Joe Lewis

When heavyweight champ Joe Louis appeared here he blasted a pair of foes in two exhibition bouts at the Richmond Coliseum.

Joe Louis is regarded as the greatest heavyweight boxing champion of all time. As a teen he worked for an ice company and credited lifting heavy ice blocks as building his upper body strength.

He became interested in boxing and used violin lesson money given to him by his mother to pay for a locker at a fight club. His trainer wanted him to fight African-American boxers but Joe ignored the advice and fought whites also.

In 1937 he won the title by knocking out ‘Cinderella Man’ James J. Braddock and successfully defended the title 25 times, scoring 22 knockouts.

Two years after winning the championship he came to Richmond on Oct. 30, 1939 and gave two four-round exhibition matches at the Richmond Coliseum before 1,500 fans, where he showcased his two-fisted attack style that gave him the nickname “the Brown Bomber.”

In the first bout he sent his Chicago opponent to the canvas for a nine count in round one. In the second bout his left hook sent his opponent down for a seven count. Afterwards he enjoyed a hearty meal at the private residence of Charles Tate at 424 South 11th and had his picture taken with local fans.

Louis held the heavyweight title from 1937 to 1949, a reign longer than any other champion in boxing history. He participated in 27 heavyweight championship fights, a record that still stands.

Sportswriter Jimmy Cannon canonized him "a credit to his race - the human race." Muhammad Ali said of him, "I just give lip service to being the greatest. He was the greatest."


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June 19, 2012