The recent passing of Muhammad Ali has sparked much discussion and reflection on one of America’s greatest sons. In and out of the ring, Ali was a game changer. He was such an impactful influence that thousands, including world leaders, are expected in attendance for his memorial service on Friday in Louisville, Kentucky.
Everyone knows the middle and end of The Greatest of All Time saga. But how many of us actually know the beginning? Ali pundits are quick to name drop Angelo Dundee, Ali’s longtime trainer. How many of them actually know the name Joe E. Martin?
In 1954, a young Cassius Clay, irate over the theft of his red and white Schwinn bicycle, stormed over to a Louisville police officer. Reporting the crime to the officer, Clay vowed to “whup” the thief when he was found. Instead of ignoring the twelve-year-old’s seemingly empty threat, the police officer offered to train the future world champion. That police officer’s name was Joe E. Martin.
Shortly after joining the Louisville Police Department in 1937, Martin became a boxing coach at Columbia Gym located in Louisville. It was there that Martin became a boxing organizer. It was there that Martin recruited and developed some of Louisville’s athletes. It was there that Martin integrated boxing, long before other racially divided gyms. And it was there that Martin trained the future Muhammad Ali.
Even as a full-time police officer, Martin found time to organize and develop youth sports in his community. The end result was one of the shaping figures of modern history.
Sports organizers like Joe E. Martin are community unsung heroes. Every day, LeagueApps strives to make the life of the unsung hero simpler and easier. Whether it be boxing or any sport, the next great one is being developed by the unsung hero right now. Today we say goodbye to Muhammad Ali. But LeagueApps also remembers Joe Martin and salutes all the Joe Martins out there today.