“Everyone has a plan until they’ve been hit.”
Those famous words were orignally coined by the great Joe Louis, before Mike Tyson repeated a simular line in 1987. But before we delve into the Joe Louis era let’s continue from where I left off in 1928, when Gene Tunney had just announced his retirement.
It took 2-years until promoters organized the ‘Battle of the Continents,’ between German Max Schmeling and American Jack Sharkey. Schmeling became the first man to win a heavyweight championship by disqualification after Sharkey delivered a low-blow.
After just one credible defense against Young Stribling, Schmeling controversially lost his title in a rematch with Sharkey in 1932. One year later the ‘Boston Gob’ made his first defense against Primo Carnera after defeating the Italian previously, he was knocked out in the sixth round of their second meeting.
In 1934, Carnera lost to Max Baer after getting knocked down multiple times before referee Arthur Donovon stopped the fight. Almost a year to the day of winning the heavyweight title Baer lost in a shock defeat against hand-picked James J. Braddock by a 15-round unanimous decision.
Even though the newly coined ‘Cinderella man’ held the title for 2-years he never made a single defense because the American public were worried that a loss to Max Schmeling would result in the Nazis keeping the title and denying a US fighter the chance to ever win it back.
Eventually, Joe Louis was given the title shot in 1937, and after being knocked down in round one recovered to dominate and knock Braddock out cold in round-eight.
Joe Louis refused to recognize himself as the champ until he avenged his sole defeat of former champion Max Schmeling. After three successful defenses, the rematch in 1938 was considered one of the most famous boxing matches in the 20th century.
Nazi Germany was a year away from starting World War 2 and Schmeling was their boxing poster boy, this wasn’t just a boxing match it was more than that. “I had my own personal reasons and the whole damned country was depending on me,” said Louis.
The Yankee Stadium was the venue with 70,043 fans in attendance as they witnessed the ‘Brown Bomber’ demolish Schmeling in two-minutes and four seconds.
From 1939 through to May 1941, Louis defended his title thirteen times with wins over Louis Galento, Bob Pastor, Abe Simon and Buddy Baer, among others before his hard-fought victory over Billy Conn. Before the rematch with Conn, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Louis voluntarily enlisted for the United States Army in 1942 before he was released from military service in 1945.
Louis resumed his career with a victory over Conn and two wins over Jersey Joe Walcott before he offically retired in 1949. Due to financial problems Louis was forced back into the ring only to be outpointed by Ezzard Charles in 1950, becoming the recognized Lineal Champion after defeating Jersey Joe Walcott in June 1949 for the vacant heavyweight strap.
The ‘Cincinnati Cobra’ made successful defenses against Walcott in their rematch, Lee Oma and Joey Maxim before losing in his third meeting with Walcott by a knockout in the seventh round. Jersey Joe Walcott became the oldest man to hold the crown at 37-years-old before retaining the title against arch-rival Charles in their fourth and final meeting.
Jersey Joe defended the title against undefeated legend Rocky Marciano on September 23, 1952. The champion floored Marciano in the first round and was ahead on the scorecards going into the thirteenth round when both threw right-hands but Rocky’s powerful right dubbed ‘Suzie Q’ landed first knocking Walcott out, becoming the nineteenth world heavyweight champion.
In six defenses from 1952-1956 Marciano defeated Walcott by a first-round knockout in their rematch, Roland La Starza, Ezzard Charles (twice), Don Cockell and Archie Moore. At the relatively young age of 32-years-old with a record of 49-0 Rocky announced his retirement from boxing leaving the world heavyweight title vacant once again and creating the second break in the Lineal timeline.
Check out the next installment of The Lineal Heavyweight Championship Timeline from 1956-1966. Don’t forget to listen-in to the Talkin Boxing with Billy C Show and follow me on Twitter@JohnnoSE23