Sunday, January 25, 2015

Joe Louis & Muhammad Ali - 2 of the Greatest! Why?

A few days ago, there was a great conversation about Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali at:

And as with all great conversations, other points were discussed on Jack Blackburn, Ray Arcel, Angelo Dundee, etc.

Read on and Enjoy!

Kawaun Adon
January 21 at 1:33pm · Edited


Joe Louis & Muhammad Ali
Click for larger pic

World Boxing Council ‏(@WBCBoxing) on Twitter "The late great Joe Louis and @MuhammadAli. The greatest two heavyweight champions in history ” Via @InstantBoxing" 

Douglas Century
Kawaun - Ali brought the grace and footwork in the tradition of Sugar Ray Robinson, while Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, was the most methodical. The power in his short right cross was sheer dynamite. Barney Ross was dear friends with Joe Louis - they were champs at the same time, and Barney's brother told me Joe would have defeated Ali because Joe was so methodical at stalking even the most masterful boxers. It's a great debate - but two of the best ever.
January 21 at 2:39pm · Edited · Unlike · 3

Douglas Century
I just talked at length to Mike Silver, a superb boxing historian and author. Mike edited the Ring, and many other publications, and was a boxer himself out of Stillman's Gym (Google it folks!). Mike also knew Joe Louis. He told me he once asked Joe what was the greatest skill Jack Blackburn (Louis's brilliant trainer) taught him. Without hesitation Joe said: "Balance." Balance was the foundation of everything. With proper balance, a boxer of elite caliber is in position to set up all kinds of combinations; few fighters today have any understanding the kind of footwork/balance Sugar Ray Robinson & Joe Louis mastered. I have more to add but let me shut up now and let others contribute
January 21 at 2:11pm · Edited · Unlike · 3

Kawaun Adon
I would like to hear what our dear friend Thomas Green would to this, Thomas?
January 21 at 2:51pm · Unlike · 1

Kawaun Adon
Stick grappler, let's hear from you aswell on this.
January 21 at 2:56pm · Unlike · 1

Daniel Marks
I would like to add although Louis was more sound as a pure boxer he lacked the adaptability of Ali, the thing is that Joe never faced any of the more rhythmic fighters of his day until he was past his prime, and fading ,but they all gave him hell Jersey Joe played with him Ezzard Charles did a number as well, slick side to side not just coming forward. Ali would have been a problem
January 21 at 3:41pm · Unlike · 2

Douglas Century
Daniel, it's an astounding "what if" - Ali was more adaptable, had more ring generalship, and arguably speed - though Joe was fast as hell. Joe Louis hit harder, no doubt about that. Remember what Frazier said comparing the punching power of Ali and Foreman - he had no fear of Ali's power. But ring-smarts are such an under-appreciated variable. Both were the greatest of their respective eras.
January 21 at 3:49pm · Unlike · 3

Thomas Green
Daniel, I was just about to say that. LOL You beat me to the punch as usual . Here is what I've actually been thinking since Kawaun "called me out" on this. Up front, I know a little bit about martial culture, but not much about technical boxing, and I'm probably answering with my heart rather than my brain. In spite of Doug's solid arguments, I'm going with Ali. Beyond the grace and rhythm that Daniel mentions, Ali could take a punch and could throw a pretty good one as well. Lateral movement is tough for a standup straight ahead boxer like Louis who would be devastating if he could close with Ali. The main advantage, though, is Ali's intellect. Louis wasn't stupid, but Ali beat more than one of his opponents before they stepped into the ring. Check out "When We Were Kings," the documentary of Ali vs. Foreman's rumble in the jungle, to see how to play the pre-fight intimidation game. He kept up the mental game during his fights, also. OK, I'll leave the technical aspects to my colleagues here. This is just my 2 cents. Tag, Stick Grappler and Joseph Svinth! You're it!
January 21 at 4:01pm · Unlike · 4

Daniel Marks
Right Forman broke Joe off, But Ali knocked out Forman made it look easy took the same blows albeit the rope a dope, but 8 rounds later out on his back side
January 21 at 4:08pm · Unlike · 3

