The day Joe Louis defended his heavyweight title against Billy Conn
The 1946 bout was the first heavyweight fight broadcast on TV
After a four-year absence from boxing because of World War II, Joe Louis returned to the ring to fight a familiar nemesis on June 19, 1946.
In front of 45,266 spectators in Yankee Stadium and thousands more tuning in to NBC for the first heavyweight title bout broadcast on TV, Louis squared off against Billy Conn for the sequel to the pair’s 1941 fight.
Similar to that night, the Brown Bomber knocked out Bold Billy, this time doing it two minutes and 19 seconds into the eighth round instead of the 13th frame. It was Louis’ 22nd win in defense of the championship he had won against Jim Braddock in 1937.
“Tonight, Louis settled for all time this question of the puncher and the boxer,” said Chicago Daily Tribune reporter Wilfrid Smith in his recap. “Louis outboxed Conn. Then he ended the one-sided fight with all the sudden fury with which he had crushed Max Schmeling of Germany in 1938.
“Conn is a great lightweight — he once held this title — but tonight it was all too clear he was a boy on a man’s errand.”
Unlike the 1941 match, in which Conn led Louis until the KO in the 13th round, it took five fewer rounds and just three dynamic punches from Louis to wrap up the rematch. According to the Daily Tribune, the first blow was a powerful short right to the side of Conn’s head, which resulted in Conn’s knees buckling. The second came after Conn folded toward the mat. Before he fell completely, Louis hit him with a punishing left hook and, in the blink of an eye, completed the task with a swift right to send the overmatched fighter to the floor.
Conn rolled over in concession, and referee Eddie Joseph did a 10 count to officially end the match. Louis had already signaled the end of the fight by turning and walking away from the outstretched man, knowing his blows were decisive.
The champion could savor the win even more, as not only had he called the victory, but he had also called the round in which he would defeat Conn. While at training camp in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, the Daily Tribune reported, “Louis told writers he would knock out Conn in the eighth round. He made good on that prediction.
“Louis apparently was intent on outboxing a boxer.”
A moment that stood out to a multitude of writers covering the event was when Conn slipped and fell to a knee, and instead of landing a crushing blow on the defenseless man, Louis backed up and waited for Conn to get back into his fighting stance.
The fight grossed $1,925,564, which was the second-largest amount in boxing’s history behind the $2,658,660 the 1927 Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney championship fight in Chicago raked in, the Daily Tribune reported. According to The Baltimore Sun, Louis received $625,916 in prize money, while Conn walked away with $312,958.
The following day, 200,000 people celebrated Louis’ victory in Harlem, The New York Times wrote.