The Pittsburgh Kid

Billy Conn-



Back in 1990, a 71 year-old man foiled a burglary by punching the robber. While this may seem unusual, the robber didn’t realize he was up against The Pittsburgh Kid, former light -heavyweight champion Billy Conn. The thief took off, but not before the Kid could tear off his jacket –which contained his name and address.

Billy Conn, from East Liberty, made his professional boxing debut as a welterweight in 1934 when he was only 16 years old. Eventually, he fought his way up to heavyweight status and won matches against nine world champions. Although he was often outweighed in matches, Conn defeated many quality opponents, including Fred Apostoli and Tony Zale.

“When he was young he had a lot of ambition to become a fighter,” his son, Tim, says. “Once he became famous and got the title, he wasn’t the type of person who wanted to brag about it and show off. He was more of a quiet type person and didn’t look to bring attention to himself.”

While his career was filled with victorious matches, Conn will always be remembered for his fights with heavyweight champion Joe Louis. In 1941, he and Louis slugged it out for 12 rounds, with Conn determined to knock out his opponent.

However, with two seconds left in the 13th round, Louis knocked out Conn with one powerful punch. Nevertheless, Louis said that his opponent was the best light heavyweight he ever saw, and the match is considered to be one of the greatest fights in history.

Later that year, Conn went on to star as himself in the movie The Pittsburgh Kid, a story about a boxer’s rising career after his manager’s death.

“He wasn’t crazy about it, considering he never had any acting experience,” Tim Conn recalls. The boxer was paid $25,000 for the role, which was a lot of money in those days.

In 1942, Conn had the opportunity to fight Joe Louis again, but before Conn had the chance to face his opponent, he broke his hand in a fight with his father-in-law. Soon after, Conn went on a morale tour during World War II.

Billy Conn- WikicommonsFinally, in 1946, he had one last shot at a rematch with Louis. However, by then, Conn hadn’t fought in a professional match in years. He was older and slower and was knocked out in the eighth round. Conn soon retired and lived in East Liberty up until his death on May 30, 1993.