Joe Louis is regarded as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, he fought 69 fights, winning 66 of them and losing 3 with a KO percentage of 75%. His record of 140 consecutive months as the world heavyweight champion included 26 championship fights, a record second only to Julio Cesar Chaves with 27.
Joseph Louis Barrow was born on May 13th 1914 in Alabama to parents Munn and Lillie Barrow, both the grandchildren of slaves. He was the seventh of eight children and was a very shy and quiet child who suffered from limited education eventually developing a stammer. Financially poor the family had to do whatever they could to get by with the children sleeping 3 or 4 to a bed. To make matters worse his father was committed to an insane asylum when Joe was just 2 years old. Lillie Barrow remarried, to widower Patrick Brooks and not long after the family migrated north to Detroit.
After Louis began hanging out with a local gang, Lillie sought to keep her son out of trouble by having him take violin lessons. However, Louis had also been introduced to boxing by a friend; he began using the violin money to train at Brewster Recreation Center and fighting under the name "Joe Louis," reportedly so his mother wouldn't find out. He was a raw talent but obviously had immense power and eventually during a respectable amateur career winning 50 out of 54 contests his skills were developed and he became a complete fighter.
Joe Louis really came into his own when he entered the professional game. He quickly rose through the ranks knocking over opponent after opponent proving that he carried extraordinary power in his fists. His first loss came on June 19, 1936 to former heavyweight champion Max Schmeling of Germany. Schmeling was hailed as an example of Aryan supremacy by Adolph Hitler, when the rematch came around 2 years later on June 22, 1938 there was a lot of tension and expectation around the fight. Louis obliterated his opponent in the first round forever endearing himself to the American public.
The Bronze Bomber went on to reign as heavyweight champion for 11 years and eight months, retiring on March 1, 1949. He made a briefly lived comeback mainly for financial reasons fighting Rocky Marciano on October 26, 1951 and was knocked out in the eighth round.