When the late Manny Steward was training Lennox “The Lion” Lewis who held the WBA, WBC and IBF heavyweight titles he made a statement that Lewis was better than heavyweight champion Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis who like Steward was out of Detroit.
I recently had one of my readers tell me how he felt Lennox Lewis who is a close friend of his in Canada was honored everywhere but in the US. Being that I felt Joe Louis was the greatest heavyweight of all time I thought maybe since Steward was training Lewis at the time he said that. Let’s take a look at both champions.
Louis was both Golden Glove and AAU light heavyweight champion in 1934 finishing his career at 53-3. Lewis was a two-time Olympian though going medalist in 1984 he won the Gold Medal in 1988 in the super heavyweight division and finished his career at 94-11.
Louis turned professional at the age of 20 in 1934 and won his first 19 fights before stopping former NBA-NYSAC champion Primo “The Ambling Alp” Carnera, 81-7. Two fights later he knocked out former NBA-NYSAC champion Max “Livermore Larupper” Baer, 40-8. He was 24-0 when he lost for the only time in his “prime” to former NBA-NYSAC champion Max “Black Uhlan of the Rhine” Schmeling, 48-7-4, while coming off the canvas in the fourth round and being knocked out in the twelfth round.
Louis would have to wait two years for a rematch while Schmeling was inactive. Just two months after his defeat Louis knocked out former NBA-NYSAC champion Jack “Boston Gob” Sharkey, 37-12-3, ending Sharkey’s career. Seven months later in June of 1937 Louis came off the canvas in the first round and knocked out James J. Braddock, 45-23-4, the “Cinderella Man” for his NBA-NYSAC title. What the movie didn’t tell you is Braddock agreed to fight Louis if he got 10% of any Louis title defenses (25). Louis made the remark afterwards that “I won’t consider myself the heavyweight champion until I beat Schmeling.” Almost two years to the day he got his chance knocking out Schmeling in 2:04 of the first round.
In 1940 Louis defeated the former South American champion from Chile Arturo Godoy, 52-9-7, by split decision over 15 rounds. Two judges had it 10-5 and 10-4 for Louis with the other 10-5 Godoy. In the rematch with Godoy Louis stopped him in the eighth round. Louis fought the brother of Max Baer, Buddy Baer, 53-5, knocking him down three times with the final one possibly after the bell causing Baer’s manager to refuse to leave the ring giving Louis a disqualification win.
The following month in June of 1941 Louis had his hands full with NBA-NYSAC light heavyweight champion Bill Conn, 59-9-1, finally stopping Conn in the thirteenth round. Up to that point Conn was ahead on two of the scorecards 7-4 and 7-5 with a 6-6 score. Conn tried to finish Louis when he got finished. In Scranton, PA, years later Conn told me he wanted a rematch and Louis told him “you had the title for twelve rounds and didn’t know what to do with it.”
In December of 1941 Japan attacked Pearl Harbor putting the title on hold by March of 1942. Louis made a defense in January knocking Buddy Baer out in the first. Both Louis and Conn went into the Army. It would be four years before both returned to the ring with Louis easily knocking out Conn in eight rounds in June of 1946. Both were looking much older and their skills had diminished.
At years end Louis defended against “Jersey” Joe Walcott, 44-11-2. Louis was down in the first and fourth rounds but won a split decision. The fight warranted a rematch so six months later in June of 1948 Louis was down from a no-count in the third and behind on two of the scorecards when he score a knockout in the eleventh round. In March of 1949 Louis announced his retirement. He was 58-1 at the time.
In June of 1949 Walcott lost to Ezzard “Cincinnati Cobra” Charles who was on a sixteen fight winning streak for the vacant NBA title. Louis decided to come back and challenge him after twenty-seven months of inactivity only to lose to Charles by decision for his NBA title. Over the next year Louis would win eight straight fights with three by knockout. He defeated Jimmy Bivins, 78-20-1, in that final streak who many considered the “champion” while Louis was in the service.
