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Joe Louis is 50

May 13, 1964 - Joe Louis was 50 years old today.

The occasion was noted in a hotel room at the Americana where a coterie of admirers gathered to talk about and with the champion.

The former heavyweight titleholder said he mostly played golf these days (his handicap is 5); that he weighed 235, which is 20 pounds more than scale weight for his last fight 13 years ago; that Sonny Liston was the best fighter in the world today and would win the title back; and that the IRS was still in pursuit of Joe for income tax payments.

Louis, a man of great dignity who lacks enemies, looked fit and happy. The party pleased him. There were fighters around, Skeeter McClure and José Torres, who go at it in the Garden Friday night; Emile Griffith, the welterweight champion; and Rocky Graziano.

Joe was 21 the year he beat Primo Carnera and New York took notice. That was June 25, 1935. Next year brought the night they cried in Harlem, the night Joe was knocked out by Max Schmeling. Louis always called him “Smelling.”

In 1937, at 23, Joe became champion, and he was 24 when he knocked out Schmeling in the first round; 27 when he fought Billy Conn for the first time; 28 when he went into the Army; 32 at the second Conn bout; 23 when he retired the first time; and 37 when Rocky Marciano knocked him out in his last bout, Oct. 26, 1951. It was reported that Marciano cried in his dressing room after having vanquished his hero.

Between 1934 and 1951, the Negro athlete made great strides in this country. Irwin Rosee, a press agent who was the host today, believes his old friend Louis led the way. “He was such a great champion,” said Rosee, “he came to be accepted and helped the others.”

Louis was often referred to as “a credit to his race.” Rosee said, “Today, no sportswriter would ever think of using a phrase like that.”

Louis has been more philosophical than militant. Today, he said he had no special desire “to change anything.” Rosee remembered the time in 1946 when Louis was told Jackie Robinson had signed the first organized baseball contract offered to a Negro. Joe’s only comment was, “What took them so long?”

Louis lives in Los Angeles. His third wife, Martha, is a lawyer there. The Louis occupation is “golfer,” and Joe becomes vague when finances are discussed. He was asked recently by a baldish questioner when he thought his tax troubles with the IRS would end. “When you grow hair back on your head,” was the reply.

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