Billy Conn, Through the Eyes of Tim Conn, His Son
By David Ruff, Doghouse Boxing (Dec 20, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Billy Conn
Billy Conn
Billy Conn was born Oct. 8, 1916 in Pittsburgh. Conn never had any amateur fights, because his manager and trainer, Johnny Ray, thought he could learn just as much in the gyms as he could as an amateur. Conn’s first pro fights were in West Virginia. Then he had several in Pittsburgh. He had some promoted by Art Rooney, the owner of the Steelers. Rooney promoted the second Bettina fight at Forbes Field. Tim, Billy’s son, told me that Billy’s toughest fights were against Fred Apostoli, the middleweight champ, and Oscar Rankins. His manager, Johnny Ray, told him not to slug it out with Louis and to box him, and he would be the heavyweight champion of the world…but he didn’t listen. In that fight Louis caught him with a good punch and knocked him out. Conn had two fights with Louis.

Boxing has always been Conn’s fulltime job. He seemed to get the attention of the Pittsburgh people because he beat the likes of Teddy Yarosx and Fritzie Zivic. He also brought the light heavyweight championship to the city. Tim Conn said his father had the charisma and the looks, along with having a glamorous wife who appealed to the people in Pittsburgh. Billy Conn also starred in a movie, The Pittsburgh Kid, which centered around him. His name was also mentioned in the great movie On the Waterfront. Tim Conn said his father would always be remembered for those two movies. He also said his father went on several USO tours with Bob Hope.

Tim got to meet a lot of famous boxers and movie stars through his dad. He felt that his dad would always be remembered. Here are some questions I posed to Tim, which he graciously answered.


1.  What was your dad's amateur record?  Did he have any amateur titles?

1) My dad never had an amateur fight.  His manager told him that you will never learn anything from an amateur.  They don't know any more than you do.  The only way you can improve is to box professional in the gym.  You can learn from them.

2.  Did your father have a full-time job besides boxing?

2)  He never had a job.  His full time job was boxing.  He also never played any sports.  He started boxing when he was 14 and never did anything else.  He quit school after the 8th grade.

3.  Could you give me some insight on how your father got started on a movie career, starting with Pittsburgh Kid and On the Waterfront.

3)  He was asked to do a movie, The Pittsburgh Kid, after his first fight with Louis.  Republic studios made him an offer he could not refuse.

4.  Who were some of your father's toughest fights?

4) His toughest fights were with Fred Apostoli, the middleweight champ.  He was an underdog in both fights.  It was his first fight in N.Y.  Oscar Rankins also gave him a very hard fight when he was only about 18 years old.  He was knocked down in the 3rd round but came back to win.  He thought he was KO’d and apologized to his manager! He didn't realize that he got off the floor to win!

5.  How would you change boxing in a positive way if you could?

5)  I would change boxing by having only one sanctioning body and fight for only one belt.  That is the way it used to be.  Also a champion must fight  a legitimate contender.

6.  Could you give me some insight on your father's fight with Joe Louis?

6)  In the 12th round my dad hurt Louis with a left hook.  Louis almost went down.  At the end of the round his manager, Johnny Ray, told him to box the rest of the way and he would win easily.  He would not listen and said he would KO Louis as he had hurt him.  If he had not landed that punch he would have been content to box him.  Also it was the first time an opponent of Louis ever talked to him in the ring.  In the 8th round he said to Louis, "You’re in for a tough fight tonight, Joe."  Louis replied, “I know it.”

7.  How did Pittsburgh come to like your dad so much?

7) Because he beat all of the local great fighters like Teddy Yarosx, Fritzie Zivic.  He had looks and charisma and brought the light heavyweight title to the city.

8.  How did your father get to meet Art Rooney of the Steelers?

8)  He met Art Rooney when he was very young.  Rooney promoted fights in Pittsburgh, and he promoted the second Bettina fight in Forbes field.

9.  Was your father born and raised in Pittsburgh?

9)  He was born in Pittsburgh on Oct. 8, 1916.

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