Born in New York City, Cannon started at the New York Daily News when he was 17. He later wrote for the New York Post, New York Journal-American and King Features Syndicate. He was a war correspondent for Stars and Stripes during World War II. He also wrote a column for Newsday during the 1950s.
A long-time boxing writer, Cannon once wrote that "boxing is the red light district of sports". When Sugar Ray Robinson was making his famous comeback, Cannon told him not to return to the ring. He wrote about this several times in his column. He famously said of Joe Louis that "he is a credit to his race, the human race" and was one of the first sportswriters to see the importance of the black athlete. A contemporary of Ernest Hemingway, they were friends and mutually admired each other's writing. 
On frequent occasions, when Cannon had no particular sports news to report, he would still manage to fill his daily column space by starting off with the phrase "Nobody asked me, but..." and then filling the rest of the column with his random opinions on any and every subject outside of the sports world. This gambit has been eagerly seized upon by newspaper columnists ever since, not only on the sports page but in every other section. Columnists who "borrow" this device will typically lead off with some lip-service tribute to its originator, such as "In the words of the immortal Jimmy Cannon: Nobody asked me, but..." and then they're off.
In popular culture
- Associated Press Red Smith Award, 2004.
- International Boxing Hall of Fame, 2002
- Boxing Writers Association of America A.J. Liebling Award, 1996
- (speaking of Joe Louis in response to another person's characterization of him as "a credit to his race") "...he is a credit to his race, the human race"
- "A sports expert is the guy who writes the best alibis for being wrong"
- "Nobody asked me, but..."
- "If Howard Cosell were a sport, he'd be roller derby."
- The Editors of Chase's - Chase's calendar of events 2009
- Nack, William. "Telling It Like It Is," Sports Illustrated, May 1, 1995.