Douglas Century
Thomas & Daniel, now you've got me questioning myself, so I'm turning to folks with far more boxing knowledge than me. My late friend Bert Randolph Sugar in his excellent book "Boxing's Greatest Fighters" has Joe Louis at #3 and Ali at #7. No slight to Ali, according to Bert, with "indefatigable patience,"Joe tracked down his prey, and possessed "the fastest hands in the history of the heavyweight division." Finally, "when he had hooked his opponent, Louis - the greatest finisher in the history of boxing - would never let him get away--ask Billy Conn for references." Rest in peace, Bert. For what it's worth Bert - like most of us - has Sugar Ray Robinson untouchable at Number 1 in all weight divisions in history.
January 21 at 4:15pm · Unlike · 3

Douglas Century
As a PS - we'll never know Ali's full greatest because of all those lost years due to refusal to fight in Vietnam - those were his PEAK years, so we'll never know. Honestly, it's like Beatles vs. Rolling Stones or Otis Redding vs. Sam Cooke or Picasso vs. Matisse - we are blessed to have seen their artistry.
January 21 at 4:24pm · Edited · Unlike · 3

Stick Grappler
I was going to post earlier that I was going to copy Doug's comments to my Evernote but got busy with work

I'm but a noob in the martial arts especially boxing history/lore. I was just going to lurk since you all are way more knowledgeable than me in this!

I will add for discussion's sake that I'm more familiar with Ali than Joe Louis. Talking less on the technical-side, with Ali, the people had a charismatic champion who talked the talk but more importantly was able to back it up. He was able to capture the public's attention with his rhymes - he was a showman, an entertainer, and so much more!

His blinding speed perhaps led to bad habits with his non-traditional hands low but he was able to get away with it.

He was powerful but I often think of him as a "punches in bunches" with his blazing speed to overw
helm his opponent and be able to "read" his opponent and spot the opening to land a punishing blow. I've often wondered how fast he thinks! To be able to send signals to his brain to punch and move as fast as he did AND be able to visually pick up opponent's weakness AND capitalize on that opening is a rare fighter in my book. Highest echelons! Despite only making 5 movies and never fought outside of some streetfights, Bruce Lee exhibited the same type of speed and 'processing speed'. But I digress.

Anyway looking to read and learn more from this esteemed assemblage of fighters/minds!

Thank you in advance

January 21 at 4:33pm · Edited · Like · 4

Stick Grappler
I made some gifs of Ali X Brian London
THIS DATE IN HISTORY: Muhammad Ali vs Brian London (Aug 6, 1966)
Posting link to one gif that is incredible
January 21 at 4:29pm · Like · 3 · Remove Preview

Stick Grappler
i marvel at the speed of Ali's punches - I can watch this all day

Also have a gif of the above slowed down
January 21 at 4:30pm · Edited · Like · 3 · Remove Preview

Douglas Century
not to slight Angelo Dundee, but let's remember who taught Joe Louis - this name may not ring many bells today, but he may have been the greatest trainer of his era. He saw a raw talent in Joe Louis - a man with innate knockout power - and molded him into a true boxer-puncher and devastating heavyweight champ. They don't make them like Jack Blackburn anymore
January 21 at 4:41pm · Unlike · 3

Douglas Century
In point of fact, Joe Louis started off with fancy dancing (probably more like Ali) but Jack Blackburn had him "unlearn" that to "plant his feet with more authority" and fight in the style that best suited him. *Blackburn came into Louis camp on June 25, 1934 and watched Joe spar. He saw that Louis had natural punching power, something that could not be taught, but he also saw that he was only a puncher at that time and still fairly green. Blackburn speaking of those early days with his young protégé said, July 20, 1935 Pittsburgh Courier, “Louis needed correction in everything except hitting. I had to teach him to back up his punches with the proper timing, accuracy and to instruct him in the proper art of balance. I trained him under the same methods I trained under when I was a fighter.”
January 21 at 4:45pm · Unlike · 3

Kawaun Adon
Thank you Mr Green,as always, insightful and delivered well.
January 21 at 4:50pm · Unlike · 2

Douglas Century
I believe - if Bert Sugar is correct in saying Joe Louis had the fastest hands ever in the heavy division - he may have fought more like Ali, with blinding combos and fancy dancing, but read what Blackburn taught him "Negro" fighters needed to do in those days "Let your fists be the referee" : Blackburn instructed Louis in the art of punching accurately telling him “One clean punch is better than a hundred punches.” He also told him “Negro fighters don’t go to town winning decisions. When you get into the ring, let your fists be the referee. Bide your time. Place your punches and knock your opponent out.” Blackburn taught Louis the art of finishing off an opponent. “Don’t get impatient. Take your time, but move right in. Don’t throw your punches wild, shoot ‘em in straight. Don’t give him a chance to come back.”
January 21 at 4:51pm · Unlike · 3

