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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
"What's the sense of being Irish?"
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

June 18, 1941

Billy Conn, the former light-heavyweight champ, gives up 25 pounds to Joe Louis, but he doesn't give up anything else. In front of a crowd of 54,487 at the Polo Grounds -- some of whom paid $25 for a ringside ticket -- Billy is no con man in the ring, but the real deal.

The 174-pound Conn uses his quick jab to outbox the heavyweight champion; he also shows he can punch, especially in the 12th round when he hurts Louis. With three rounds left, Conn is ahead 7-5 and 7-4-1 on two officials' cards and tied on the other. In his corner, his handlers instruct him to box with caution.

In the opposite corner, Louis is told that he's losing. "I was hoping that he'd lose his head pretty quick," Louis said after the fight, "because I knew I was losing the title. They told me if I was going to win I had to knock him out."

Conn doesn't heed his corner's advice. He tries to slug it out with Louis, going for the knockout in the 13th round. But it is Louis who delivers the telling blows. A left followed by a hard right finally sends Conn to the canvas. With two seconds left in the round, Conn is counted out.

"What's the sense of being Irish," Conn says, "if you can't be dumb?"

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