Famous Ring Wars: Joe Louis vs. Walcott 2

By John F. McKenna - 03/22/2024 - Comments

On June 25, 1948 Joe Louis and “Jersey” Joe Walcott fought for the 2nd time in what many boxing historians and boxing writers refer to as Joe Louis’s last great fight. Joe Louis AKA “The Brown Bomber”, was attempting to avenge his disappointing and embarrassing victory over “Jersey” Joe on December 5, 1947.

Many people thought that Louis had lost that fight, in which he was knocked down twice, and was awarded the decision for sentimental reasons. Louis in fact was so distraught that he attempted to leave the ring before the decision was announced, believing himself that he had lost the fight. Louis, by this stage of his career, had achieved legendary status in America and his popularity crossed racial lines.

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Millions of Americans considered Louis a hero, first for defeating the paragon of German virtue Max Schmeling in 1938, then again when America was catapulted into World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Within a couple of months of US involvement in World War II, Louis donated his entire purse from two title fights, one to the Naval Relief Society and another to the Army relief Society.

Shortly thereafter, Louis entered the US Army. Louis’s place in American hearts was forever linked to the war effort when he made his famous un-choreographed quote at a fund raiser to promote war bonds, “We just can’t lose because we’re on God’s side.” A poster was made of Louis with his quote, which became wildly popular during the war.

“Jersey Joe” Walcott, whose real name was Arnold Raymond Cream, took the name Joe Walcott from his idol, a great welterweight fighter from Barbados. Walcott was from Camden, New Jersey, hence his nickname “Jersey“ Joe Walcott. “Jersey” Joe exhibited a great deal of determination in his long quest to get a shot at the Heavyweight Championship of the World. He endured what every other African American fighter of the era endured. “Jersey” Joe had great difficulty lining up fights.

What made matters even worse was that he had a very difficult and confusing style of boxing, which has been described as a forerunner to the “Ali Shuffle”. His style was highly effective, but nobody wanted to fight him for fear of losing and being denied their opportunity to fight for the Heavyweight Championship. He was KO’d by 6’5”, 260 Abe Simon who had been one of Joe Louis’s KO victims. Walcott’s fortunes turned around in 1947 when he avenged losses to master boxer Joey Maxim and contender Elmer Ray.

That set the stage for “Jersey” Joe’s challenge to the great Joe Louis on December 5, 1947. Walcott and the boxing public demanded a rematch after Louis’s disappointing performance in the first fight. Louis, a very proud man, was only too happy to oblige. He wanted to make things right, not only for himself but for what he believed he owed to his legions of fans.

On June 25, 1948 “Jersey” Joe Walcott challenged Joe Louis again for the Heavyweight Championship of the world. 42,000 boxing fans descended on Yankee Stadium to see if Louis could somehow recapture that old magic. Louis had the reputation of being invincible in rematches. When the fight started it was clear that the “Brown Bomber” was more focused and determined than in the first fight with “Jersey” Joe.

Even so, Walcott scored a quick knockdown with his sneaky quick right hand lead in the 3rd round. Louis continued to pursue his pesky challenger, still unable to pull the trigger and deliver a meaningful blow that would slow Walcott down. As the rounds progressed, Walcott built up a lead on the scorecards, but still there was a feeling in the air that Louis would ultimately close the gap and deliver his famous KO punches as he had done so many times before. In the eleventh round Walcott, who had become cocky after the first fight, both with his comments and with his actions, began to mix it up with Louis.

Walcott’s corner, aware that this was a dangerous route for him to take, had warned him against attempting to slug it out with the “Brown Bomber”. Finally Walcott made that one mistake, allowing Louis to land a terrific right hand to the jaw. “Jersey” Joe’s senses appeared to be short circuited by that right hand. You sensed when watching this that after Louis landed his first right hand it was all over for Walcott.

Louis moved in and began raining in punch after devastating punch to “Jersey” Joe’s body and head (You Tube – Louis vs Walcott 2). Walcott fell to the canvas and Louis shuffled back to his corner, as he had done countless times before, knowing his opponent was not going to beat the count. The victory for Louis was as satisfying as any of his previous victories.

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The film footage in Joe Louis’s dressing room after the fight is priceless. Mannie Seamon, Joe’s trainer, jokingly tells Joe that he got Walcott with his own left hook. Louis, always quick with a quip, chuckles and says that his right hand was pretty good as well.

Louis would retire shortly after the fight with Walcott with a record of sixty one wins and one loss, which he had suffered twelve years prior in the first Schmeling fight. Of the sixty victories Joe scored fifty two KO’s. This is the Joe Louis that I prefer to remember, before he was forced out of retirement due to financial problems with the IRS. The fight with Walcott was indeed Joe Louis’s last great fight.