Jesse Marinoff Reyes ( Jesse Marinoff Reyes Design, Maplewood, New Jersey)
to the “Brown Bomber,” Joe Louis (1914-1981)!
Thanks to boxing’s inability to manage itself, no one much cares anymore about who the greatest champs were, or who may have been the greatest of all, say, the greatest heavyweight champion—unless you’re really old, like me, and happen to remember when people not that much younger then one’s self were running around, frothing at the mouth about how invincible Mike Tyson was and how Muhammad Ali (!!!) could not possibly beat him (well, “ha-ha” to them, but that’s another story). To our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents (of some of you), the argument wasn’t about Tyson, or even Ali. No, Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation,” who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II were arguing with their parents over who was greater: the electrifying heavyweight champion of the roaring ’20s, the “Manassa Mauler,” Jack Dempsey, or the “Brown Bomber,” Joe Louis, then only the second African American to hold the heavyweight crown, of the pre and post WWII years.
Dempsey, champion from 1919-1926 was at his best, a savage brawler with knockout power in both fists. He fought in a defensive crouch but could explode with terrific force and overwhelm his opponent with a barrage of punches. Mike Tyson, in his youth some of you might recall, had a style patterned in this manner. Louis, champion from 1937-1949 (and still the record holder for length of tenure, and number of successful title defenses) fought in a straight up, orthodox style, plodding forward methodically, “cutting off the ring,” until he could corner his opponent; with fast hands that could deliver a knockout with either fist (he knocked-out “Two Ton” Tony Galento essentially with a straight left jab). Both were tremendous punchers and both were roughly the same size (say, without the dichotomy between the larger athletes of today and the smaller but hardier men of the past). Neither were elusive, slick boxers, so there wasn’t much chance that either would be hard to find in the ring. It is a fantasy bout that our forebears (and fight historians) love to contemplate as this issue of The Ring did in 1949, shortly before Louis retired (the first time).
Jack Dempsey: 83 fights (on record; but Dempsey fought in an era when fight records were incomplete), 66 wins (51 wins by KO), six losses, 11 draws.
Joe Louis: 70 fights, 66 wins (52 wins by KO), 3 losses, one no contest.
The Ring magazine cover artist is Stanley Weston, whom I discussed in brief a few posts ago (the Sugar Ray Robinson cover):
Cover artist Stanley Weston—a fan of The Ring since he was ten years old when his father bought him his first copy—got his start when, as a 13-year old, a neighbor asked if Weston would like a lawn-mowing job. That man was Ring editor Nat Fleischer. The old man and teenager developed a friendship through their common interest in boxing, and by 1937 Fleischer hired Weston to work at The Ring. At first, the artistic Weston’s job was to color other artist’s work (likely black and white renderings that would be mechanically colored using overlays and tint screens) but by 1939 Fleischer had Weston paint his first cover. From 1939-1951 Weston would paint 57 covers (in the ’50s, The Ring would switch to mostly all-photo or graphically-rendered photo covers for several years; illustrated covers would not make a comeback until the 1970s). Interestingly, in 1990, when The Ring was going through a transition much as the sport itself, Weston bought the magazine and became publisher for a time.
The Ring, April, 1949 issue
Illustration/design: Stanley Weston
Editor (defacto art director): Nat Fleischer