Joe Louis was the most powerful and fastest punching heavyweight boxer in ring history. His great hand speed, especially in combination, was awesome to behold. He had a powerful jab, threw every punch perfectly and with wasteless accuracy. His right cross, thrown short and straight, was sheer dynamite. The "Brown Bomber" never ducked anyone as his record 25 title defenses attests to. Of those 25 successful defenses, 21 were won by knockout, 17 of those were ten counts! 5 in the first round! He also knocked out six men who held the Heavyweight Championship of the World. From 1934 to 1949, when he first retired as champion, his record was 60-1 with 51 knockouts. He held the Heavyweight Championship for a record of nearly 12 years.
Louis had the perfect physique for a fighter with long, smooth muscles which gave him great speed and reflexes. Though overlaid with racism, one of the top sportswriters of the 30's, Grantland Rice, described Louis as a "brown cobra" and referred to his "blinding speed" as the "speed of the jungle" and the "instinctive speed of the wild" . Rice (In Mead, Sports Illustrated Sept. 16, 1985) also compared Louis to a "black panther stalking his prey" . His speed and power was explosive. Louis was a rare heavyweight who could throw a triple left hook with power as he did against Max Baer. In terms of hand speed, Louis, in his prime, ranks with the best in the division including Muhammad Ali.
Alan Clevens wrote, (Louis 1914-1981 p 4) "For a day or two after Joe Louis died, the TV networks flooded the airwaves with clips of Joe's fights. A young friend of mine who thought Larry Holmes was the last word marvelled, "I never saw anybody with hands that fast. God his hands were even faster than...than.."
"Go ahead and say it" he told him.
"Sure they were young man. Nobody in history had an offense like Louis. One punch was all Joe needed, but he never threw them one at a time. When Joe had an opponent hurt, veteran Louis watchers reached for their hats. He was the greatest "finisher" that ever lived! Joe shuffled forward, always the predator, behind a swift and powerful jab. And then the fireworks! Left hooks, the deadliest right hand ever seen, uppercuts...all thrown in deadly combinations."
As a puncher Louis had everything. When Joe first appeared on the scene he was hailed as (See Durant p. 99), "A ring rarity. A boxer-puncher with the fastest pair of hands and the hardest punch ever seen." He is without doubt the greatest combination puncher to ever lace on the gloves. No one could put their punches together as beautifully as did Louis. He threw every punch in the book with text book perfection, the jab, the hook, the cross, and the uppercut. He placed his punches accurately to vital points; the heart, the liver, behind the ear, under the floating rib, and to the chin. His punches were short, often travelling only inches, yet they landed with jolting power. In this extremely important category of punching efficiency Louis has no peer.
Louis was an extremley accurate puncher who wasted no motion and never threw a wild punch in his life. Detloff (2004) agrees saying , "All the blows in Joe Louis arsenal were so perfectly and precisely thrown every time that you get the sense watching him that he couldn't have been wild or sloppy if he tried."
Ring historian Gilbert Odd wrote, (The Great Champions, p 40), "Louis jab would snap a man's head back with sickening monotony until he wavered under the steady punishment, then he was speedily finished off with swift and accurate hooks from both hands, or a finely timed right cross that carried such knockdown force that few who took it could survive. Louis was ice cold in action, rarely wasted a punch and had an uncanny way of anticipating and avoiding a blow by the merest move of the head."
Nat Fleischer writing in the April 1939 Ring Magazine said, "He sails in, crashes his blows to the body and head, gives the opposition little chance to get set for a counter-attack and wards off blows with the cleverness of a Jack Johnson. Only Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey compare to Joe Louis of today in all around ability...No human body can take the punishment that Jolting Joe dishes out once he goes after his prey. That has been proved conclusively in his last few contests."
Fleischer wrote, Mar. 1942 Ring Magazine, after Louis' destruction of the 6'5" 250 pound Buddy Baer, that, "Not even in the second fight with Max Schmeling did the Detroit Destroyer show as much as he did against Buddy. Joe had everything. He was magnificent. He was a whirlwind on attack, a master of defense, a terror with his devastating punches."
Jimmy Braddock commenting on Louis power said, (McCallum, 46), "Nobody hits like Louis. A punch is a punch. But that Louis. Take the first jab he nails you. You know what it's like? It's like someone jammed a electric bulb in your face and busted it." When asked about his right hand, he said, "It ain't like a punch. It's like someone nailed you with a crowbar. I thought half my head was blowed off. I figured he caved it in. After he hit me I couldnt even feel if it was there."
Eddie Futch, who knew Joe Louis and trained with him at Brewster's gym, described Louis power (Anderson pp.231-232), "Joe's punches could paralyze you...Anywhere he hit you, you'd feel it. Even if he didn't hit you much, just blocking those shots was like being in an automobile accident."
Emmanuel Steward after studying film of Louis-Schemling 2 concurred about Louis paralyzing power, making the following observation, (Pacheco, 45), "Louis body punches were unbelievable. After Max had been immobolized by a right to the kidney, he took a left hook to the solar plexus which paralyzed him. Even though Max was hurt and wanted to fall down, he couldn't even fall."
The June 23, 1938 NY Times quoted Schmeling as saying he was hit with a kidney punch, a devastating right, which so shocked his nervous system, that he was "dazed" and his "vision was blurred." He was hit so hard to the body he lost his sight for a few seconds.
Ray Arcel, one of the greatest trainers in history who trained champions such as Barney Ross, Tony Zale, Roberto Duran, and Larry Holmes, also worked against Louis in 14 of his fights said (Anderson p. 120), "Louis once drove Paulino Uzcudin's teeth right through his mouthpiece!" That's how hard Joe Louis could hit!
Louis had a certain range he liked to work in. A slippery opponent with good footwork who stayed outside Louis punching radius could give him some problems. Louis style was made for a long fight. Given enough rounds he could eventually break down any opponent. Billy Conn boxed beautifully, the best fight of his career, but one only need to make one mistake against Louis and it was over. Louis eventually caught him and knocked him out in the thirteenth round. "They can run but they can't hide" Louis was fond of saying.
Joe said he learned real early in his career to keep his mouth shut and his ears open. His willingness to learn and listen to the advice of his trainer Jack Blackburn (once a great lightweight with over 150 pro fights) allowed him to carry out Jack's fight plans to perfection. In his 2nd title defense against Nathan Mann, Joe was instructed between rounds to "set him up with the right uppercut and deliver the knockout drops with the left hook". Louis executed flawlessly producing an early knockout victory.