BILLY CONN, a clever light-heavyweight champion, is best known for a fight he lost… his challenge to Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship at the New York Polo Grounds in June 1941.
Through 12 rounds Conn boxed beautifully, jabbing, punching cleanly, moving, keeping Louis twisting, turning and chasing… three rounds to go and the 23-year-old from Pittsburgh had overhauled the champion’s early lead and was in front. One judge had it level at six rounds each, but the other two had Conn ahead.
There was still work to do but Conn was the man in the ascendancy, Louis the one with something to find. And then in the 13th the crowd of 54,487 saw Louis draw Conn into trading punches. Briefly Conn outfought him, but then held on as a series of right hands hurt him – and then more rights sent him crashing to the canvas. He was counted out with two seconds left in the round.