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John L. Sullivan
Name: John L. Sullivan
Alias: The Boston Strong Boy
Birth Name: John Lawrence Sullivan
Birthplace: Roxbury, Massachusetts, USA
Died: 1918-02-02 (Age:59)
Nationality: US American
Hometown: Roxbury, Massachusetts, USA
Height: 5′ 10½″ / 179cm
Reach: 74″ / 188cm
Boxing Record: click
HEIGHT : 5-10 1/4 (Some report 5-10 1/2) WEIGHT: 190-229 lbs
MANAGERS : Billy Madden, Al Smith, Frank Moran, Pat Sheedy, Harry Phillips, Charles E.
"Parson" Davies, Ed Holske, Jimmy Wakely, Frank Hall, and Arthur T. Lumley (possibly
William Muldoon at times)
--- -- Jack Scannell
--- -- Ramon Guiteras
--- ---- ---- --
John A. "Patsy" Hogan
(Hogan knocked Sullivan down)
Mar 14 John "Cocky" Woods
Jan 5 John A. "Patsy" Hogan
New York, NY
Apr 6 Joe Goss
Gos was reigning American Titleholder, Sullivan dominated
Sulivan announces he will fight anyone in America,
with or without gloves, for $500
Jun 28 George Rooke
-Sullivan and Dwyer boxed several exhibitions
New York, NY
Dec 20 John Donaldson
Dec 24 John Donaldson
(hard gloves/London Prize Ring Rules)
(21:00) KO 10
Dec 27 -Sullivan and Donaldson arrested for
prizefighting; They were released two days
Jan 3 Jack Stewart
-Stewart was the Canadian Champion
Jan 3 Joe Goss
Mar 21 Mike Donovan
Mar 31 Steve Taylor
New York, NY
-Sullivan knocked down Taylor four times
May 16 John Flood
-London Rules and gloves were used for this bout;
This bout was held on a barge
Jun 13 John Flood
New York, NY
Jul 11 Fred Crossley
-Crossley weighed 300 lbs
Jul 11 Billy Madden
Jul 21 Dan McCarty
Aug 12 "Captain" James Dalton
-Sullivan broke his hand
Sep 3 "Captain" James Dalton
Sep 3 Jack Burns
-Burns was 6-6 1/2, 300 lbs
-Both men were stripped for a fight to the finish;
Sullivan then said he would not fight Godfrey
-Sullivan got into a street fight with a local bully
at Mount Clemens, Mi and knocked the man out
New York, NY
Nov 5 Billy Madden
New York, NY
Nov 29 Billy Madden
Nov 29 Pete McCoy
Feb 7 Paddy Ryan
Mississippi City, Ms
-Heavyweight Championship of America;
London Prize Ring Rules
Mar 27 Jack Douglas
New York, NY
Mar 27 Billy Madden
New York, NY
Mar 28 Steve Taylor
Jersey City, NJ
Apr 20 John McDermott
Jul 4 Jimmy Elliott
-Gloves were used for this bout; Weights: 195 - 185
Jul 17 Joe "Tug" Wilson
New York, NY
-Wilson went to the floor 24 times during the bout
to avoid being knocked out
Aug 19 Joe Goss
North Adams, Ma
--Joe ""Tug" Wilson
-This bout was scheduled but not held;
Authorities prevented it
W 9 (10:30)
an unnamed opponent
Nov 19 an unnamed opponent
an unnamed opponent
Dec 28 Joe Coburn
Fort Wayne, In
New York, NY
Toronto, Ont, Can
May 14 Charley Mitchell
New York, NY
-Mitchell knocked Sullivan down in the first round;
The bout was stopped by Police Captain "Clubber" Williams
May 15 Charley Mitchell
Long Island, NY
-This bout was proposed by Joe Coburn as a
bare-knuckle fight to the finish; Mitchell
accepted but Sullivan did not; The bout
May 28 -Sullivan pitched for a semi-professional baseball team
at the New York, NY Polo Grounds
Aug 6 Herbert A. Slade
New York, NY
-Gloves were used; Weights: 205 - 201
-Sullivan fought some 50 minor opponents across America
and reportedly knocked out all of them; This tour took
place during Aug-Oct 1883
Oct 17 James McCoy
Nov 3 Jim Miles
East St. Louis, Il
Nov 25 Morris Hefey
St. Paul, Mn
Dec 4 Mike Sheehan
-Sullivan continued his tour during late 1883 and early 1884;
He reportedly knocked out 29 men
Victoria, BC, Can
Butte City, Mt
Sylvester Le Gouriff
George M. Robinson
San Francisco, Ca
-Robinson went down 28 times to avoid being knocked out
-This was a "barroom" fight
New Orleans, La
Hot Springs, Ar
May 30 Charley Mitchell
New York, NY
-This bout was scheduled but cancelled;
Sullivan was drunk and unable to fight
Aug 13 Dominick McCaffrey
Aug 13 Steve Taylor
Aug 13 Tom Denny
-The previous 3 bouts were held the same date
as part of Councilman Tom Denny's Exhibition
Oct 18 an unnamed opponent
-Sullivan knocked out his opponent
Oct 19 an unnamed opponent
Oct 20 an unnamed opponent
Oct 20 an unnamed opponent
-The previous 2 bouts were held the same date