Kawaun Adon
Anyone from crump martial arts want to chime in? How bout someone from sticks sharp objects?
January 21 at 4:54pm · Unlike · 3

Kawaun Adon
Thank you Stick Grappler, your comment was well timed and placed, adding nicely to the convo.
January 21 at 4:59pm · Unlike · 3

Kawaun Adon
What do you think Ramon cordova,Darnell Wicks,Minkah aha Hu El?
January 21 at 5:04pm · Unlike · 1

Stick Grappler
Sadly I have old man memory although I'm not as 'young' as Prof Green
Deeply honored to be able to soak up (and copy to my Evernote lol) knowledge from everyone here
Thank you!
January 21 at 5:08pm · Like · 3

Kawaun Adon
Thank you stick, for riding with us so long, WE APPRECIATE YOU.
January 21 at 5:15pm · Edited · Unlike · 2

Thomas Green
Definitely, 'young' in quotes. I grew up watching the old Friday Night Fights sponsored by Gillette!
January 21 at 5:27pm · Unlike · 3

Kawaun Adon
Prof Green, truly we value your wisdom.
January 21 at 5:43pm · Unlike · 1

Daniel Marks
Joe's style was subdued for a reason can any of our boxing fan explain why Jack Blackburn made Joe less brash than his predecessor Jack Johnson Jean IFather Colin, Gabe Charboneau,shaphane Shane Nedd speak on it man
January 21 at 5:58pm · Unlike · 4

Thomas Green
Also advised Joe on ladies to be seen with. Didn't want him in jail on trumped up charges.
January 21 at 6:57pm · Unlike · 2

Daniel Marks
January 21 at 7:07pm · Unlike · 3

Jean IFather Colin
Peace..great builds. Daniel I'd say one big reason which includes the trumped up charges concern ..Jack Johnson
January 21 at 7:15pm · Edited · Unlike · 3

Daniel Marks
Right but there was something else that motivated Blackburn and the Joe's management
January 21 at 9:45pm · Unlike · 3

Douglas Century
Jackie Robinson was handpicked to break the color line, though many say Josh Gibson was the greatest of the Negro League players (probably better than Babe Ruth as a power hitter). If you saw "42" you know how much racist bullshit Robinson had to eat in order to be palatable to mainstream (white America); similarly, Joe Louis could never showboat, gloat or display any traits that might smack of arrogance in the ring. In that sense, Muhammad Ali is the heir to Jack Johnson's flair and flash and alpha-male style; Joe Louis was groomed to be his polar opposite. And all Americans adored him after he avenged his loss against Schmeling. Not a boxing answer, Daniel, just a societal observation.
January 21 at 10:06pm · Unlike · 3

Daniel Marks
But actually Doug that is the Answer the investors in Joe were afraid that if Joe came off like Jack they wouldn't let him fight. Remember the bum of the month Joe feasted on washed never would have been champion, but none of the black fighters waiting in the wings got a shot until Joe was past his prime and without the title. A great fighter with only one real fight, against a game young man who fought everyone to include three epics ,Ali Frazier, Ali Foreman, and Ali Norten
January 21 at 10:29pm · Unlike · 5

Douglas Century
Indeed, Daniel - but I guess the question is "Does the man make the times or do the times make the man?" Joe couldn't count on refs giving him a clean decision, so had to fight like a destroyer - no slick shit in his game, no trash-talking allowed. Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Norton - they could fight and have a reasonable expectation not to get robbed by the judges. Joe's greatness to me lies in what he represented for his times - Depression-era U.S.A. - and the way in which he could take a loss to a strong fighter like Max Schmeling and then come back and utterly devastate him - BOOM a legendary first-round knockout. Ali was equally "of his times" - but those '60s times included Black Consciousness, awakening pride, and yes loads of trash talking with Bundini Brown: Rumble Young Man Rumble! For me, when an athlete, artist, singer comes to EMBODY his entire era - as both Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali did - they are forever in the pantheon of world historic figures. Great conversation you guys have sparked! Much appreciated.
January 21 at 10:44pm · Edited · Unlike · 4

