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Burglars Steal Boxing Belts Won by Heavyweight Joe Louis

Times Staff Writer

Two championship boxing belts won by the late heavyweight champion Joe Louis were stolen from an office in Rolling Hills Estates late Wednesday or early Thursday, authorities said.

Also stolen was a congressional medal awarded to Louis after the legendary fighter died in April, 1981, said Ronald T. Schaefer of Schaefer and Associates, a management consulting firm involved in the development of a proposed Boxing Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.

“I’m sick about it,” said Schaefer, who called the stolen items “priceless historical artifacts.”

The memorabilia had been donated by Louis’ widow for inclusion in the museum and were to have been prominently displayed there, Schaefer said. He likened their historical significance to baseball great Babe Ruth’s bat or football hero Jim Thorpe’s helmet.

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One of the belts is the British Empire Belt, won in 1939. The other is the American Championship Belt, which the “Brown Bomber” won in 1937. The belt made him heavyweight boxing champion of the world, a title he maintained for nearly 12 years--longer than any man.

Schaefer told Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigators that he returned to his office in the 27500 block of Hawthorne Boulevard on Wednesday night, after making a public presentation and displaying the belts. He left them in a locked office file because it was too late to return them to their normal place of safekeeping, he said.

The burglars, who apparently broke into the office through a window, also stole a videocassette recorder and tapes, which has led investigators to surmise that the thieves may have happened upon the belts without knowing their true value, Sheriffs’ Detective Marty Weirich said.

“It may have just been a crime of opportunity,” the detective said,

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He added that the famous boxing items “are going to be hard to get rid of. . . . We’re talking about an American hero, a legend.”

He asked that anyone with information about the stolen belts to contact the Lomita Sheriff’s Station at 539-1661.


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