Joe Louis DQ Win Over Buddy Baer This Day May 23, 1941 and retains his heavyweight crown
- Joe Louis 201¾ lbs
- Buddy Baer 237½ lbs
- DQ in round 7 of 15
- Location: Griffith Stadium, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
- Referee: Arthur Donovan
- Judge: Jimmy Sullivan
- Judge: John Trigg
This was the first World Heavyweight Championship bout ever held in Washington, DC.
Louis was a 10-1 betting favorite.
A crowd of 23,912 produced a gross gate of $105,183.
Louis’ purse was $34,616, and Baer’s was $12,981.
It rained the day of the fight, and many thought the bout would be postponed by promoter Mike Jacobs. Ordinarily, Jacobs would have announced a postponement early in the morning. But the Washington Senators baseball team was coming back to town, and Griffith Stadium wouldn’t be available for the next few days. Luckily for Jacobs, the weather cleared up early that evening. According to Louis biographer Chris Mead, referee Arthur Donovan “assumed it was off, so he went to a bar and got drunk.” When he learned that the bout would go on, Donovan “tried desperately to sober up before the fight.”
A left hook from Baer knocked Louis through the ropes and onto the ring apron in the first round. Louis got up and climbed back into the ring at the count of four. It was the first time since Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Angel Firpo in 1923 that a World Heavyweight Champion was knocked through the ropes in the first round of a title fight.
Louis dropped Baer with a right in the sixth round. The challenger rose at the count of seven, only to be knocked down again. With the crowd roaring, Baer staggered to his feet at the count of nine, and the bell rang to end the round. Louis didn’t hear the bell, and he rushed across the ring and floored Baer with a right. Baer had to be carried to his corner by his handlers. When the bell rang to start the seventh round, Baer was still out. Baer’s manager, Ancil Hoffman, and his trainer, Ray Arcel, argued that Louis should be disqualified for hitting Baer after the bell. When they refused to leave the ring, Donovan disqualified Baer.
Baer barley beat Donovan’s count of ten when he got up from the second knockdown in the sixth round. Timekeeper Charley Reynolds later stated that he counted Baer out, but the challenger was permitted to continue fighting by Donovan, who tacitly overruled the timekeeper.
Ancil Hoffman: “The last blow of the fight was struck at least three seconds after the bell sounded ending the sixth round.”
Arthur Donovan: “That talk about Louis hitting Baer after the bell is baloney. The blow started before the bell sounded.”
Buddy Baer: “I heard the bell and then was hit as I was dropping my hands.”
Arthur Donovan: “I disqualified Baer because his seconds refused to leave the ring. As long as I’m refereeing, I insist that my orders be followed.”
Ancil Hoffman: “We didn’t leave the ring when Donovan told us to because Buddy was entitled to his full minute of rest before starting the seventh. Buddy should have won on a foul right then.”