IT'S HARD to believe that a champion who dominated his division for six years and who, for 17 years held the record for consecutive title defenses, had to wait until the seventh year of inductions before being enshrined in Canastota. But, a lack of superior challengers will do that.

Nevertheless, boxing afficiandos have a deep appreciation for the career of lightweight champion Joe (Old Bones) Brown. The New Orleans native turned pro in his hometown in 1943, but didn't have his second pro fight until after WWII. In 1947, his second full pro campaign, he fought three top-10 fighters, including a third-round TKO loss to fellow Hall of Famer Sandy Saddler. It was just Brown's 13th pro fight.

Beginning in 1949 he began to fight outside New Orleans. He seldom turned down a promoter's request. He even traveled to Australia for four fights in 1950. Brown continued to win, and slowly but surely climbed the rankings. In May 1956, he decisioned reigning lightweight champ Bud Smith in a non-title bout, and three months later, at age 31, he outpointed him over 15 rounds in New Orleans to win the title.

Brown began 1957 by stopping Smith in 11 rounds in Miami, then won 10 more title fights over the next five years. His reign as champion ended against a younger, quicker, and future Hall of Famer, Carlos Ortiz. On April 21, 1962 in Las Vegas, the 37-year-old champ, spotting 11 years to the challenger, lost a one-sided decision.

He continued as an active fighter until finally retiring in 1970 a month before his 45th birthday. Although all but forgotten except by boxing purists, Brown was reintroduced to the boxing world, and was cheered by the thousands of fans who attended his induction in 1996.

Born: May 18, 1926
Died: Nov. 21, 1997
Bouts: 162
Won: 104
Lost: 44
Drew: 13
KOs: 47
NC: 1
Induction: 1996
Joe Brown