Joe Louis

Joe Louis was the first African-American athlete to receive crossover appeal in mainstream America, earning reverence from black and white people alike. His astounding wins as a heavyweight champion got him the name “The Brown Bomber,” a man who, no matter what a boxing match or life threw at him, always rebounded. He even famously overcame his only boxing defeat with German fighter Max Schmeling in a much-publicized 1938 rematch. To many Americans, this rematch represented the United States overcoming Nazi Germany.

Growing up in poverty, Louis started training at around 10 years old. Though he was the top boxing champion from 1937 to his 1949 retirement, Louis maintained his characteristic integrity, which instilled dignity in a sport long riddled with brutal violence and gambling.

Joe Louis is found in...

10 Athletes That Changed Sports History
( 10 items )
Item Position (rank): 9