Sports television before the era of instant replays, multiple camera angles, and high zoom, was a lot more static. Baseball, the most popular sport in the land, was also the easiest to cover because a lot of the time players remained stationary, but the small ball was often hard to distinguish on early black-and-white broadcasts. Boxing, on the other hand, was perfect for the television age. The duels of two pugilists within a small, enclosed space made for high drama in early television, and almost every night some boxing match would be on the flickering sets. Television made boxing famous, starting with the first championship match.
On this day, June 19, in 1941 television viewers watched Joe Louis go thirteen rounds with the heavy underdog, Billy Conn. In front of a sold-out crowd and 146,000 television viewers the “Brown Bomber” felled the challenger with a succession of heavy blows.
Boxing purists disliked the new medium, blaming it for a drain on live audience participation in many fights, which closed down many small-town boxing rings and denigrated the important fights. The New Yorker reporter A.J. Liebling had his own set of standards, writing that the electricity of the crowd ringside was incomparably better than the sterile environment of the home, where one could not even “tell the fighters what to do.”