchair. He died four years later at 66 years old.