Joe Louis Was Too Generous for His Own Good and Wound up Broke

Boxers and fighters like Floyd Mayweather can make a lot of money in their careers. But boxers, like many athletes, can also lose all of that money very quickly. Usually, athletes go broke because they spent too much money. However, in boxing legend Joe Louis’ case, it was because he was too generous of a man.

A look at Joe Louis’ boxing career earnings

As Mackinac said, Louis was born in 1914 and he started boxing competitively in 1931. Louis fought more and more people, and he kept winning each time. Louis was dominant and only lost one fight. During World War 2, Louis took a hiatus from boxing to serve in the army. In 1948, Louis retired. 

Louis had a record of 58-1 at this point in time, with his only loss coming from Max Schmeling. Louis had a famous rematch with Schmeling in what Encyclopedia Britannica says was a fight that was seen as a battle between democracy and Nazism. This big fight earned Louis a lot of money, but Louis’ long career was also very lucrative as well. 

Unfortunately for Louis, he got in trouble with the IRS over his taxes. And so, Louis returned to boxing, only to take two more losses before retiring for good in 1951.

Encyclopedia Britannica says that Louis, by this point in time, had made over $5 million from his boxing career. It’s not known how much that would be worth in today’s money, but it was a lot of money back then.

Joe Louis gave a lot of his money away

The reason why Louis had to return to boxing to pay back the taxes that he owed to the IRS was because he owed a lot of money. Encyclopedia Britannica says that the IRS wanted $1 million in back taxes and penalties, but Louis had already spent or given much of his money away to charity

Like Mackinac said, Louis did a lot of good for the world with his wealth. After Louis started making serious amounts of money in his boxing career, he immediately started helping others. That included choosing to pay back the welfare that his stepdad had received, buying a house for an elderly man, as well as buying uniforms for some black officers who were in the army.

Louis also helped out a lot during World War 2, asides from joining the military himself. For example, Mackinac says that Louis donated over $1.2 million in today’s money to support the army and the navy after the U.S. joined the war. Unfortunately for Louis, due to the IRS rules at the time, he couldn’t deduct those donations from his tax bill. 

The later life of Joe Louis

As Encyclopedia Britannica said, Louis struggled to pay off the tax debt he had with the IRS. Even after retiring from boxing, he still had to work to continue making his payments. This included working in other sports, such as in professional wrestling, as well as in mundane jobs, too. For example, Louis worked as a greeter at a casino in Las Vegas for a while.

But, instead of dying poor and destitute, Louis’ good friends and good deeds paid off. The casino that hired him as a greeter, according to The New York Times, was owned by a good friend of Louis from the army. That friend, Ash Resnick, even gave Louis a house to live in while he was working in Vegas. 

And, when Louis suffered from some heart problems, his friend, Frank Sinatra, paid for all of Louis’ medical bills, according to The New York Times. In 1981, Louis died, and even in death, his friends helped out. Schmeling, who became Louis’ friend after their two fights, helped pay for Louis’ funeral costs.