Joe Louis’ Finest Boxer

By Clarence George on July 19, 2014
Joe Louis’ Finest Boxer
Blackburn said, "Conn makes more mistakes in a minute than Ramage did in a whole fight."

Lee Ramage fought from 1929 to 1939, racking up a record of 49 wins, 23 by knockout, 14 losses, and nine draws…

“Joe always would introduce me the same way – as the finest boxer he ever met.”—Lee Ramage

Lee Ramage died age 80 on July 19, 1991. Twenty-three years ago to the day. I suspect he was forgotten long before then. But he shouldn’t have been, not the man of whom the great Joe Louis said, “It tickles me to hear everybody rave about how good Billy Conn can box. Conn is smart in a funny sort of way, but nobody I ever saw or fought could box like that Ramage, not when he boxed me, anyway. The first time I fought him, I didn’t hit him once for five rounds. He looked like he was trying to see just how close he could make me miss. And what a left! He didn’t block punches like Conn does; just moved his head a little bit when I’d punch at him, and pop! I’d get hit with another left. I saw him box some other fellows out in Chicago, and he’s one boy I love to watch box. I don’t know how he did it.”

Ramage fought from 1929 to 1939, racking up a record of 49 wins, 23 by knockout, 14 losses, and nine draws. Some of his opponents are better known than others, but we’re talking about the 1930s over here, so they were all tough: Ace Hudkins, Steve Hamas (four times), Tuffy Griffiths, Babe Hunt, Tony Shucco, Unknown Winston, Art Lasky, King Levinsky (three times), Maxie Rosenbloom (four times), Tony Cancela, Frank Rowsey (managed by Johnny Weissmuller!), Leo Lomski, Sonny Boy Walker, Lou Nova (twice), Bob Pastor, and…Joe Louis, whom he fought twice.

Lee lost to “The Brown Bomber” by eighth-round TKO at Chicago Stadium on December 14, 1934, and by second-round TKO at Wrigley Field on February 21, 1935.

The man of whom Louis’ trainer, Jack “Chappie” Blackburn, said, “Conn makes more mistakes in a minute than Ramage did in a whole fight,” always said that Joe “was a real nice guy.”

That makes two of ‘em.

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  1. Clarence George 07:31pm, 07/20/2014

    Thank you, Beaujack, and excellent post, per uje.

    A Conn-Ramage fight might have been interesting, to say the least.  I’d put my money on Conn, but Ramage did very well against the great light heavy, Maxie Rosenbloom, winning two out of four (with one loss and one draw).

    I share your admiration for Conn, one of the best light heavies of all time, I think. 

    As for the best fighter to come out of Pittsburgh…you’re referring to Harry Greb, of course.

  2. beaujack 06:31pm, 07/20/2014

    Excellent article Clarence. It is hard to compare fighters as Lee Ramage and the charismatic Billy Conn, but based on the fact that Bob Pastor tko’d Lee Ramage in 1938 and Billy Conn ko’d Bob Pastor in 1940, I take the irrepressible Billy Conn as the better fighter of the two…Billy was the second best boxer Pittsburgh ever produced, and one of the greatest light heavyweights of the modern era…

  3. Clarence George 02:20pm, 07/20/2014

    Delighted you liked it, Tex.  And your assessment may very well be on target, with all deference to the opinion expressed by Louis and Blackburn.

  4. Tex Hassler 02:02pm, 07/20/2014

    No doubt in my mind that Conn was far better than Ramage. Ramage was far better than most give him credit for. Great article.

  5. Clarence George 02:49am, 07/20/2014

    Good research, Nicolas.  Yes, it does remind one of Marciano, doesn’t it?  Especially what he did to LaStarza.  Nothing illegal about it, just the appropriate amount of tenderizin’ from massively powerful and skilled hitters.

    Worthwhile noting, I think, that Louis was just beginning to make a name for himself when he faced Ramage (after all, he only had his first pro fight five months earlier).  In fact, Ramage was favored to win.  And Ramage was indeed winning…until that eighth round.  Yes, I think Louis’, as well as Blackburn’s, respect for Ramage was deservedly sincere.

