Tag Archives: Jersey Joe Walcott

Top of the Food Chain, Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali?

 

These kind of discussions over the internet tend to favor moderns who are want to express opinions without context or factual basis as to why their hero is is #1.

Bert Sugar perhaps infamously chose Cleveland fullback Jim Brown for his all time greatest athlete. Never mind that teammate Marion Motley has a higher career rushing average and did it basketball hightops because no football cleats could be found then to fit his monstrous feet. Motley could also clear out the defense in support of his running back and quarterback, hard, gritty work that was beneath Brown, and Motley also pulled fulltime duty as linebacker, a two way, 60 minute player, something the coddled Brown was never good for. But of course Brown was also such a great lacrosse player, never mind that Wilt Chamberlain proved in two footraces that he was significantly faster than Brown and could turn him upside down to shake all his change loose at will not to mention being a collegiate, multi-event track and field star during his down time from basketball. Wilt a world class volleyball player in his retirement, the best in his day. Wilt didn’t even like basketball because of it’s stupid rules and the stupid media always pestering him, but it was the most lucrative option for him, so he made the best of it as a record setter both on offense and defense. Even did a stint with the Harlem Globetrotters before his NBA career, damned hard to top that.

Now modern media “experts” claim Michel Jordan is the best athlete ever, never mind he wasn’t even a mediocre division B minor league baseball player and only a modestly endowed golfer. Jim Thorpe, fresh off an Indian reservation, won both Pentathlon and Decathlon Olympic gold medals in Sweden, then played major league baseball for several years before co-founding and becoming the first ever star of the National Football League. It don’t get any better than that as an athlete, but moderns just shrug and say, Jim Who?

So, here we go, Bobby Mac’s Facts Update, just the facts ma’am, so:

What are the career records of Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali?

Joe 66-3, 52 KO vs Ali 56-5, 37 KO

OK, clearly Joe is vastly superior, but there are records and then there are RECORDS, so let’s delve deeper.

ProDebut:

Joe, age 20 yrs, 1 month, 22 days, coming off winning the United States National AAU tournament with a final record of 50-4, 43 KO, debuted @ 181 lbs against Jack Kracken, 27-7-3, in the “city of the big shoulders,” Chicago, July 4th, 1934, US Independence Day. Drops Kracken in the opening seconds and then blasts him through the ropes into the lap of the shocked Illinois commish to formally announce to the world the transformation from Joe Barrow to Joe Louis. Has there ever been a better boxing debut than that? Prior he was no more than a po’ sharecropper’s boy from Podunk, Alabama. The $59 depression purse went a long ways in those days, the most money he had ever earned in his life.

Ali, age 18 yrs, 9 months and 12 days, coming off Olympic Lightheavy Gold glory with a multitude of final ama record claims, debuts @ 192 lbs, October 29th, 1960, in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky against Tunney Hunsaker, 16-9-1, a Sunday School teacher and police chief of Fayetteville, West Virginia. Ali touched up Hunsaker some with a bloody nose and cut eye for a 6 round unanimous decision and a healthy $2000 purse for the day. Solid hometown pro debut for such a young kid, but no comparison to the spectacular 4th of July fireworks set off by Joe.

Da Preem vs Joe Louis

Da Preem vs Joe Louis

Longest Title reign and record:

Joe 11 years, 252 days, 26-0, 23 KOs vs Ali three combined title runs of 3 years, 63 days + 3 years, 108 days + 284 days = 7 years, 90 days, 22-2. OK, but Joe had three more title fights, 1 competitive decision loss to Charles in his comeback and a knockout of Lee Savold who held the BBBC version of the split title + the last white heavy belt for a final title record of 27-1 vs Ali’s humiliation KO loss to Holmes for a final title record of 22-3.

Now, if we extend out the Ali years up to the first Frazier fight, they’d be just short of Joe, but, remember, Ali also relinquished his Ring belt early so his good buddy Jimmy Ellis could fight for it. Ring never awarded the belt to Ellis yet kept Ali as Champion through 1969. Joe is still superior and lost just as many prime years as Ali did under dangerous flying conditions in the US Army.

