Joe Louis vs. Lou Nova

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Challenger rankings
Last Rankings Min. 2 Mth Old
NBA 1 27.06.1941
Next-To-Last Rankings Min. 3 Mth Old
NBA 3 24.03.1941
Louis hits Nova with a right.

Joe Louis 202 lbs beat Lou Nova 203 lbs by TKO at 2:59 in round 6 of 15


  • There were 56,549 paying fans.
  • The gross gate was $583,771.
  • Louis received 47½ percent of the net gate, and Nova got 17½ percent.
  • The day after the fight, distributors viewed the bout on film and decided not to show it in theaters. They thought it was too dull. [1]
  • Nat Fleischer wrote that Nova didn't win a round and took a terrible beating in the sixth round. (The Ring, December 1941, page 4)
  • On October 7, the New York State Athletic Commission suspended Ray Carlin, Nova's manager, and Ray Arcel, Nova's trainer, for instructing the challenger to hold back early and box a defensive battle against Louis. Carlin was suspended for six months and Arcel for sixty days. They were also reprimanded for refusing to heed the referee's warning to stop using grease on Nova. [2]

Joe Louis Retains Title By Flooring Lou Nova In Sixth
By Gayle Talbot, Associated Press, September 30, 1941

If Joe Louis has fought his last fight, then the world can say goodbye to a fighting man the likes of which it may never see again.

The right that Joe laid on Lou Nova's jaw in the sixth round last night at the Polo Grounds, knocking the big Californian flat and preparing him for the technical knockout that came a moment later, was the sort of picture punch that a fight fan might wait a lifetime to see.

The big negro, now awaiting his call into the Army, may never again deliver a single blow with the precision and power of the one that paralyzed Nova's senses and shocked a great crowd of almost 60,000 that had been slowly warming up to what it thought was a fairly even contest.

A year of absence from the heat of championship fighting might rob Louis of the perfect sense of timing and the deadly kick that went into that one climactic blow. If that happens, then it will be something to remember.

Nova was close to the ropes, near his own corner, boxing confidently and well, waiting for Joe to give him an opening. Louis, his face impassive as ever, was shuffling about and getting nowhere, apparently. The crowd had been doing some booing, and the champion's most ardent followers were wailing that "he never looked like that before."

Then suddenly, and simply, it happened.

Louis feinted with his left and threw all of his 202 pounds behind his right. It struck the powerful Nova flush on the jaw and he dropped as though he had collided with a boxcar. It was such a terrific blow as to make what happened before and afterward in the fight seem scarcely worth the telling.

Though terribly hurt, Nova managed to gain his feet at the count of nine and to stagger into a barrage of blows. He shuddered under the impact of twenty or thirty cruel shots to his head and body as he sagged and floundered three-quarters of the way around the ring before Referee Arthur Donovan stopped it, just at the bell. But that one punch had ruined him.

"I just forgot to duck," said Nova, almost cheerfully, after the wobble came out of his legs and he reached the dressing room. "Joe's the hardest hitter I ever fought. I saw the punch coming all the way, but I couldn't get out of range. It must have been a beauty."

Ray Carlen, Nova's manager, was bitter because Donovan had stopped the bout with only a second remaining of the sixth round. He argued with seeming logic, that Lou should have been given the minute rest period to see if he could come out and fight. But Nova refused to join him in his beef.

"Maybe I could have taken care of myself if I had had a rest," he said, "but I've got no complaint about Donovan. He can referee all my fights."

As a matter of plain fact, a rest wouldn't have done Nova a particle of good and would have earned him only a worse beating than he got. A full two minutes after the bout ended Nova got to his feet and made his way out to the center of the ring, and his knees still were wobbling and his face still was a blank.

As it was, the worst the challenger had to show for the fight was a slight cut on the bridge of his nose and a shattered dream. He really thought he could whip Louis and he gave it a good, brave try. He learned differently, and took it very well. [3]