Lou Goes Cosmic, Man!

By Mike Casey on May 2, 2014
Lou Goes Cosmic, Man!
Former champion Jimmy Braddock thought Nova had discovered a “cosmetic” punch.

When word got out about Nova’s unconventional training routine, the desired effect of throwing everyone off guard worked a treat…

Now this, I promise you, is a true story. It’s pretty far out, but you’ll somehow know it’s true when I tell you it’s about Lou Nova. Back in 1941, when training for his September challenge to Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship, Lou decided on a new and funky approach to training that would mystify the media and hopefully confuse Louis into a dizzy trance.

The spearhead of Nova’s novel game plan was his “cosmic punch’”and the inspiration came courtesy of a new friend in his life known as the “Omnipotent Oom,” who apparently was a disciple of the ancient Hindu practice of yoga.

The mystical Oom had a retreat in upstate New York, where Lou would squat before him and blend Yoga maneuvers with chants about a “cosmic punch” and a “dynamic stance.” It is not known whether the Oom had any experience as a boxing trainer, manager or promoter, but almost certainly he didn’t smoke cigars, drink Scotch or swear a lot.

When word got out about Nova’s unconventional training routine, the desired effect of throwing everyone off guard worked a treat. Promoter Mike Jacobs was first disturbed and then delighted when the publicity got ticket sales rolling. Former champ Jimmy Braddock misunderstood the concept completely and thought Lou had discovered a “cosmetic” punch.

Unfortunately for Lou, Joe Louis wouldn’t be tempted down from his own special planet. He stopped Nova in six rounds at the Polo Grounds before a big crowd that waited in vain to see the challenger’s cosmic punch and dynamic stance.

Years later, Nova, who lost just nine of his 63 fights, would claim that his title challenge came too late in his career and that he was “never right” after being brutalized by Tony Galento two years previously in Philadelphia. Lou might have been right about that in more ways than one.

The much storied fight with Galento, which turned into a near slaughter, has often been described as the worst officiated big time fight in boxing history. Two Ton Tony went for it and then some, erasing Nova’s advantage in speed from the outset by repeatedly kicking him in the shins. Assisted by his ‘house referee’ George Blake (who cruelly hailed from Lou’s home state of California), Galento went through his street fighting repertoire as he thumbed, gouged, elbowed and butted Nova’s face into a bloody mess. Lou, displaying enormous courage, was finally rescued in the 14th round.

He was hospitalized for three days. Writer Jim Murray would say, “Galento should have been arrested that night for practicing surgery without a license.” Referee Blake’s shirt was soaked through with Nova’s blood all the way from the collar to the waist.

“I’d never taken a beating before,” Lou said. “I always assumed when you’re taking a bad beating, your corner stops it. Mine didn’t.” Nova never forgave his trainer Ray Arcel for allowing the bout to continue for so long.

Following his far quicker and more merciful exit against Joe Louis, Nova returned home to California with the consoling sum of $125,000. He took a fancy to a six-acre property in Van Nuys which incorporated a guest house, stables and fruit orchard.

Lou consulted an investment banker who didn’t believe that farmland in the San Fernando Valley would ever be worth a great deal. He advised Nova to invest his money in long term 3% bonds.

Lou couldn’t help but laugh at the eventual outcome. He bought the house but then lost it to Mrs. Nova in a divorce settlement in 1954. It would be another 13 years before the Summer of Love would spread its other-worldly vibes and alternative message. We wonder if Lou enjoyed it as much as we suspect he did.

Cosmic, man!

Mike Casey is a Boxing.com writer and Founder & Editor of ALL TIME BOXING at https://sites.google.com/site/alltimeboxingrankings. He is a freelance journalist and boxing historian and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO).

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Tony "Two-Ton" Galento -vs- Lou Nova 9/15/1939 (Restored Broadcast)



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  1. John A. Bardelli 09:51pm, 07/05/2014

    LOUIS, GALENTO, BAER AND NOVA—- SOME RAMBLINGS—- PART I

    by John A. Bardelli—- February 9, 2010

    Lou Nova, a 1930-40 heavyweight, developed what was reputed to be a “Cosmic Punch”—- something he learned from a one who professed to be a doctor—- who undertook to train Nova while teaching him Yoga when Nova was in New York training for the first Baer-Nova fight which took place in Yankee Stadium in 1939.

    Nova was taught that the earth generated energy—- hence, power—- which would evince through his spine when he positioned his feet in such a manner as to be harmonious with cosmic forces generated by the earth. It was a matter of learning how to plant one’s feet on the canvas as he prepared to punch—- thereby harnessing the earth’s cosmic forces ... and when that secret was mastered, no man wanted to be on the receiving end of those punches!

    After disposing of Max Baer by virtue of an 11th round knockout—- a fight watched by Joe Louis—- many thought that Nova was more than a worthy challenger to get into the ring with Joe Louis. However, it should be noted that not a single reporter wrote that Louis ran to the exits following Nova’s knockout victory over Baer.

    Overflowing with confidence, Nova’s management responded to Tony Galento’s challenge. The Nova-Galento match was made in Philadelphia, to take place on September 15, 1939, some three months after Nova had disposed of Max Baer on June 1, 1939. Since Galento had been slaughtered by a Louis onslaught on June 28, 1939, despite Louis being hurt and knocked down in the fight, Nova’s management thought that a victory over Galento would force Louis into defending the heavyweight crown against Nova.

