Famous Ring Wars: Joe Louis vs. “Two Ton” Tony Galento

By John F. McKenna - 02/22/2024 - Comments

On June 28, 1939 world heavyweight champion Joe Louis took on challenger “Two Ton” Tony Galento in New York City’s Yankee Stadium. “The Brown Bomber”, as Louis was called by his fans, had won the heavyweight title two years prior by knocking out Jimmy Braddock “The Cinderella Man” in eight rounds.

By the time he faced Galento; boxing fans were already referring to Louis as one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time. To this day Louis reigns supreme as the greatest puncher of all time, not just for his powerful combinations, but in the precise way he threw his punches.

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Galento was as tough as any fighter who ever entered the squared circle for fistic combat. He was also possibly the most colorful fighters ever. Galento weighed 233 pounds and although he was short of stature at 5’9”, he packed a tremendous wallop in his left hook. Tony fought out of a deep crouch, making it difficult to hit him with a solid shot. At the time he fought Louis, he had never been knocked down.

His nickname of “Two Ton” Tony came not from his rotund physique, but as the story goes his manager gave him the nickname when he showed up late for a fight, explaining that he had to deliver two tons of ice before arriving at the arena. The nickname stuck.

Galento was a brute inside the ring and by his own admission was an extremely dirty fighter. He would gouge, kick, low blow and use his elbows in between throwing his patented left hook. He once boxed with a bear and a kangaroo and also wrestled with an octopus. In short, Galento was a character. By the time he fought Joe Louis, “Two Ton” Tony had amassed 76 wins with 53 knockouts.

In the lead up to the fight Galento did his very best to get under Louis’s skin. He hurled unending insults at him. Because of the frequency with which the “Brown Bomber” dispatched his opponents the boxing writers began referring to his opponents at “The Bum of the Month”. His defense against Galento was his 7th. When asked by reporters about Louis, Galento’s response was “I never hoid of da bum!” When informed as to who Louis was Galento’s famous response was “I’ll moida da bum!”

Louis was furious when informed of Galento’s remarks. To make matters worse Galento went about insulting Louis’s wife. Galento succeeded in taking Louis out of character, and clearly got under his skin. Years later he would say that Galento was the only fighter he ever hated.

In the first round Louis used his rapid, stinging left jab to keep Tony off balance. Galento’s punches basically hit thin air. One of Galento’s left hooks however, found its mark, snapping Joe’s head back. The superbly conditioned Louis shook the punch off, but returned to his corner on wobbly legs.

In the 2nd rounds Louis landed at will with his left jab and lightning quick combinations. Already Galento’s face was turning into a bloody mess as he was cut around his eyes and mouth. Many boxing historians feel that Louis, who was now 25 years old, reached the pinnacle of his pugilistic greatness in the Galento fight. At one point “Bomber” Joe unleashed a powerful right left combination which literally lifted Galento off the canvas and landed him in a heap on the canvas. It was the first knockdown of Galento’s career.

The 3rd round was more of the same with Louis seemingly opening up a new gash with every punch he landed to Tony’s face. Suddenly out of the blue Galento landed his signature left hook felling Louis like a tree. Incredibly Joe bounced back up at the count of two and survived the round.

In the 4th round Louis unleashed everything in his arsenal of heavy artillery. Galento staggered all over the ring, having been beaten to a pulp by possibly the greatest of heavyweight champions. Finally the referee stepped in to stop what was now a slaughter with Galento offering no resistance.

Ironically as is so often the case between ring combatants Louis and Galento became friends. Joe would go on to defend his title 25 times, which is a record for any division in the history of boxing. Louis also held his title nearly 12 years, also a record for any division. Both of those records have stood for well over sixty years and may never be broken. Louis’s five first round KO’s, while heavyweight champion is also a record.

One interesting anecdote involving “Tow Ton” Toney Galento was his confrontation with future TV superstar Jackie Gleason. One night in New York in the 1940’s Galento was at a nightclub where Gleason was performing as a stand up comic. Galento, always the bully, began heckling Gleason. Jackie asked him to knock it off. Tony of course only heckled Gleason all the more. Gleason, who featured himself in those days as a pretty tough customer challenged Galento and said he would meet him backstage after the show.

Gleason spotting Galento after the show charged into him, only to be knocked over a row of seats by one of Galento’s murderous left hooks. Instead of leaving well enough alone, Jackie arose and went after Tony again with the same result. After coming to Galento was gone. Gleason asked “Who the hell was that guy? Gleason was informed that it was Tony Galento, the fighter who a few years prior had sent the great Joe Louis to the canvas. After that incident Gleason never challenged anyone in the audience again.

Joe Louis was named in 2005 by the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) as the greatest heavyweight champion of all time.

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