First and last Ring Top 10 ratings:

Joe #1 in his first year of eligibility, age 20 vs Ali #9 in his first year of eligibility, age 19.

Joe #5 when he challenged Champion Charles in 1950, age 36, and #6 against #2 Marciano in 1951, age 37. Ali was last ranked as Champion in 1978, age 36.

Joe clearly superior though Ali managed to slide into Ring ratings a year earlier than Joe because of his earlier debut.

HOF fights:

Joe 13 such fights, 10-3 9 KO vs Ali 14 such fights, 11-3, 8 KO. Joe with 2 KO losses vs Ali with 1 KO loss.

Joe earliest HOFer and win @ age 21 yr, 4 month, 11 days over Baer vs Ali earliest HOFer and win @ age 20 yr, 9 months, 28 days over Moore.

Joe last HOF win @ age 37 yr, 3 month and a day over Blivins vs Ali last HOF win @ age 34 yr, 8 months, 11 days over Ken Norton, a hotly disputed decision.

Ali with tiny edge in total HOF fight, Joe with KOs, and Ali with one less KO loss. Joe a few months older for first HOF fight vs Ali a bit younger, but Joe considerably older for last HOF win than Ali. They both lost their last HOF fights by KO, but Joe in his 8th fight over 10 months in his 37th year gave Marciano all he could handle for 8 rounds vs Ali out of retirement carried mercifully by Holmes trying to get the fight stopped with no damage to Ali. Joe definitely finished the stronger fighter overall.

Controversial fights:

Joe only had two, the first Buddy Baer and JJWalcott fights which he quickly avenged with savage KOs in the rematches vs far too many controversial fights for Ali, really too embarrassing to mention that he always benefited from every controversy. Big advantage Joe who consistently took care of business in a more professional way than did Ali who needed a lot of help from the suits.

Unified America behind him:

Joe

Split up America over him:

Ali

Won a Supreme Court Decision:

Ali, of course, major props and maybe the highlight of his life.

Young Cassius

Young Cassius “The Greatest” Clay

Summoned to the White House by the President for consultation on impending military desegregation policy:

Joe, the one and only.

Inspiration for the two most prominent black civil rights spokesmen in history:

Both Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela count Joe Louis as providing the inspiration for a higher dignity and purpose of what their people might achieve if allowed their civil rights.

Who loses to Leon?

Ali, of course. Joe on his worst day in shackles and blindfolded could never lose to Leon.

Now, lest this take on a wholly one sided analysis, in general most fans would agree that Joe Frazier and George Foreman are better than the best Joe took on, but Ali never really showed he was better than Frazier. Most can finally admit Joe whooped the holy jinn out of him the first fight, and did it in spite of referee Mercante near poking out his only good eye midway through the fight. The second fight was competitive and close, and the third a happenstance of incredible good fortune when Frazier’s scout couldn’t make it from Ali’s corner to Frazier’s corner to tell them Ali was quitting. Joe was on his feet bouncing around like a rubber ball waiting to be unleashed when Eddie Futch pulled the plug as Ali stood up and collapsed. Nor could the terribly grievous conditions in Zaire that all favored Ali ever be replicated, thus no rematch with George who only spent 9 seconds on the canvas in his first career knockdown, yet was counted out. Compare to Ali who collapsed seconds later for a 30 count that took his legions to elevate him over to his corner.

Yeah, and maybe Sonny Liston was better than Joe’s best too, but Joe could easily beat a fighter who quit on his stool and take a dive as well as the next guy, so let’s keep it real…over and out.

 

 

A Tribute to the “Champion”

What Champion is that you ask?

It just so happens that the order of “Revelation” goes Kirk Douglas, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, and Jack Dempsey  that was sparked by wondering if Kirk Douglas was still living?

There have been a plethora of boxing films made, too many poorly made and lost in ignominy, but the “Champion” refers to a 1949 release of an acclaimed adaptation of a Ring Lardner story starring Kirk Douglas that was one of the true fight film standouts.

“Champion” was  a breakout film for Douglas and his first ever starring role. It garnered a slew of Academy nominations and one award.

