Joe Lewis was born in Alabama and moved with his family to Detroit when he as twelve. He had a decorated amateur boxing career in Detroit and eventually turned professional where he fought in the heavyweight class and had a long and historic career. He was the world heavyweight champion between 1937 and 1949, the longest span by any boxer, and is widely considered to be among the best boxers of all time.
The sculpture was originally paid for by a donation from Sports Illustrated magazine and was first installed in 1986. It is cast in bronze and its form is representative to Joe Louis’ formidable power in the boxing ring. In addition, ‘the fist’, has been interpreted to be symbolic of Lewis’s work in fighting racial disparity and southern Jim Crow laws because the punch is directed south with a gloveless hand.
However, the artist, Robert Graham, did not want to suggest any of these interpretations. In 1999, over a decade after the sculpture’s installation, he said ”People bring their own experiences to the sculpture. I wanted to leave the image open, allowing it to become a symbol rather than make it specific.”
If You Go:
The monument is located at the intersection of Woodward and Jefferson Avenues. It is close to ‘The Spirit of Detroit’ and a number of other major monuments and public along Woodward Avenue and the Detroit Riverwalk.
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