1948-06-25 Joe Louis w co 11 (15) Jersey Joe Walcott, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD
1948-06-25 Joe Louis w co 11 (15) Jersey Joe Walcott, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC, New York, USA - WORLD. Referee: Frank Fullam. In what had been a boring contest, at the end of the tenth the two judges had Walcott (194¾) in front by 5-4 and 6-3 respectively, while the referee had it as 5-2 for Louis (213½). The opening two rounds saw little action before Louis was dropped in the third from a right to the face. More embarrassed than hurt, Louis got to his feet immediately. Again, in the fifth, Louis was hurt by a right hand to the jaw, but for the next few sessions the champion generally found a defence for such punches by ducking under them. However, by the end of the ninth Walcott was getting bolder, coming on to shake Louis up with heavy rights to the head, and in the tenth he served up more of the same. Louis, who was looking flustered and bothered in the tenth, suddenly turned loose in the 11th having been told that Walcott was tiring, and within half a minute he undid all that had gone before. Unleashing a tremendous attack after Walcott had gone for him, Louis became the clinical fighter of previous years when finding the punches to win the fight by a kayo with just four seconds of the session remaining. It had been a massive turnaround, and before collapsing to the floor to be counted out Walcott had been hit with every conceivable blow Louis could muster.
With Louis having made a record 25 successful defences and pondering retirement, the NBA decided to set up eliminating contests between Ezzard Charles v Jimmy Bivins and Walcott v Gus Lesnevich, the recently deposed light heavyweight champion. While Charles outpointed Bivins over ten rounds at the Griffith Stadium, Washington DC on 13 September 1948, with there being no takers for the other prospective contest Walcott remained inactive.
Another eliminating contest put together by the NYSAC saw Charles stop Joe Baksi in the 11th of a 15-rounder at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC on 10 December 1948. At that moment it was still unclear as to what Louis intended, but on the same day of another NBA eliminator, which saw Charles defeat Joey Maxim (w pts 15 at The Gardens, Cincinnati, Ohio on 28 February 1949), Louis signified that he was retiring as the undefeated champion. Having made the announcement through the auspices of the NBA Louis upset the men at the NYSAC, and when the NBA matched the foremost two challengers, Walcott and Charles, to decide the title in Cincinnati it would go ahead without their backing.
As the NYSAC felt the championship should only be decided after a series of eliminators they were prepared to keep their options open. Meanwhile, Louis became the matchmaker of the recently formed IBC, who would be promoting in Madison Square Garden, while the British, angry that the European champion, Bruce Woodcock, did not figure in America’s plans, matched him against the future world light heavyweight champion, Freddie Mills, to decide who would take on the highly-ranked Lee Savold for the BBBoC version of the title. On 2 June 1949, Woodcock, defending his British, British Empire and European titles, duly knocked Mills out in the 14th round of their battle at the White City Stadium, Shepherds Bush, London, before being signed up to meet Savold the following year.
Savold had been a pro since 1933 with an in-and-out record, but had won and lost against Baksi prior to being disqualified in the fourth round of contest against Woodcock at The Arena, Harringay, London on 6 December 1948. Despite being beaten by Phil Muscato (twice) and Fitzie Fitzpatrick in his previous nine contests, Savold had victories over Ford Smith, Maurice Strickland, Eddie Simms, Solly Krieger, Lou Brooks, Buddy Knox, Lou Nova, Bill Poland, Tony Musto, Johnny Flynn, Nate Bolden, Lem Franklin, Eddie Blunt and Gus Dorazio, and had 70 inside-the-distance wins to his credit.