Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
After becoming the youngest heavyweight champion in history -- and a hero to millions, both black and white -- Joe Louis went on to successfully defend his title 25 times, scoring 22 knockouts. His reign, from 1937 to 1949, was longer than any other champion in any division in the history of boxing. An excerpt from The Post of June 23, 1937:
Twenty-three-year-old Joe Louis, who has accomplished ring miracles before, became the youngest heavyweight champion in all of history here tonight as he sent valiant old James L. Braddock plummeting to the canvas to lie in his own blood as he was counted out for the first time of his long career.
The knockout punch, a long, vicious right, which whipped out like a striking cobra, landed flush on the champion's chin after only one minute of the eighth round. Referee Tommy Thomas finished the count in the required 10 seconds -- and ring history had been made.
Braddock fell no harder than the hopes of the crowd of 51,000, with whom the courageous Irishman ruled as strong sentimental favorite. They had seen the 32-year-old king, who was soon to be crowned with a punch that uncrowned him, send the fresh, strong challenger to the floor in the first round. They had seen Braddock stand toe to toe with the Detroit "Brown Bomber," trading punch for punch and continually driving Louis before him relentlessly.
They had seen Braddock whip venomous rights to the head which housed the fighting brain of the challenger. They had seen those rights, and hard left hooks to the body, convert Louis into a retreating, fear-stricken, almost sniveling youngster. They had seen Jimmy bang the challenger's nose into a raw beet salad. They had seen the grand old man give rise to such heights that it seemed only a matter of minutes until he would become the second man to batter Louis into submission.
Then they saw a right hand rip a sickening cut over Braddock's left eye. They saw another right hand dig a deep gash in the left side of Jimmy's mouth. Those who watched closely saw something else. They saw Braddock's tired old legs, whipped into as perfect condition as is possible at his age, begin to lose their spring. They saw resiliency seep from the underpinnings with each punch that landed on Braddock.
Those weakening legs played a part as important in the dramatic climax of the fight as the actual punch which officially terminated the struggle. So tired were the legs, so heavy was the weight of years on them, that Braddock barely was able to drag himself from his corner to answer the bell which sent him out to be dropped on the canvas made bloody by his own wounds.
Credit cannot be taken from one so young who has achieved the greatest honor in the boxing game, but it must be recorded that Louis looked far from impressive in many of the 25 minutes and 10 seconds he was in the ring. He looked superb for the split second that knockout punch was traveling towards its destination, and the aplomb and nonchalance with which he gazed at Braddock while the former champion was being counted out and he himself was gaining the heavyweight championship was nothing short of marvelous.
This series is available at www.washingtonpost.com