September 24, 1935 is a significant date in boxing history as well as Black history. On this date, “The Brown Bomber” Joe Louis would headline a main event in his 22nd bout. His fight would be against Max Baer, the former World Heavyweight Champion.
Joe Louis vs. Max Baer
Heading into the fight, Louis was on a 21-bout winning streak and viewed as one of the top heavyweight boxing contenders in the world. Unfortunately, his title opportunity was almost two years away. Louis’ last two wins were against a high caliber former champion in Primo Carnera and a major draw in King Lewinsky. Both bouts ended in convincing TKOs.
Meanwhile, the former World Heavyweight Champion, Baer was heading into the fight 41-8. His eighth loss was delivered by James Braddock in a failed defense of the World title. A win over someone with so much momentum such as Joe Louis would do wonders to get him back on the road towards the World title. Baer’s last two victories also came in the form of knockouts against Carnera and Lewinsky.
This match made history for being the first boxing event with a Black main eventer to draw $1 million at the gate. Contributing to this was that Louis was likable, charismatic, and a legit skilled boxer while Baer was a skilled boxer, also likable and a former champion.
While the match–a fourth-round knockout victory for the “Brown Bomber”–showed Joe Louis could be a major draw, promoters were wary of putting him clearly in the title picture. This is because of the Galveston Giant.
Jack Johnson proved wildly unpopular with White crowds who mainly turned out to see him finally lose the World Heavyweight title. In professional wrestling parlance, Jack Johnson was a “heel” or bad guy to White crowds of the time.
When Joe Louis would get his title shot it would be against the man who took the belt Max Baer, “The Cinderella Man” James Braddock in the summer of 1937.
-Joe Louis vs. Max Baer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anD_vosHws0