Joe Louis , byname of Joseph Louis Barrow, also called the Brown Bomber (born May 13, 1914, Lafayette, Alabama, U.S.—died April 12, 1981, Las Vegas, Nevada), American boxer who was world heavyweight champion from June 22, 1937, when he knocked out James J. Braddock in eight rounds in Chicago, until March 1, 1949, when he briefly retired. During his reign, the longest in the history of any weight division, he successfully defended his title 25 times, more than any other champion in any division, scoring 21 knockouts (his service in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945 no doubt prevented him from defending his title many more times). He was known as an extremely accurate and economical knockout puncher.
Louis’s father, a sharecropper, was committed to a state mental hospital when Louis was about two years old. After his mother remarried, the family, which included eight children, moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Louis took up amateur boxing. He won the U.S. Amateur Athletic Union 175-pound championship in 1934 and also was a Golden Gloves titleholder; of 54 amateur fights, Louis won 50 and lost 4. His first professional fight took place on July 4, 1934, and within 12 months he had knocked out Primo Carnera, the first of six previous or subsequent heavyweight champions who would become his victims; the others were Max Baer, Jack Sharkey, Braddock, the German champion Max Schmeling, and Jersey Joe Walcott. Louis sustained his first professional loss in 1936 at the hands of Schmeling. In 1938, after having beaten Braddock and taken the title, Louis met Schmeling in a rematch that the American media portrayed as a battle between Nazism and democracy (though Schmeling himself was not a Nazi). Louis’s dramatic knockout victory in the first round made him a national hero. He was perhaps the first black American to be widely admired by whites, a fact attributable not only to his extraordinary pugilistic skills but also to his sportsmanlike behaviour in the ring (he did not gloat over his white opponents), his perceived