Joe Louis Barrow – Park 22
“Joe Louis is the hardest puncher that I’ve ever seen… He’s a good man. Anyone who plans on beating him had better know what they’re doing.”
— Max Schmeling, before the first Louis-Schmeling fight
His story is well known. A Detroit original via Alabama. One of eight children raised by a single mother. As a young boxer, he won his first 27 fights of his professional career – 23 of them with knockouts of the opponent. He trained often at the Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center. He retired as an undefeated champion. Louis served in World War II – boxing in the military to raise the spirits of other soldiers.
Despite his incredible personal success and earnings, he endured terrible racial discrimination. Joe was a lover; he married and divorced several times. He was known for his personal generosity and his large tax bill owed to the IRS later in life.
A line from his memoir reads “I almost always did what I wanted to do.”
Joe passed away in Las Vegas in 1981 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery – an honor bestowed upon him by Ronald Reagan.
Langston Hughes celebrated Joe Louis in his poetic form
To Be Somebody by Langston Hughes
Dreaming of a baby grand piano
(Not knowing there’s a Steinway bigger, bigger)
Dreaming of a baby grand to play
That stretches paddle-tailed across the floor,
Not standing upright
Like a bad boy in the corner,
But sending music
Up the stairs and down the stairs
And out the door
To confound even Hazel Scott
Who might be passing!
Dreaming of the boxing gloves
Joe Louis wore,
The gloves that sent
Two dozen men to the floor.
Bam! Bop! Mop!
There’s always room,
At the top.
–The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, p. 374
IN DETROIT, WE HONOR JOE LOUIS
Our beloved Red Wings play in ‘his’ arena, kids play in his neighborhood park, and a 25ft bronze fist stands proudly on Jefferson Avenue reminding all passersby of his personal dedication, physical strength, his trials, and triumphs. Joe Louis was a fighter unlike any other.