In October of 1951 Louis would meet unbeaten Rocky “The Brockton Blockbuster” Marciano, 37-0, who idolized Louis. Behind on all scorecards Louis was dropped twice in the eighth round with the second one putting him through the ropes for the stoppage. Rumors were Marciano felt so bad beating his hero he cried later on.
It was the final fight for Louis ending his record at 66-3 with 52 knockouts and 25 successful title defenses which still stands as a heavyweight record along with holding the title for twelve years. He retired at the age of 37. He would pass away in 1981 at the age of 66.
Now it’s time to take a look at the career of the “other” Lewis, Lennox Lewis who though born in the UK migrated to Canada at the age of 12 where he won his Gold Medal in 1988. Previously in 1984 Olympics he lost to American Tyrell Biggs. In 1987 at the Pan American games he won a Silver Medal losing to Cuban Jorge Luis Gonzalez but would defeat him in the North American championships for the Gold Medal. In the 1988 Olympics he won one by walk over and had three stoppages including Riddick Bowe for the Gold.
He was 23 when he turned professional in June of 1989 in the UK. He would win the European title stopping Frenchman Jean-Maurice Chanet, 24-10, on cut’s in six rounds. He would add the British title in his next bout stopping Jamaican born UK champion Gary Mason, 35-0, in March of 1991. In July in the US he knocked out the former WBA champion Mike “Hercules” Weaver, 35-15-1, in Stateline, NV.
Lewis got his revenge defeating the boxer he lost to at the 1984 Olympics Gold Medalist and American Tyrell Biggs, 19-4. Lewis had Biggs down three times before stopping him in the third round. Two fights later Lewis added the Commonwealth title by doing so he received the Lonsdale belt outright by defeating Derek Williams, 19-4.
In October of 1992 Lewis defended the Commonwealth title defeating Jamaican born now Canadian Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, 27-3-1, in two rounds. This was a WBC title eliminator. It was Ruddock who defeated Lewis back in 1980 in the Ontario Junior Championships which was his first main tournament for the then 15 year-old Lewis.
A month later WBA, IBF and WBC champion Riddick Bowe defeated Evander Holyfield in a battle of the unbeaten. Bowe and Lewis representatives could not come to financial agreement so Bowe gave up his WBC title. The WBC awarded Lewis the title. In his first defense he defeated the former IBF champion Tony “TNT” Tucker, 48-1, flooring him twice and winning a 12 round decision in Las Vegas, NV.
Next for Lewis he would be back in the UK defending his WBC title stopping two-time world title challenger Frank Bruno, 36-3, in seven rounds. In September of 1994 in London Lewis would lose for the first time along with his title to Oliver McCall, 24-5, in the second round.
It wouldn’t be until May when he would come back winning three straight by stoppage with the third one defeating former WBO champion Tommy “the Duke” Morrison, 45-2-1, in Atlantic City, NJ. Then he won a majority decision over former WBO champion Ray Mercer, 23-3-1, at MSG, in New York.
In February of 1997 Lewis got his rematch with Oliver McCall, 28-6, for the vacant WBC title stopping him in five rounds in Las Vegas, NV. McCall was having mental problems and at the end of the fight broke down crying in the ring. In his first defense Lewis defeated the former WBO champion Henry Ankinwande, 32-0-1, by disqualification for excessive holding in seven rounds in Stateline, NV. Ankinwande gave up his WBO title in order to fight Lewis. He had represented Great Britain in the 1988 Olympics though spending some years in Nigeria.
In March of 1999 Lewis fought a draw with WBA and IBF champion Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield, 36-3, at MSG in NY. This decision was so disputed that it won Lewis many fans including myself. The South African judge was for Lewis, American judge for Holyfield and the UK judge a draw. In November Lewis had his rematch with Holyfield winning on a close decision in Las Vegas, NV. He now had the WBC and IBF titles. For some reason a rubber match was never made.