    The love-hate relationship between Ali and Frazier is because of (rather than in spite of) both men knowing that each was the other’s most formidable opponent.  They brought out the best in each other inside the ring.  I won’t say that Frazier brought out the worst in Ali outside the ring…Ali did that all on his own.

  6. nicolas 10:58pm, 07/19/2014

    I just read a short passage that Louis was told by Blackburn to hit Rmage’s arms, and that is how he was finally able to get to Ramgage, just like some have said that Marciano did.

  7. nicolas 10:46pm, 07/19/2014

    CLARENCE: He did somewhat sing Fraziers praises. As Joe however said after the fight, instead of telling his son Marvis, he should have gone directly to Joe. After the fight, he said in the ringside interview that Joe was the best fighter around, next to him. I think however it was in the interview in the late 80’s, when they finally showed the fight as broadcast by Dunphy, Lancaster and Moore, that Ali in the interview really sang Joe’s praises. I also would like to know Clarence, how did Joe Louis hurt Ramages upper arm, I have never heard that. Was it something illegal?

  8. Clarence George 12:43pm, 07/19/2014

    By the way, Ramage didn’t get back in the ring for more than a year after his second loss to Louis…I think Louis did hurt that arm, and badly, in the first bout.

  9. Clarence George 12:32pm, 07/19/2014

    You’re right, Nicolas.  Louis, I hear, put a bad hurt on Ramage’s upper left arm in the first fight.  Ramage did so well in the first seven rounds of that bout, and so poorly two months later, that it’s safe to conclude that he just wasn’t ready to get back into the ring, especially not against Louis.

    Didn’t Ali sing Frazier’s praises after their third go-round?  But, then, how could he not?

  10. nicolas 12:15pm, 07/19/2014

    Interestingly the fight we are shown here took place just two months after their first fight. It maybe that before his winning the title, the first fight was Louis’s toughest win. Louis did stop Ramage in the 8th round, after Ramage’s corner through in the towel after the forth knockdown of that round. One wonders if two months after the first fight might have contributed to this early KO of Ramage in the second fight. Interesting comment about fighters ego thing. Ali seemed to have high praise for Henry Cooper, saying how the punch could be felt by his ancestors in Africa, and how fast Cooper was. Only in the late 80’s, if I am correct did Ali really say what a fighter Joe Frazier was, anyhow he felt Frazier really tested his limits as a fighter.

  11. Clarence George 08:32am, 07/19/2014

    Another cynic.

    You may be at least partly right, Eric, but Louis was renowned for how graciously he spoke of (and to) his former opponents.  And it was, I think, a graciousness grounded in a genuine assessment of their strengths.

    I’m glad you find my articles pithy, Irish, and that they please you.

  12. Clarence George 08:25am, 07/19/2014

    Cynic!

    What I appreciate most about Louis’ graciousness and compliments, Irish, is that they weren’t cookie-cutter.  Regarding Clarence Burman, for instance, Louis said, “That was the only man I’ve faced lately, except Tony Galento, who really tried to fight.  He was a pretty tough guy, and took a good punch on the head.”  For Ramage, it was his boxing skills, which were far more evident in their first fight.  Also, Blackburn was of the same opinion.  Was Ramage really Conn’s superior?  Now, I wouldn’t say that…but Louis did.

  13. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:16am, 07/19/2014

    Clarence George-Pithy!....that’s it….your articles are pithy…..I like pithy!

  14. Eric 08:14am, 07/19/2014

    Irish…Exactly. Nearly all the fighters that beat Shavers claim Earnie had the hardest punch out there. My brother talked to Ron Stander and Stander claimed Earnie punched harder than Frazier. Lyle, claims Earnie punched harder than Foreman. Bob Foster stated that Roger Rouse hit him harder than anyone, even Ali and Frazier. Definitely has to be an ego thing.

  15. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:32am, 07/19/2014

    Clarence George-Looks to me like Ramage needed to do more blocking as Conn did….always tickles me when fighters have high praise for opponents that they destroy and faint if any praise for those that give them real trouble as Billy did in the first go round with Joe.

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