The Champ

The Champ

Douglas plays a young impoverished man abandoned as a boy, Midge Kelly. He’s recruited into a gritty boxing gym where he is transformed from clumsy beginnings into an all action slugger in the mold of a Rocky Graziano who was a very popular middleweight champ of the era. Midge seduces or is seduced by several women whom he abandons while stepping on everyone he meets as he fights his way up to the championship. It’s a dark black and white period film with buckets of blood, mafia, knockouts, and heartbreaks galore.

The finale finds Midge hallucinating, suffering the after effects of a vicious bout he has to come from behind to win, dying from a brain hemorrhage on his training table. It happens that dying in the ring or shortly thereafter was an all too frequent occurrence in the 1940s, the highest ring fatality decade of all time by a fair number. Going into the 50s, things didn’t improve much.

Here’s Midge being transformed from two left feet into a slugger. Guess the theme music:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbe1YJVUm-s&feature=related

Here he’s a ruthless King of his World:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDF3lPt42WE

Realistically, the actual boxing in “boxing movies” is terrible with only few exceptions. Hollywood uses boxing movies as their reenactment of the fight business that gave Hollywood a business model and new technology that Hollywood transformed into the megalomaniacal pyrotechnics special effects recycled action series that we see today.

Fight movies as done by Hollywood are sorta like Civil War reenactments as if play acting lends true understanding to the horror of spilled blood and guts of dead and wounded, boys mostly, more than all the other American wars combined. I guess they mean well and can be interesting now and again.

So imagine my surprise to find that cartoon boxing movie, Rocky, was chosen to be on the National Film Registry list, and not Champion. Kirk Douglas was one of the finest actors ever and star of maybe the most inspirational combat movie ever, Spartacus.

Kirk Douglas turns 95 years young this year, so Happy Birthday Kirk!

Spartacus

Spartacus

Love At First Strike

Love At First Strike

I’ve already written an open letter to the NFR asking why the 1897 heavyweight title fight between James Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons was not chosen in their 2 decades long compilation of movies. It’s only the core history of film making the NFR are ignoring, but lest I digress any further, you can see my open letter here:

Any way, in checking the existent footage of Champion available on Youtube, naturally it’s easy to get distracted with suggestions of like-minded videos, and lo and behold, wouldn’t you know I got some great footage of Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali, two of the greatest champs ever, and then Jack Dempsey.

My inquiries are furthered with Kirk Douglas paying tribute to Rocky shortly after his untimely death by introducing some classic clips of Rock winning the title from Jersey Joe Walcott. Kirk recounts the funny story of when he first met Rocky when both were in training in an Los Angelas gym in 1949.

Then that led to the 1969-70 Murray Woroner Computer Super Fight that featured Rocky knocking out Ali in the final, but not many know an alternate ending was distributed in Europe where Ali stopped Rocky on cuts. I had never seen that footage, so what a thrill it was to finally see the alternate ending.

But then that led to a Howard Cosell interview of a 69 yr old Dempsey and Rocky along with a couple of boxing writers the following Saturday after Ali won his controversial rematch with Liston. Rocky was very astute in his observations but made it clear that he wasn’t in any position to actually know how hard the phantom punch landed. Dempsey was more direct, saying he didn’t bother to attend the fight because he thought some funny business was going on, and he agreed with Rocky that the punch seemed fairly weak overall.

So, I wanted to expand the appreciation of these great champs by including the clips.

Rocky explains how to beat Ali:

Basic Computer fight: These are actual filmed sessions between Ali and Rocky who trained hard to get into shape to break a long period of inactivity each had fallen into during this period. They became fast friends by the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XKcGRREcaM&feature=related

Ali explains how to beat Rock:

Alternate ending: Angelo Dundee’s brother, Chris stops the bout!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SpGgop1Luc&feature=related

Cosell interview of Dempsey and Rocky:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuLWvYRpVR4&feature=related

Cosell asked Walcott, the referee if he wanted to be on the show, but, naturally, he refused. His performance that infamous night was as poor as ever recorded out of a referee, maybe his last bout.

History as it was made, fantastic stuff and a Big Shout to all the gentlemen who put together these clips. Might want to check out their offerings at their main sites.