Jesse Marinoff Reyes:
December, 1947 issue
Illustration: Stanley Weston
Happy Birthday to the “Brown Bomber,” Joe Louis (1914-1981)
To the “Greatest Generation” (Tom Brokaw’s sobriquet for our parents and/or grandparents who grew up with and lived through both the Great Depression and WWII) Joe Louis was the greatest heavyweight champion of all time—and nothing, even the coming of Muhammad Ali in the 1960s would change that perception. They were mostly right. Louis would hold the championship longer than any man before or since (June 22, 1937-March 1, 1949) and defend the title successfully a record 25 times (both Ali and Larry Holmes would come close at 19 and 20 defenses respectively) which remains the gold standard for the sport. Like Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in Major League baseball and Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA record of 100 points scored in a single game by a sole player in big time pro-basketball, it is a record unlikely to be broken (in the fragmented remnants of the heavyweight championship today, Wladimir Klitschko is preparing to make his 12th defense of the title this summer and has held the title for 12 years—although it has taken most of those 12 years to gather up the various pieces of the title with recognition scattered over warring sanctioning organizations).
The Ring magazine cover artist is Stanley Weston, about whom little is documented but for this bit of biography I have discussed in two prior posts:
“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.”
Weston certainly lacks the masterful illustration skills of the notable illustrators from the Golden Age of Magazines, but his work has both a degree of folk art-like charm and the familiarity and accuracy of someone well acquainted with the sport he was charged with documenting. Weston also improved over time, gaining a graphic design quality to his compositions while juxtaposing realistic portraiture and editorial cartooning in a given cover design, or balancing graphic elements and typography with illustration as well. Taken in full, Weston’s RING covers were really rather marvelous