Producing duo win rights to Joe Louis' life story

Theater-Joe Louis_Broa
This Jan. 24, 1937 file photo shows boxer Joe Louis, nicknamed the Brown Bomber, posing in Pompton Lakes, N.J. Louis captures the world heavyweight title in June 1937 and held it until May 1949. (AP Photo/File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Watch out, “Rocky” — the producing team behind some recent sport-related Broadway shows have just gotten the rights to tell the story of boxing great Joe Louis.
Fran Kirmser and her producing partner Tony Ponturo said Wednesday that they’ve acquired the exclusive global, theatrical and movie rights to Louis’ life story. If they turn it into a stage story, Ponturo and Kirmser will have their fourth sports-related play since 2010.
Louis’ life certainly has plenty of fodder for a dramatic retelling, especially his rise to becoming arguably the world’s finest heavyweight champion and his decades of conflict with the Internal Revenue Service over millions in back taxes and interest. It would be the latest boxing-related show in New York following the musical “Rocky,” based on Sylvester Stallone’s film.
Louis’ history is highlighted by his two fights with Max Schmeling, the German champion whose victory in their first bout was hailed by Adolf Hitler. Louis demolished Schmeling in their rematch on June 22, 1938.
After Louis claimed the heavyweight title in 1937, he held it for more than 11 years, making 25 defenses to set a record unlikely to be broken. Louis’ influence in both boxing and race relations has been immense. He died in 1981.
Ponturo and Kirmser have a long history with mining the theatricality in sports stories. Their “Lombardi,” about the Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, turned into a modest hit, but 2012’s “Magic/Bird,” about the friendship between basketball legends Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird, didn’t do as well, closing after only 37 shows. The third — a look at the New York Yankees called “Bronx Bombers” — lasted less than a month this year.
Kirmser and Ponturo will serve as executive producers of Legendary Pictures’ feature film version of their “Lombardi.”
Mark Kennedy can be reached at

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