Joe Louis was born on May 13, 1914, into a family that struggled with poverty for most of his childhood. At age 10, the family moved from Alabama to Detroit, where little Joe Louis first put on his golden gloves. Louis won his first 27 fights, 23 of them in knockouts, which earned him the nickname “Brown Bomber.” He didn’t experience his first and most painful defeat until 1936 in a fight with Max Schmeling. The next year, Louis was crowned the world heavyweight champion, but could not rest until he beat Schmeling, which he did in 1938.
From 1937 until he retired in 1949, Louis remained undefeated. Desperate for money, however, he unsuccessfully returned to the ring in 1950 and 1951. He died in 1981 following a second career as a Las Vegas casino host.
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(Photo: PA Photos/Landov)