Joe Louis vs Billy Conn – Highlights (Heavyweight Classic & KNOCKOUT)


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June 18th, 1941. The legendary “Brown Bomber” Joe Louis makes the 18th defense of his World Heavyweight Championship against one of the greatest Light Heavyweights of All Time; “Pittsburgh Kid” Billy Conn. Joe Louis was an 11-5 favorite going into the bout.

Prefight records; Joe Louis 49(41)-1, Billy Conn 59(13)-9-1.

In June 1937, Joe Louis knocks out “The Cinderella Man” James J. Braddock in the 8th round to become World Heavyweight Champion in what was the beginning of perhaps the greatest reign as World Heavyweight Champion in the history of the sport.

From August 1937 to May 1941, he made a remarkable 17 successful consecutive title defenses with 13 of those wins coming by way of knockout. Notable successful defenses include Tommy Farr, Bob Pastor, Al McCoy, Red Burman, Tony Galento, John Henry Lewis, Abe Simon, Max Schmeling (rematch), Buddy Baer & Arturo Godoy (2x).

His 18th defense would be against former World Light Heavyweight Champion, The Pittsburgh Kid.

In July 1939, Billy Conn became World Light Heavyweight Champion by outpointing Melio Bettina to win the National Boxing Association & NYSAC World Light Heavyweight Titles.

From August 1939 to June 1940, Conn made 3 successful title defenses against Melio Bettina (rematch) & Gus Lesnevich (2x) and also won 2 non title fights. Before his 3rd title defense in June 1940, he announced that he would campaign in the Heavyweight division in a bid to challenge Joe Louis for the World Heavyweight Championship.

In September 1940, Conn fought and won his first fight at Heavyweight with via KO13 over Bob Pastor. He would continue to rack up 6 more wins notably against Al McCoy & Lee Savold before getting a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship.

Billy Conn chose not to gain weight for the fight but rather to stick to a hit & run strategy which Louis famously responded, “He can run, but he can’t hide”.

The Pittsburgh Kid stunned the crowd with his strategy; utilizing his slick boxing skills to outbox the reigning champion and was ahead in the scorecards after the 12th round. Louis appeared to have little answers to Conn’s slickness and was exhausted mid way through the fight.

Louis said in an interview that he made a mistake trying to cut weight by doing roadwork the day before the fight whilst consuming as little fluid as possible to appear lighter at fight night.

He stated, “he did not want them to say in the papers that he beat up on some little guy”.

In the 12th round, Conn was able to stagger Louis and was ahead by 2 rounds in 2 of the judges’ scorecards. Conn needed to win only 1 out of the last 3 rounds to become World Heavyweight Champion.

However, going into the 13th, Conn believed he could knock out Louis as he was able to hurt him in the previous round.

At the same time, Louis’ trainer Jack Blackburn told his man that he must score a knockout to win; so both fighters were determined to score a KO going into Round 13.

Conn’s attempt to earn a KO backfired as Louis, one of the greatest finishers in the history of the sport, seized the opportunity by hurting Conn with a right hand followed by a volley of lefts and rights. Conn went down with 2 seconds left in the round and failed to beat the count, resulting in a remarkable rally from behind the scorecards to retain his World Heavyweight Championship.

This fight is ranked by Ring Magazine as the No. 6 Greatest Title Fight of All Time.

5 years later on June 19th 1946, their rematch took place and it was the first World Heavyweight Championship fight to be broadcast on television. Louis was a 3.5-1 favorite. Neither Louis nor Conn had officially fought in the past 4 years due to military services during World War II other than exhibitions.

* However, in one of Louis’ exhibition bouts against a Johnny Davis the NYSAC ruled that the World Heavyweight Title would be at stake, making it a world title fight. Louis won via KO1.

Unlike their 1st encounter, the rematch was largely uneventful with Louis eventually winning via KO8. Conn retired after this bout citing his poor performance, earning the “Flop of the Year” award by the Associated Press. However, Conn made a brief comeback in 1948 with 2 more wins before retiring for good.

His final record stood at 64(15)-11-1 with notable victories over Fritzie Zivic, Eddie (Babe) Risko, Bob Pastor, Tony Zale, Lee Savold, Al McCoy, Erich Seelig, Young Corbett III, Gus Lesnevich (2x), Fred Apostoli (2x), Solly Krieger (2x), Melio Bettina (2x).

Enjoy this highlight of a classic heavyweight encounter, which is one of the greatest world title fights of all time.

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