A few corrections to the above, first:
  • Louis won the heavyweight championship by defeating James Braddock, not Max Baer

  • Louis did not lose his title to Rocky Marciano. Louis had retired, and thus the title became vacant. He unretired and several fights later, lost to Marciano (who himself would become champion 11 months later)

Joe Louis (DOB: 5/13/1914 in Lafayette, Alabama, as Joseph Louis Barrow) is regarded by many as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all-time.

Louis grew up in Detroit and turned pro at the age of 20. From 1934 through the middle of 1936, Louis won his first 27 bouts (23 by knockout; including fights with former champions Primo Carnera and Max Baer) before suffering his first defeat to another former champion, German Max Schmeling on June 19, 1936.

After 7 more wins, Louis (nicknamed the "Brown Bomber") got a shot at the heavyweight title, and slightly more than a year to the day of the Schmeling fight, on June 22, 1937, Louis knocked out James Braddock to become heavyweight champion of the world. He would retain the title for nearly 12 years.

Perhaps most notably historically, was his rematch with Schmeling in 1938. Schmeling was seen as a symbol of Hitler and Nazi Germany. Louis got his revenge and knocked Schmeling out in the first round.

Louis served in the army during World War II, and was widely respected by both blacks and whites.

After 2 tough title defenses against Jersey Joe Walcott in 1947 and 1948, Louis announced his retirement on March 1, 1949. However, he needed money badly, and came out of retirement a year later to fight champion Ezzard Charles. Louis lost a close decision. After a few more bouts versus much weaker competition, Louis fought the up-and-coming Rocky Marciano on October 26, 1951. A much younger Marciano knocked Louis out in the 8th round, and this time the "Brown Bomber" retired for good.

Louis's professional record was 68-3-0, with 54 knockouts.

Joe Louis passed away on April 12, 1981, at the age of 66.

Detroit's sports arena is named The Joe Louis Arena ("The Joe" for short) in his honor.

In 1999, ESPN's SportsCentury selected Louis as #11 on their list of the 100 greatest North American athletes of the 20th century (Muhammad Ali was #3, Rocky Marciano was #51).