Joe E. Martin

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Joe E. Martin
Joe Elsby Martin

(1916-01-16)16 January 1916
DiedSeptember 14, 1996(1996-09-14) (aged 80)
OccupationBoxing coach
Police officer
Known forTraining Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Ellis
Joe E. Martin
Born(1916-01-16)16 January 1916
DiedSeptember 14, 1996(1996-09-14) (aged 80)
Police career
DepartmentLouisville Police Department
Service years1937–1974
RankSworn in as an officer (1937)
Other workBoxing coach

Joe Elsby Martin Sr., (February 1, 1916 – September 14, 1996) was an American boxing coach who trained two world heavyweight champions, Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Ellis, as well as several national Golden Gloves champions.

Early life[edit]

Joe Martin was born January 16, 1916, in Colorado. He was orphaned before he reached his first birthday and was raised by an aunt in Phoenix, Arizona. He married Christine Fentress on March 4, 1941, and had one child, Joe Jr., who himself became a national Golden Gloves champion.

Boxing coach and police officer[edit]

He came to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1937 and joined the Louisville Police Department, serving until his retirement in 1974. In 1938 he became a boxing coach at the Columbia Gym in Louisville (now the student center of Spalding University),[1] where, in 1954, he began coaching Cassius Clay, who later became a three-time world heavyweight champion under the name of Muhammad Ali. During this time, he also trained Jimmy Ellis as well as eleven National Golden Gloves champions.

Martin was an early leader in Louisville's civil rights movement. At the time the future Muhammad Ali began training there, Columbia Gym was racially integrated, unlike other Louisville boxing gyms of that period.[1]

Muhammad Ali's first coach[edit]

In 1954, a twelve-year-old then known as Cassius Clay approached Martin to report that his bicycle had been stolen and told Martin that he wanted to "whup" the thief. Martin offered to teach him how to box and guided his career for the next six years. As a 1960 Olympic coach, Martin accompanied the champion to the Olympic Games in Rome, Italy, when Ali won a gold medal. In the 1950s Martin helped produce a weekly television show on WAVE-TV called Tomorrow's Champions, which was broadcast for twelve years. After winning the gold medal, Ali began his professional career but maintained contact with Martin until his death. In 1977, Martin was inducted into the Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame.

Retirement and death[edit]

After retirement, Martin started a business as an auctioneer and twice ran unsuccessfully for Sheriff of Jefferson County, Kentucky. He fell ill in the late summer of 1996 and died in Louisville on September 14. He was buried in Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Leitchfield, Kentucky.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Proffitt, Doug (May 7, 2015). "Tracing a legend: How a smelly gym changed Louisville". Louisville, KY: WHAS-TV. Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved May 9, 2015.

External links[edit]