Joe Lewis First and Best

Joe Lewis at the US National Championship 1968
Joe Lewis at the US National Championship 1968

American kickboxing legend Joe Lewis died on 31 Aug 2012. No major sports media outlets covered the impact this man had on American kickboxing and karate, only martial arts websites like

In his era as a heavyweight World Champion fighter and martial artist, Joe Lewis has done it first and done it best. Of the millions of people who have participated in the martial arts since their inception in the United States in 1948, only a few have had a measurable impact with the general public…and Joe Lewis, the retired World Heavyweight Karate Champion from Wilmington is one of them.

Dubbed the “Muhammed Ali of his sport,” Lewis is to Karate what Arnold Schwarzeneger is to body building. In a career that spanned 17 years, he won more titles in his era , set more records and instituted more innovations than anyone in the history of Sport Karate.

Joe Lewis was a World Champion in both Karate and Full Contact style Kickboxing (World Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion, World Heavyweight Karate Champion, and United States National Black Belt Kata Champion.) who’s fighting career spanned 17 years. He won in his era more titles, set more records, and instituted more innovations than anyone in the history of Sport Karate.

Joe Lewis is an American kickboxer, point karate fighter, and actor. As a fighter, Lewis gained fame for his matches in the 1960s and 1970s.

He has twice been voted the greatest fighter in karate history, and has attained the titles of “United States Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion,” “World Heavyweight Karate Champion,” and “United States National Black Belt Kata Champion.”

Joe Lewis’ Karate Career

  • In 1966, with only 22-months of training, Lewis won the grand championship of the 1st tournament he entered, The U.S. Nationals promoted by Jhoon Rhee.
  • Lewis defeated 7 opponents before defeating Thomas Carroll by 2-0 decision.
  • Lewis reigned as the U.S. Nationals grand champion from 1966-1969.
  • At the 1967 Nationals in Washington, Lewis won the championship just 18-months after his first class.
  • Joe Lewis was the first “non-master and only competitor” to be photographed for the cover of Black Belt magazine. Previous covers had been drawn or painted.

Mike Cutone

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