Chapter Nine - The War Years On December 7, 1941 following an attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor by Japan, the United States entered World War II. Then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt call it “a day that will live in infamy.” Many boxers found themselves drafted and many more enlisted. Titles were frozen. For many pugilists, they had to wait until the War ended. It was a very patriotic time. Foremost among the boxers who served, was heavyweight champion Joe Louis, “the Brown Bomber.”
Joe Louis was the Heavyweight Champion of the World and the perfect figure to represent America in this terrible time. His famous quote, “We’ll do our part and we’ll win because we’re on God’s side” said it all. America needed a major athlete to step up the plate, and Joe Louis Barrow, “The Brown Bomber” was the perfect man to step up. On June 18, 1941 Joe Louis met light heavyweight champ Billy Conn. Conn, a smart and clever boxer, gave the Brown Bomber all he could handle for twelve rounds, before Joe finally knocked him out in the thirteenth. It was to be the champion’s last fight, barring two exhibitions until the War ended in 1945. He then defended against Jersey Joe Walcott twice and finally lost his title he had held for twelve years to Ezzard Charles. Charles then reigned until Decade’s end.
The middleweights were marked by the famous Tony Zale – Rocky Graziano trilogy. Zale won the first by knockout, Graziano took the second, by knockout and Zale won the rubber match again stopping Rocky. The greatest, and I mean THE GREATEST welterweight in history took the championship in that division in 1946 and held it until he moved up to middleweight in the Fifties.
The remainder of Chapter Nine is spent on the welterweight career of the fabulous one and only Sugar Ray Robinson. Trying to figure out where to put Robinson in the Nineteen Forties, boxing pundits came up with the “pound for pound” category, and Robinson was the first to hold that title. See appendix for my rankings.
More Excerpts from this book coming soon! Stay tuned.