Three time heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and the longest reigning title holder Joe Louis are universally considered to be two of the greatest heavyweight boxers in boxing history. And from time to time I witness passionate debates in regards to which of the two really was the greater combatant.
Muhammad Ali dazzled the world with his blistering hand speed, rapid reflexes and footwork that often made him look as if he was walking on water in the ring throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. His charismatic personality, which was inspired by watching wrestler George Wagner in his early years, was a perfect compliment to all the physical tools he had to overcome most of his adversaries. Add to all of that, that “The Greatest” was willing to face anybody and did so including the likes of George Foreman, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton. There is no doubt that Ali is a solid pick as being the best heavyweight boxer of all time.
Joe Louis, also known as the “Brown Bomber,” amassed 66 wins in a 69 fight career. He collected 52 KO’s along the way and still holds the record for being the longest reigning heavyweight champion ever after making 25 consecutive title defenses from 1937 to 1949 which all started with a spectacular knockout over James Braddock in the 8th round in a scheduled 15 round contest. His level of competition has been criticised as being a little too easy. So easy in fact that even back then the public labelled Louis’ reign as “Bum of the Month.” However, it should be known that the 6’2 heavyweight avenged an earlier defeat to Max Schmeling in a single round as well as taking on the highly regarded light-heavyweight champion Billy Conn who gave Joe one of the toughest fights of his career. Louis wasn’t afraid to head out of his comfort zone if he needed to. Displaying a concrete like jab, always stalking his opponents and paying particular attention to the body to bring down their arms to deliver the finisher upstairs Joe was a formidable force regardless of the quality of his era.
Although it is subjective what I am about to write, I have to say that Joe Louis’ fighting technique and approach is the more attractive in comparison to Ali’s. But like with Mike Tyson, just because he may have been the more exciting to watch does not necessarily mean that improves his legacy. Although it is always obviously better to look alluring. Guillermo Rigondeaux, one of the best amateur boxers of all time, has trouble gaining a wider audience than he actually does. But that should not diminish his own achievements.
In the end, it is all about facts and what is held on record. Muhammad Ali, although he was fortunate to campaign in a rich period of time, fought vastly better competition and gathered various types of records that few other heavyweight boxers have been able to equal or surpass. There are other reasons, but that is just a small portion as to why people elect him as the “Greatest of all time.”
For me, Joe Louis sits close by in solid second place. And there is nothing wrong with that.