    YouTube - Joe Louis (USA) v Tony Galento (USA) Yankee Stadium, USA PART 1 OF 2 1939

    YouTube - Joe Louis (USA) v Tony Galento (USA) Yankee Stadium, USA PART 2 OF 2 1939

    Nova’s management had to be thinking when taking on Tony Galento—- Could Galento recover from the beating Louis administered to face a youthful Lou Nova—- with or without cosmic forces—- within only a 2 1/2 month period of recovery time? Team Nova bet the farm Galento would be no match for the force that was Lou Nova thanks to the Louis administered beating and it appearing that Galento was only bidding time before being forced to hang up his gloves. Furthermore, Nova never looked better in beating Max Baer during earlier in June of 1939.

    Team Nova was lost the bet—- oh, did they ever! They should have channeled some of that cosmic mental energy.

    In a blood-bath over the course of 14 rounds, Galento literally ruined Nova—- making believers of Galento’s post-fight interview statement, following his own loss to Joe Louis—- “they should’a let me fight my own fight.” Translation: “I regret that I didn’t foul Louis.”

    Nova was fouled and hurt so badly by Galento and his nightstick, that the fight was ultimately stopped in the 14th round. Following the Galento carnage, Nova’s management openly and publicly clamored for the lifting of Galento’s license. The plea fell on deaf ears. Galento simply smiled.

    Nova returned to his home base in California to recover and, still suffering from the mugging Galento administered to him in Philadelphia by Galento, promptly fell off a horse and was injured again.

    Now it was Galento who pursued a shot with Joe Louis—- albeit a return shot—- so he could “fight my own fight.” . The way to Louis, after beating Nova so badly, was through none other than what he perceived to be a shop worn Max Baer—- and the match was made for July 2, 1940, to take place in Galento’s home state of New Jersey.

    Both Baer and Galento were at the end of their respective careers.

    Galento, in pursuit of a rematch with Louis where he could fight “my own fight,” wanted Max Baer. The match was made in Galento’s home state of New Jersey. Both Baer and Galento were at the end of their respective careers. Despite fighting his own fight with Maxie, it was Galento who could not answer the bell for the 8th round—- in yet another vicious Galento fight.

    YouTube - Max Baer vs Tony Galento - Rounds 3-5-8

    Baer would fight only twice more after demolishing Galento—- beating Pat Comiskey and then losing a second time to Lou Nova while Lou Nova—- ultimately was given the shot which he clamored for—- a title shot against Joe Louis.

  2. Mike Silver 10:11pm, 05/03/2014

    When radio was king! Listening to the broadcast was like traveling back in time. Referee Blake actually says “make a clean fight” at the introductions. And we even hear the voice of Joe Jacobs in all his glory complaining about grease on Nova’s head! Galento is an underrated heavyweight who I would make even money against Tyson. Also think he’d make both K bros. quit.

  3. Dan Cuoco 03:24pm, 05/02/2014

    Mike, it’s amazing that Nova was able to come back and be as successful as he was after the beating he took from Galento. Imagine how good he would have been if he hadn’t taken such a savage beating at that time in his career. He was a character in and out of the ring. He even showed up as a villain in the Joe Palooka TV series where he was suppose to square off with a young fighter played by Charles Bronson.

  4. The Fight Film Collector 09:17am, 05/02/2014

    Thanks Mike!  I first became aware of Nova when, as a teenager, I got the film of his first fight with Max Baer.  Lou had a great record, as you mentioned.  He was a solid standup style boxer, a good puncher, with a cool head and a very tough chin.  I do believe though that Max would have won their first fight if Max hadn’t been cut so badly.  Lou’s fight with Galento derailed a proposed earlier date with Louis, which is too bad.  Lou was much better than what he showed against Joe in 1941, a fight that was greatly anticipated, but resulted in a mismatch.  I’m not convinced that the yoga (and Hypnosis!) was much more than for publicity.  The practice is to strengthen, focus and calm the body, and open the mind.  Joe Louis didn’t need help opening and transporting the minds of men.  As a note, the Louis-Nova fight film is one of the very few of Joe’s title fights that is still officially unaccounted for and may not have survived.  Nova did have an after boxing career as a film actor who appeared in many Hollywood films from the 1940s to 1960s. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0636767/

  5. Eric 06:21am, 05/02/2014

    They say Ernie Schaaf was never the same after fighting Galento either.  Some say that the Galento fight could have contributed to Schaaf’s death also.

  6. Mike Casey 03:54am, 05/02/2014

    He was some character, Clarence, wasn’t he? But a very good fighter too. on his best nights. I was reading about that Galento brawl the other day, and Lou’s courage that night was astonishing. It was a terrible beating.

  7. Clarence George 03:50am, 05/02/2014

    Weird, man.  It was either yesterday or the day before that someone asked me whom Mike Casey would write about next.  I have no idea why, but I unhesitatingly said:  “Lou Nova.”

    Anyway, Lou should have gone with Benjamin “Evil Eye” Finkle, rather than with the Impotent Oompah.

    “The Alameda Assassin” isn’t written about as often as he should be, and this is the best piece on him since Earl Gustkey’s, which came out in 1988!

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