When Joe Louis (19141981) knocked out the German boxer Max Schmeling in 1938 in two minutes and four seconds, the entire nationblack and whitecelebrated the “fight of the century” as a victory of the United States against the ominous tide of Nazism. Never had an African-American received such universal praise across racial lines. Heavyweight champion for a record twelve years from 1937 to 1949, Louis opened the doors for such future black athletes as Jackie Robinson, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali.Joe Louis depicts the prizefighter’s life, and the times in which he lived, from his childhood in a sharecropper’s cabin in Alabama and his formative years in Detroit, to his legendary career, his service in the Army, his stint as a professional wrestler after retiring from boxing in 1951, and his professional demise as an official greeter for a Las Vegas casino. Along the way, Richard Bak compassionately, yet evenhandedly, details Louis’s private vices: incessant womanizing, reckless spending habits, massive debts to the IRS, and drug abuse. Filled with over one hundred photographs, including twenty-two in color, Joe Louis is the most comprehensive portrait yet written of one of the greatest African-American heroes who used his fists figurativelyand literallyto fight racism.