Rockaway Born, Famous Boxing Referee Passes Away At 95
The world has lost one of the best professional boxing referees in the country in Mark Conn, who was born in Arverne and died on September 29 at the age of 95 in Florida. Conn was the referee in major fights including bouts that involved legends like heavyweights Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. From 1945- 1970, Conn refereed countless fights in Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium and other famous venues. Then from 1970 to 2000, he became a boxing judge in Southern Florida.
Conn graduated from Far Rockaway High School and New York University. “Champ” as he was called by his family and friends, was a lightweight Golden Gloves Champion in New York City in 1936 and boxed on the American International Team in England and the Far East. He was a winner of the Yale Rubin Trophy in 1936 for the outstanding “Golden Gloves Champion of the Year.“
He served in the U.S. Army at Fort Knox, Kentucky in 1941-42 when Conn introduced mass boxing instruction to thousands of troops. He joined the Army Air Corps serving with the Flying Tigers in China and as Athletic Director before his promotion to Major. This was a proud moment since his raise in rank was a promotion by General Claire Chennault. He introduced boxing to the Chinese army and in 1945 won the All China Welterweight Championship.
From 1946 to 1970 Mark Conn was a director of athletics for 800 schools in the NYC Board of Education. He held a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Health and Physical Education. Dad had mastered many sports including tennis, golf, basketball, baseball, handball and, of course, boxing, which is why he loved his work and was given the nickname ‘CHAMP.’
After his retirement, the family moved from Belle Harbor to Pompano Beach, Florida. There he joined Toastmasters, winning awards again. His favorite times were when he was teaching someone or making them laugh. He won the Florida Regional Humor contest in Toastmasters. He was a gifted speaker at hundreds of organizational affairs keeping everyone “laughing” at every chance he could find.
Conn made it “all the way to his 95th birthday with pride and laughter,“ says his daughter, Susan Rice. “He was a gifted bridge player and a self-taught musician. Back in the 1950s Dad wanted to improve his movement around the boxing ring, so he took up Ballroom Dancing from Ben and Gloria Vitucci (Harvest Moon Ball winners) and that’s how he kept in shape till the age of 95.
His last eight years were spent in Pompano Beach; he entertained his friends and neighbors at The Court At Palm Aire where he resided.
He is survived by his son Frank Conn (Santa Monica), his daughter Susan Rice (Coconut Creek, FLA), and in later years, his best friend Boots Conn Lenox.
As Mark would tell us he is now “in the big boxing ring in the sky.“ We all miss you, Champ.