Thomas Green
Well said, Doug. Brilliant exchange, my friends. It is a privilege to eavesdrop on this.
January 21 at 10:55pm · Unlike · 2

Stick Grappler
Humbling at the knowledge dropped
Props and Respect!
January 21 at 10:59pm · Like · 1

Douglas Century
Thanks, Tom and Stickgrappler - I'm passionate about this because my late father always told me one of the defining moments of his childhood was listening to Schmeling get KO'd by Joe Louis in June 1938 - my pops was 8 years old, and they were all huddled around the one radio. They all felt (especially Jews) that it was a victory against Nazism, though poor Max Schmeling was no Nazi - his manager / promoter Joe Jacobs was Jewish! But that fight unified America for a whole generation - beyond color - and boxing has never been as important to a greater audience. It's generational I suppose; ask anyone over 70 and they'll say Joe Louis changed their lives; ask guys who grew up in the 60s and 70s and they'll say the same about Ali.
January 21 at 11:12pm · Edited · Unlike · 1

Douglas Century
As I said, Kawaun and D-Marks, as well as Stick Grappler and Thomas Green you had me talking about this most of the afternoon with some of the best boxing minds I know. Here's what I got from the inimitable Mike Silver - who trained and boxed at Stillman's Gym - knew Jack Blackburn, Joe Louis and Ali - and his resume includes writing/editing The Ring Magazine, The New York Times, Boxing Monthly; Mike is also a former boxing promoter, Inspector with the New York State Athletic Commission, and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization. His latest book, THE ARC OF BOXING, has been called "seminal" and a "masterpiece"
Home - Author Mike Silver: Official Homepage
17 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 1

Douglas Century
Here's Mike's opinion, which I'm happy to post here - it's far more astute than mine; I'm sorry this is so much information but Constellation is in the unique position of being able to document and preserve all these voices on Facebook - Stick Grappler please archive this conversation - you never know when we'll have access to so many interesting voices again! Remember, when he's talking about Joe Louis's fight with Billy Conn, this was the epic matchup when Joe Louis told reporters: "He can run but he can't hide." That phrase is still used by everyone, everywhere, but Joe just said it off the cuff - probably from the collective, ancestral wisdom of Jack Blackburn. 17 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 1

Douglas Century
"Doug: Some people think that because Conn gave Louis trouble with his speed and movement that Ali, who was bigger and stronger than Conn, would have done the same. But Conn actually did not fight an Ali style fight, as most people who never really studied that fight believe. He took the fight to Louis in many rounds and instead of backing up he went into Louis with his speed and great boxing ability. He was told by his great trainer Johnny Ray (a Jew of course, real name Pitler) who told him to beat Louis he could not run and jab. Schmeling did not back up, he stayed with Louis looking for an opening. Louis had more trouble (but not for long) with boxers who came into him and did not run. For example Godoy and (for two rounds) Galento. No way would Ali have fought like that. In fact if Conn had hit and run the fight would have been a walkover for Louis because you could not run from Louis--IN LOUIS'S PRIME NO ONE EVER DID IT SUCCESSFULLY. No one could ever jab with Louis either. So, how would Ali, who was a great fighter with his own difficult, one of a kind unorthodox style, combining reflexes, movement, sense of anticipation and good jab have done? I look at the fighters who gave Ali trouble--extreme pressure fighters like Frazier and fighters who threw effective jabs at him which threw his rhythm off--like Ken Norton did every time. Louis was an effective aggressive boxer-puncher who would stalk Ali, and he would be dangerous all the time. Louis had nothing to fear from Ali's punches. The Louis jab would disconcert Ali and disrupt his rhythm. Louis is an underrated boxer. He had wonderful boxing skills. Nevertheless it would not have been an easy fight for Louis mainly because of Ali's speed. Ali's speed was amazing. But again, his hit and run style against Louis would not have been as effective as against other opponents and he would have lost rounds doing that, mostly because of Louis's great jab. It's still a tough fight to call, but I would go with Louis on a decision or knockout from the 5th to the 15th round.
17 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 1

