Sweet William (Hardcover)

The Life of Billy Conn

By Andrew O'Toole

University of Illinois Press, 9780252032240, 376pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2007

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (7/21/2010)

List Price: 32.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


An Irish working-class hero of Pittsburgh, Billy Conn captured the hearts of his contemporaries through his ebullient personality, stellar boxing record, and good looks. A light-heavyweight boxing champion, Conn had defeated nine current or former champions in three weight divisions by the time he was twenty one. Best remembered for his sensational near-defeat of heavyweight champion Joe Louis in 1941, Conn is still regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all time. Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1965, Billy Conn was one of the most popular athletes of his era. The Pittsburgh Kid captured the public's imagination with his boxing, Hollywood, and army careers, which Andrew O Toole chronicles by drawing from fascinating interviews with Conn's family, newspaper accounts, and Billy's personal scrapbooks. Presenting an intimate look inside the champion's relationship with his girlfriend, manager, and rivals, O Toole captures the personal life of a public icon and the pageantry of sports during the 1930s and 40s.

About the Author

Andrew O Toole is a freelance writer who is the author of several books, including Smiling Irish Eyes: Art Rooney and the Pittsburgh Steelers."

Praise For Sweet William: The Life of Billy Conn

"Affectionate yet evenhanded biography of the fighter known as 'The Pittsburgh Kid.' O'Toole makes a relatively normal life sing with his obvious passion for his subject, his meticulous research and his ability to empathize with Conn, his family and the colorful characters who inhabited the boxer's literal and metaphorical corner. A welcome addition to the boxing-literature canon."--Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2007

"The rough-and-tumble sports world of the late 1930s and early 1940s emerges vividly, as O'Toole describes the way mobsters infiltrated the fight game and how Conn needed the help of Pittsburgh Steeler owner Art Rooney to stay clear of the unsavory types. Conn, though not widely known today, was a beloved, blue-collar American hero in his era, and O'Toole masterfully re-creates both the life and the times. For all fans of boxing history."--Wes Lukowsky, Booklist

“In Sweet William, Andrew O'Toole takes you to the streets of Pittsburgh and New York prior to World War II. You can't help but feel the sweat, feel the struggle, and get caught up in the glamour.  It's a superb piece of storytelling--and an important book about an important fighter from boxing's Golden Age.”--Russell Sullivan, author of Rocky Marciano: The Rock of His Times