Joe Louis vs. Bob Pastor II

By The Fight Film Collector on August 4, 2013
Joe Louis vs. Bob Pastor II
Joe Louis was at the peak of his powers, patient, conditioned, focused and deadly accurate.

After chasing Bob Pastor for 30 minutes and getting nowhere, Joe Louis knocked out the ex-collegian from New York in 38 seconds of the 11th round…

Joe Louis vs. Bob Pastor II
Briggs Stadium, Detroit, Michigan
September 20, 1939
Film Transfer Silent, 10 Minutes

The Fight

After Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling in 1938, avenging his only pro career loss, the young heavyweight champion began an uncommonly busy schedule of fights that is unfairly referred to as the “Bum of the Month Club.” This series of title fights ran from 1939-1941 and ended when faced the giant Buddy Baer, followed by former light heavyweight champion Bill Conn. Not since Tommy Burns’ world tour of 1906-1908 had a heavyweight champion been so active. Far from unworthy, most of Louis’ opponents were nonetheless outclassed by one of the most dangerous fighting machines in boxing history. This was also the Depression Era, and few fighters could afford the topnotch trainers and support needed to prepare for such a demanding fight. Nevertheless, it has to be said that regardless of the results, Louis challengers came to fight. Once such challenger was Bob Pastor, who had gone a full 10 rounds with pre-champion Louis in 1937. The feat earned him a shot at the title in September 1939. Pastor put up a spirited defense, surviving an early beating and even staged a rally in the eighth round. But in the eleventh, Louis got down to business and knocked Pastor senseless.

The Press

The Nebraska State Journal dated September 21, 1939 wrote this about the fight:

After chasing Bob Pastor round for 30 minutes and getting nowhere, Joe Louis knocked out the ex-collegian from New York in 38 seconds of the 11th round Wednesday night to retain his world’s heavyweight championship. Louis weighed 200 pounds; Pastor 183.

After flooring Pastor four times in the first round and once in the second, Louis couldn’t do a thing with the backpedaling husky until his left shot out with sudden fury in the 11th. Pastor dropped, managed to raise himself to his knees, but could not get to his feet before Referee Sam Hennessy counted the full ten.

A crowd estimated at 40,000 contributed to a gross gate of around $400,000 to see Louis successfully defend the title for the eighth time since he won it from Jim Braddock in 1937.

The Film

According to the New York Times, the bout was filmed by Hollywood producer Jack Dietz using two cameras. Though I have never seen the original footage, the prints I have seen, including this one, are badly overexposed. Both Louis and Pastor appear chalky and blown out against the background. Like other fight films of the day, the movie was shown in theaters where it was a successful attraction.

The Restoration

Despite the exposure, the film still has plenty of detail. I was able to adjust the contrast, and remove much of the flaring. This increased the clarity, and correcting the film speed made the fight easier to follow. Not yet 30 years old, Louis was at the peak of his powers. He’s patient, conditioned, focused and deadly accurate with his punches. How Pastor survived the first round I’ll never know.

The Fight Film Collector is a producer and film archivist who has been collecting boxing films for nearly 40 years. He has consulted for Sports Illustrated, provided footage to ESPN and recovered films for the families of retired boxers. He is passionate about the sport of boxing and its history. His blog is He can reached at rotoscope66 at

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Joe Louis vs Bob Pastor II 1939 (Film Transfer)

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  1. RICHARD DODGE 04:40pm, 10/14/2017


  2. Dawud Bryant 06:58am, 08/11/2013

    For anyone who wants to see a longer video of the fight look here, its 27 minutes long.

  3. Ted 05:11pm, 08/04/2013

    Right you are, Magoon.

  4. Magoon 04:54pm, 08/04/2013

    I’ve thought of another recent Jewish heavyweight, Ted: Roman Greenberg. But he hasn’t fought for years.

  5. Ted 03:31pm, 08/04/2013

    Magoon , Dana Rosenblatt was pretty good, and we have Yuri Foreman and Salita and the guy who fights out of Philly, but as for heavyweights, the last one I remember was the Hebrew Hammer—Tim Pulller—who got hammered by Tim Witherspoon. He did beat James Tillis, however.

    Very few Jewish fighters from or in the US

  6. Clarence George 02:16pm, 08/04/2013

    Magoon:  Some debate as to whether Max and Buddy were Jews, though they certainly had Jewish blood.  But your point is well taken.  Think of guys like Barney Ross, Benny Leonard, Bummy Davis.  And let’s not forget Abe Attell and his subtle nickname—“The Little Hebrew.”

  7. Magoon 02:03pm, 08/04/2013

    The Bomber fought a lot of Jewish heavyweights, didn’t he? Pastor, Simon, the Baers. You don’t have any Jewish heavyweights today, and not too many Jewish boxers at all. That’s a big change in the sport’s makeup, come to think of it.

  8. George Thomas Clark 12:00pm, 08/04/2013

    Pastor had a helluva chin - only Louis and Billy Conn knocked him out - but I wish they’d had the 3 knockdown rule.  This fight was decided in the first round when Pastor hit the deck four times.

  9. Clarence George 03:33am, 08/04/2013

    Nice restoration, FFC.  And I’m rather glad there’s no sound.  It can spice things up, yes, but it often proves distracting.  When you think about it, commentary is an anachronism; a throwback to the days of radio.

    And my heart is gladdened by what you say about Louis’ “bums,” who were anything but.  You correctly observe that “Far from unworthy, most of Louis’ opponents were nonetheless outclassed by one of the most dangerous fighting machines in boxing history.”  Louis was, and is, in a league of his own.