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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Boxing loses two of greatest eight years apart
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

April 12, 1981/1989

Former heavyweight champ Joe Louis, who has spent his last four years in a wheelchair, dies of a heart attack at age 66 in Las Vegas.

Louis had been a well-liked champion. When someone called Louis "a credit to his race," sportswriter Jimmy Cannon responded, "Yes, Louis is a credit to his race -- the human race."

He also was a credit to boxing. His championship reign, from 1937 until he retired in 1949, is the longest of any title-holder in any division. With his powerful left jab, his destructive two-fisted attack that he released with accuracy at short range, and his capacity for finishing a wounded opponent, Louis defeated all 25 of his challengers, another record.

Louis will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery at the request of President Ronald Reagan.

April 12, 1989:

Exactly eight years to the day later, another beloved former champion dies. Sugar Ray Robinson, suffering from Alzheimer's disease and diabetes, dies at age 67 in Culver City, Cal.

Robinson's skills, resiliency and longevity in the ring were legendary. He was 85-0 as an amateur and then won his first 40 fights as a pro before losing to Jake LaMotta, whom he defeated in their five other bouts. Robinson, who was born Walker Smith, Jr., was welterweight champ in the late forties and middleweight champ for a record five times in the fifties.

Many considered the sweet fighting Sugar Ray to be, pound-for-pound, the greatest fighter ever.

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