By Joe Koizumi
Today (November 18) is the sixty-ninth anniversary of “Brown Bomber” Joe Louis coming to show an exhibition in Japan in 1951. It was just less than a month after the former world heavyweight champ Louis fought his last fight and was knocked out of the ropes by Rocky Marciano at the Madison Square Garden on October 26. The referee Ruby Goldstein called a halt without taking a count to save the 37-yer-old loser but still hero.
It was Torii Oasis Shriners Club and the Press Yomiuri in association with the USO (United Service Organization that provided the US military people with various entertainments from the US mainland) that organized this historic event. On November 18, 1951, the curtain-raiser started with a 45-minute professional wrestling game of Bobby Bruns and Gino Red Vagnone, both of US at 1 PM. Rikidozan, a future wrestling star here, wrestled to a draw with Ovila Asselin, Canada.
At 3:28 PM, Joe Louis appeared with a while robe into the ring before some 10,000 enthusiastic spectators at the Korakuen Stadium. The Brown Bomber was gifted a bunch of flowers in the ring, where Joe, with sixteen-ounce gloves, picked up a fallen carnation on the canvas and pocketed it into his robe.
Louis reportedly weighed in at 230 pounds, and engaged in a six-round exhibition with as many US amateur military boxers.
First round: Louis easily knocked out a 200-pounder named Polite with a heavy left hook.
Second round: Lee Charles barely survived a round as he kept running away rather than exchanging punches with the Brown Bomber.
Third round: Jim Hickey, a white 200-pounder, surrendered during a round.
Fourth round: Guy Holder (or Gee Holdra) lasted a round as Louis smilingly had him freely punch and looked to be content to block them all.
Fifth round: Nat Gray fought well, and Louis responded with sharper and heavier punches than in the previous sessions.
Sixth and final round: Alan Williams, South Sea heavyweight champ (amateur), hit the deck in agony with Joe’s solid left hook to the belly.
The late dean of our boxing journalism and author of “Boxing for One Hundred Years” (in Japanese), Nobuo Gunji wrote, “Since his exhibition partners were all amateur boxers, we couldn’t see how really strong Joe Louis was. But his tight guard, defensive skills and smooth footwork proved he must be a great world heavyweight champion for such a long time.”
The schedule of his brief stay in Japan was as follows:
November 14, arrive at the Haneda airport in Tokyo
November 15, conference with the Japanese press
November 16, visit the US military hospital
November 17, call on Tokyo governor Seiichiro Yasui
November 18, participate in a six-round exhibition
November 22, appear in an event in Sendai city
November 25, another exhibition at the Osaka Stadium
Louis departed from Tokyo early in December.
Joe Louis (66-3, 52 KOs) might greatly enjoy his holidays in Japan for some weeks as he was very warmly welcomed anywhere he visited.
This article largely depends on Mr. Gunji’s aforementioned laborious work.