End of The Line for Joe Louis

End of The Line for Joe Louis


San Francisco, CA– When I look back at the last fights of some of the great heavyweight champions, they for the most part go out losers. Muhammad Ali, who lost to Larry Holmes in 1980 at 38, was beaten on points by Trevor Berbick on a Jamaican day in 1981, the same day Don King got the snot kicked out of him invading a fight he had nothing to do with. Watching Ali against Holmes, and even though he did better vs. Berbick, both performances made your eyes water.


In late 1981, Joe Frazier, never the same since his initial battle with Ali in 1971, a decade and seven months later, and five years after his second KO loss to George Foreman, took on Floyd “Jumbo” Cummings (15-0) on a Closed Circuit TV card emanating from Chicago. After ten rounds, a swollen, old and busted up Joe Frazier got a gift in a Majority Split Draw. Watching Frazier’s legs fail him so badly is what I remember most.


After the first round KO loss to Joe Louis in 1938, Max Schmeling fought once in 1939 before he retired and didn’t come back until two years after WW II in 1947, went 3-1 against hobo types before losing his finale to Robert Vogt. On this Halloween (October 31) 1949 night, Max who destroyed Louis in their first encounter in 1936 with a KO 12, didn’t look anything like he did in his prime and lost almost every round over ten.


The first man ever to regain the heavyweight title, Floyd Patterson lost it and regained the crown from Ingemar Johansson. Floyd would drubbed by Sonny Liston twice, thrashed by Ali in 1965, before drawing and then losing to Jerry Quarry before an unsuccessful WBA title bid vs. Jimmy Ellis in 1967. After a good roll of wins and a draw, Floyd was beaten like a drum by Ali in a 1972 NABF title fight losing a TKO 7. So one sided, it was shameful and fitting for a man with the class of Floyd Patterson.


Sonny Liston lost early on to Marty Marshall, whom he KO’d one year later in 1955. Besides losing the two fights that the late famed historian Hank Kaplan thought “were fixed” to Ali, Sonny would never lose again until 1969 when Leotis Martin hit him with a “highlight reel” uppercut that felled Sonny like a deer shot by a high powered rifle. He would fight once more and stopped Chuck Wepner, so Sonny was the exception that went out a winner. One of the rumors going about was that the Mob killed Sonny because he wouldn’t throw the fight to Wepner, the man the Rocky Balboa character was based on. Sonny died circa New Years Eve 1970.


Mike Tyson drilled the aforementioned Trevor Berbick in 1986, 19 years later he ended his career with a loss to a hapless lad in Kevin McBride in 2005. One fight prior to that, Tyson had been stopped by Danny Williams, two fights after being stopped by Lennox Lewis in 2002. The man that burst on the scene as a killer went out with a whimper against McBride.


When Joe Louis retired in March 1949, he was done! The two Jersey Joe Walcott fights were the writing on the wall. But just seven months later, broke ass Joe was back in the ring doing an exhibition (10 rounds) with Johnny Shkor. One year later, champion Ezzard Charles beat Louis in 1950. Louis then went on a “choreagraphed” ride through seven not so glorious opponents before meeting new champ Rocky Marciano in late 1951. Never one “to carry” anybody, Marciano mercilessly beat on Louis for eight rounds before knocking him out of the ring. Of all the heavyweight champs I’ve mentioned here, nobody took as fierce a beating as the one the Rock laid on the 38-year old Joe louis.

Pedro Fernandez


  • The young MUST replace the old, simple as that. We don’t like to see it, and the new champs don’t like to do it, (beat the old dog) but it must be so. Pedro didn’t mention that although The Rock beat the stuffing out of an old Joe Louis, thirty minutes later he was crying like a baby in Joe’s dressing room. Ditto with Larry Holmes. If we didn’t have the young hungry lions to tell the old ones that their time is up, they’d still be fighting today, and that my friends is even sadder than watching them lose. Hail to the kings, both the new and the old.
    P.S. Don’t think for a minute that if Marciano was still alive that he would not have attempted a comeback as well. There is plenty of evidence that he was indeed planning a comeback when his untimely death occured.

  • Get your anti-boxing pro MMA comments out of here Ron. Boxing is alive and well.

  • Great idea. There wouldn’t be enough room how all the champs with the possible exception Rocky Marciano going out losers. Of course we can’t forget Larry “Peanut Head” Holmes after being destroyed by Mike Tyson “made” the champ of the 4 rounders Butterbean go 10 so he would have more time to humiliate him but in Holmes last round it was Butterbean scoring a knockdown in round 10.

  • Great point Antonio, Frank really came through for Louis in hs time of need, paying for his hospital bills and funeral cost, as well as providing Louis with a monthly check. Sinatra was a good man.

  • Ronald,

    I believe Frank Sinatra also helped Joe out, as well as Ray Robinson. (Frank could be very generous; I think he also helped Mildred Bailey with medical bills, a very fine(and obese) swing singer.

  • The young lions feed on the old lions. It happens to most great fighters. Rocky Marciano was one of the very few who got out before he got his ass kicked by the younger fighters.

  • Nick, Louis needed the money, and Marciano didn’t want to go through with it, but he did what he had to do. This was no different from when the great Henry Armstrong, who was near the end of his career and needed the payday, asked a young Sugar Ray Robinson, who looked up to Armstrong, to fight him, and Robinson agreed to do so. Robinson beat Armstrong in a 10 round, unanimous decision.

    And one more thing about Marciano: When Louis was going through some tough times in the 60’s, Marciano helped Louis out financially. He really cared for Louis.

    And Holmes didn’t want to fight Ali either, but he had to do it because it was the only way he felt he could get away from Ali’s huge shadow.

  • It is sad to see the demise of boxing, but at least there is MMA to take up the slack.

  • You might have mentioned two things: Marciano didn’t want to fight Louis, he had to. And after the fight he reportedly cried in Louis’ dressing room. Louis was his idol.

  • Great article Pedro. I like how you go back in time and talk about the great fighters of the past.

    It’s true, most of the all time great champions end their careers on a sad note. For me, watching Ali lose to Larry Holmes was the toughest for me to watch. I was 10 years old when they fought, and I bet my friends dad 3 dollars that Holmes would win, because even though Ali was my favorite fighter, I knew he was close to the end of his career. And I also I watched the evolution of Larry Holmes, who was in his prime at that time, and in 1979, he proved he could withstand a bodacious right hand from Earnie Shavers in the 7th round that would have knocked out just about anyone else, get up of the canvas and stop Shavers in the 11th round. We all know what happened when Holmes fought Ali, and that was the only time in my life that I felt bad about winning a bet.

    The Joe Louis loss to Marciano was also tough to watch, and just as in the case with Holmes when he beat an over the hill Ali, Marciano looked up to Louis and he cried like a baby after the fight. But unlike Holmes, who carried Ali and pulled punches, Marciano showed no mercy with Louis.

    And you mentioned Floyd Patterson, and his career did end badly, losing to Ali in 7 lop-sided rounds in 1972. You also mentioned his title shot against Jimmy Ellis, and in my opinion, Patterson was robbed against Ellis in that WBA title fight in 1967, which would have made him a 3 time champ.

    And since were talking about the Heavyweight division, I’m not all that impressed with the Klitschko brothers. They are both robotic, one-two fighters who would be sparring partners for most of the great fighters that you mentioned in your article. With that being said, I don’t see anyone beating them anytime soon. There are no prospects that are ready to face them, in part because the amateur programs are almost non-existent, and most young heavyweight prospects who could have been fighters, are now playing football or basketball right now.

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