Douglas Century
On Jack Blackburn - and Ray Arcel - widely regarded as the greatest of all trainers. Between them, we have the collective knowledge going back to the age of Jim Crow & slavecropper's sons (like Joe Louis Barrow & Henry Armstrong) through to the legendary Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran, who Arcel trained as well. Please note Mike's opinion of what would have happened if Jack Blackburn could have trained Ali - he would have been GREATER still....
17 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 1

Douglas Century
"Dear Doug: Blackburn was one of the greatest trainers who ever lived--also one of the greatest fighters. When you watch Louis you are actually seeing a heavyweight clone of Jack Blackburn. He was ahead of his time and a true genius. He was a much better technical trainer than Dundee, who was mainly a great corner man, overall strategist and motivator. A great trainer can develop a green fighter and bring out the talent if he has the potential. Dundee could never have given Louis what Blackburn did. Dundee never developed a fighter from the beginning. The great trainers, like [Charley] Goldman and Jack Blackburn have the knowledge and know how to do that --helps also that they were ex-fighters (although some ex-fighters make awful trainers). Dundee had sound basic knowledge but did not have the overall knowledge of these two. If Blackburn had Clay/Ali from the beginning he would have been an even better fighter!
Arcel had a lot of knowledge and was the best corner man that ever lived. He was also better than ANYONE as a conditioner of fighters. No one was better at that. He, like Dundee, had good basic grounding in boxing skills learned from the great masters of old but I'd give the edge to Arcel. Arcel didn't have the tech knowledge of a Blackburn or Goldman (they were better technical trainers) but he was highly competent and was a wonderful teacher. If you had a son he'd be in safe hands with Arcel. Best regards, Mike."
17 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 1

Douglas Century
Thanks, my friends: You've wrung every drop out of me - and my friends - on this topic of Joe Louis, Jack Blackburn, Muhammad Ali, Angelo Dundee. Real boxing fiends can talk about these "what ifs" for DAYs, but that's all I've got. So now I am OUT. Peace.
17 hrs · Unlike · 1

Daniel Marks
Yes these men were time warriors and when we engage in who what and when, the Guardians of that time have a hard time of letting go. Joe had grit, Ali had savvy , what to do you want in a Boxer. Before Joe Jack Johnson was a part of the Nero Championship and a member of the four horsemen Joe Jennettie, Sam Langford, Sam McVey, once he won the real title, never fought any of them again. The Brown Bomber beat up a lot of bums because our style of boxing was not pleasing even now with Mayweather, slick slipping, bobbing n weaving instead of standing toe to toe in a ring that 6x6 feet long. When Ali fought Sonny ah he's going to be killed in the ring Sonny's to strong, you can't hit what your eye can't see I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Ali understood that to throw strong punches you have to sit down to get leverage, in other words plant your weight, stick and move, an example for the group is to watch the first six rounds of Trinidad and Day LA Hoya, every time Trinidad loaded up dayla hoya was gone, had he been in that mindset for the last six rounds he would have one easily. The Joe Conn fight was more for show, until Conn tried to pull a fast one, Joe was going to carry the favorite as a show of honor decision . Oh well we will never win this agreement but it was fun, most people forget what Ali did to Frazier in their second fight because Ali made it a no contest. Sometimes when your great to play with fire hoping not to get burned.
15 hrs · Unlike · 2

Douglas Century
Word, D. We're all a product of our respective eras. My father cried for joy when Joe Louis knocked out Schmeling; and my first boxing memory was bawling my eyes out when Leon Spinks beat Ali - can't believe that was on FREE television. But I was crying like a baby, I loved Ali so much. My father loved Joe Louis that much. Our memories and passions are all unique - and boxing brings it out better than any other sport (in my opinion).
15 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 1

Stick Grappler
Doug - I was thinking of archiving this thread to my site also! "Great minds think alike ... but fools seldom differ." You are the Great Mind and I'm the Fool!
If no objections, I'll archive to my site
Deepest gratitude in advance!
14 hrs · Edited · Like · 1

Douglas Century
Please archive - if only because Mike Silver is truly a font of knowledge - far beyond my own understanding of boxing. Please save this stuff. But more importantly, as Kawaun and Daniel have asked; PLEASE other members of the group, weigh in the convo. What made Joe & Muhammad all-time greats? Please, we need more voices contributing to this build.
14 hrs · Unlike · 5

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