History

All-time great Billy Conn was born on this day

Billy Conn
All-time great Billy Conn, the Pittsburgh Kid, was born on October 8 in 1917
  1. IDOLISING GREB
    Growing up, Conn’s idol was the legendary world middleweight champion, Harry Greb. For Conn, part of Greb’s allure was due to the fact that the pair shared a hometown, as they were both natives of Pittsburgh.
  2. STARTING YOUNG
    The pugnacious Conn started boxing at an early age. Instead of entering the amateur ranks, he decided to turn professional straight away. He was 16 years old when he made his pro debut in 1934, down at lightweight.
  3. BECOMING WORLD CHAMPION
    Five years into his career, Conn, now boxing as a light-heavyweight, claimed the world championship with a points victory over Melio Bettina. The contest took place inside Madison Square Garden.
  4. RETAINING THE TITLE
    Across 1939 and 1940, Conn successfully defended his world light-heavy crown on three occasions, each time on the scorecards. He beat Bettina in a rematch, before twice defeating Gus Lesnevich.
  5. PUSHING LOUIS HARD
    In 1941, Conn vacated his 175lb belt in order to oppose the indomitable Joe Louis for the world heavyweight title. Despite being massively outweighed, Conn was winning the bout until he was KO’d late on.
  6. FIGHTING HIS FATHER-IN-LAW
    A scheduled sequel between Conn and Louis in 1942 had to be scrapped after Conn broke his left hand. He suffered the injury during a dust-up with his father-in-law, former Major League Baseball player Jimmy Smith.
  7. LOSING TO LOUIS AGAIN
    Due to the USA’s involvement in World War II, Conn was out of the ring from 1942 to 1946. His first fight back was a return match with Louis, who proceeded to register a dominant knockout win over Conn.
  8. REFEREEING ORTIZ-RAMOS
    Following his retirement in 1948, Conn remained involved in the sport as a referee. Most memorably, he officiated the controversial clash between Carlos Ortiz and Sugar Ramos for the world lightweight title in 1966.
  9. FLOORING A ROBBER
    At the age of 72 in 1990, Conn witnessed a man robbing a convenience store in Pittsburgh. The robber grabbed a fistful of cash from the register, only to then be decked by a left hand thrown by Conn.
  10. MAKING A MOVIE
    As well as starring in a 1941 film about himself, entitled The Pittsburgh Kid, Conn is also referenced in the 1954 classic, On the Waterfront, featuring Marlon Brando as a boxer-turned-dockworker.

Boxing news – Newsletter

Current Issue