Against Hasim Rahman all three judges had him ahead 39-37 going into the fourth when a crushing lead right dropped him. He struggled to get up as but referee Daniel Van de Wiele stopped the fight at 2:32 of the round. The rematch was seven months later in Las Vegas, NV. Again Lewis took the lead through three rounds. He was determined to erase his loss to Rahman. He threw a wide left following with a right to the chin scoring a knockout. It was almost a replay of their first fight except Lewis was the winner. There would be no third fight.
In his twelfth title defense Lewis stopped former champion “Iron” Mike Tyson. After Tyson tried to rush Lewis he was hit with a couple of uppercuts. Tyson drove Lewis back with a jab and later landed a left hook rocking Lewis. The long jab of Lewis kept Tyson at bay for most of the bout. Tyson had a small cut on the outside of his right brow.
In the eighth round Lewis landed a solid left hook to the chin of Tyson buckling his knees. Cotton immediately jumped in to register an eight count. Both Tyson’s eyes were near closing. Lewis landed a lead right on the chin of Tyson following with a downward push. Lewis walked away with his arms raised as Tyson lay on the canvas. The referee wisely stopped it as Tyson was making an effort to get up.
It would be just over a year before Lewis would step into the ring again facing Vitali Klitschko, 32-1, at the Staples Center, in L.A. In the third Lewis came right at Klitschko landing a solid right to the chin and both immediately fell into a clinch. Klitschko looked like he suffered a cut from a long hard right by Lewis on his left eye lid. He went on the attack landing four straight jabs to the face of Lewis. Seeing blood coming down the left side of Klitschko’s face spurred Lewis on.
In the fifth round both met in the center of the ring with Lewis landing a right to the face. While in a clinch Lewis landed twelve consecutive punches to the side and back of Klitschko as the referee looked on. It was Lewis landing a power jab and Klitschko a lead right. Klitschko landed over half a dozen punches driving Lewis into the ropes. Klitschko was having his way until Lewis landed an overhand right to the left side of his head. Lewis kept targeting the cut.
Starting the sixth round Klitschko landed a short right to the chin of Lewis. Klitschko landed a right to the head of Lewis who countered with a right uppercut. Klitschko was the stronger of the two pushing Lewis across the ring while in a clinch landing a solid uppercut at the bell. The round card girl was entering the ring with round seven when all of a sudden Lewis was up off his stool raising his hand while in Klitschko’s corner a look of shock on the fighters face. The doctor stopped the fight. The crowd didn’t like the way it ended.
It would be eight months later in February of 2004 at the age of 38 that Lewis announced his retirement. Klitschko fought for eight more years into 2012 with thirteen straight wins and eleven defenses calling it quits at the age 41. His final record was 41-2-1 with 32 knockouts. He had 14 successful title defenses.
So we’ve compared what both champions did during their careers. Ring Magazine considered all divisions and ranked the hardest hitter was Joe Louis as No. 1 and Lennox Lewis No. 33 overall. Ring ranked their all-time heavyweights with Louis No. 1 and Lewis No. 5.
A summary showed that Louis finished at 66-3 with 52 knockouts and 25 title defenses holding the title for 12 years.
Lewis finished at 41-2-1 with 32 knockouts and 14 title defenses.
Lewis was awarded the WBC title when the camp of champion Riddick Bowe and the camp of Lewis couldn’t come to a financial agreement so Bowe vacated the WBC title. Upon Lewis losing it to Oliver McCall in September of 1994 he won a title eliminator in his next fight in May of 1995 but it wasn’t until February of 1997 he won the vacant WBC title. He lost it in 2001 to Hasim Rahman and won it back the same year. In 1999 he defeated Evander Holyfield for the WBC, WBA and IBF titles. He never defended the WBA title. In his last fight he gave up the IBF title only defending the WBC title against Vitali Klitschko.
So what do you think boxing fans? Which Louis – Lewis was better?
Please send all questions and comments to Ken Hissner at: Kenhissner@gmail.com