an unnamed opponent
an unnamed opponent
an unnamed opponent
an unnamed opponent
an unnamed opponent
-The previous 5 bouts were scheduled exhibitions;
The outcomes are not known
Oct 28 an unnamed opponent
Oct 29 an unnamed opponent
Oct 30 an unnamed opponent
Oct 31 an unnamed opponent
Terre Haute, In
-The previous 3 bouts were scheduled exhibitions;
The outcomes are not known
Nov 10 John M. Laflin
New York, NY
-Weights: 196 - 205
Nov 17 Alf Greenfield
New York, NY
-Police intervened; Weights: 198 1/2 - 160
Jan 12 Alf Greenfield
(12:00) W 4
-Gloves were used for this bout
Jan 19 Paddy Ryan
New York, NY
(0:50) TK 1
Apr 2 Dominick McCaffrey
-Police prevented the bout
Jun 13 Jack Burke
(15:00) W 5
-Queensberry Rules were used for this bout
Aug 29 Dominick McCaffrey
(22:00) W 6
-Heavyweight Championship of America;
Queensberry Rules and gloves were used for this bout;
Seven rounds fought/Referee gave decison days after fight
New York, NY
-Sullivan and Madden gave exhibitions for one week
Alleghany City, Pa
-Queensberry Rules and gloves were used for this bout;
Police intervened; Weights: 225 - 185
St. Paul, Mn
San Francisco, Ca
-Gloves were used for this bout
Jan 18 Patsy Cardiff
-Sullivan broke a bone in his right arm;
Weights: 229 - 185
Mar 28 Steve Taylor
Mar 28 Joe Lannon
Nov 28 Jack Ashton
Dec 9 Jack Ashton
Dec 12 Jack Ashton
Dec 13 Jack Ashton
Dec 14 Frank Creedon
Dec 14 Jack Ashton
Dec 15 Jack Ashton
Dec 16 Jack Ashton
Dec 17 Jack Ashton
-Sullivan gave boxing exhibitions in Portsmouth, Eng
Mar 10 Charley Mitchell
-Some sources report this as a Heavyweight
Championship of the World contest; London
Rules and bare-knuckles were used for this
bout; Sullivan scored the first knockdown;
Mitchell drew first blood in the eighth
round; Weights: 166 - 200
May 15 an unnamed opponent
Jun 4 an unnamed opponent
New York, NY
(2:16:23) KO 75
-Heavyweight Championship of the America;
London Rules and bare-knuckles were used
2 Bill Muldoon
New York, NY
-This contest was to be a wrestling match
2 Mike Cleary
New York, NY
-The previous 2 bouts were scheduled as part of a Benefit
for John L. Sullivan; The outcomes are not known
9 Mike Cleary
New York, NY
New York, NY
New York, NY
-The previous 2 bouts were held the same date
Jun 26 Jim Corbett
San Francisco, Ca
-Sullivan toured Hawaii and Australia but did not
have any official bouts; He possibly had some
exhibitions with Jack Ashton
Nov 26 Paddy Ryan
San Francisco, Ca
Dec 20 Joe Choynski
San Francisco, Ca
May 29 Jack Ashton
New York, NY
Aug 29 Jack Ashton
Aug 29 Leonard Tracy
-This bout was scheduled; The outcome is not known;
The previous 2 bouts were scheduled the same date
Aug 29 Joe Lannon
-This bout was later scheduled for this date;
It probably replaced the Sullivan-Tracy bout;
The outcome is not known
Sep 7 Jim Corbett
New Orleans, La
-Heavyweight Championship of the World;
Five-ounce gloves were used for this bout;
Some sources report a time of 1:45 of round 21;
Weights: 212 - 178
Sep 10 Jack Ashton
New York, NY
Sep 10 Joe Lannon
New York, NY
-The previous 2 bouts were scheduled the same date;
The outcomes are not known
Sep 17 Jack Ashton
New York, NY
Sep 17 Leonard Tracy
New York, NY
-The previous 2 bouts were scheduled the same date;
The outcomes are not known but they were probably
cancelled since Sullivan boxed Corbett on this date
Sep 17 Jim Corbett
New York, NY
May 21 Paddy Ryan
Jun 26 Paddy Ryan
"Nonpareil" Jack Dempsey
New York, NY
New York, NY
Bar Harbor, Me
-This bout was scheduled; The outcome is not known
Oct 5 Paddy Ryan
-This bout was scheduled but cancelled;
Mayor McKisson, of Cleveland, refused
to allow the bout
Oct 14 Paddy Ryan
Jersey City, NJ
Nov 18 Paddy Ryan
Aug 31 Tom Sharkey
New York, NY
-One minute rounds were boxed
Feb 17 Paddy Ryan
-This bout was scheduled but not held;
The men were present and ready to spar;
Police intervened and prevented it
Aug 29 Jeff Thorne
New York, NY
New York, NY
Mar 1 Jim McCormick
Grand Rapids, Mi
EX KO 2
John L. Sullivan
The first Irish American Boxing Champion,
and ‘The hand that shook the world’.
John L. Sullivan was a boxing legend. He is credited as being the first heavyweight-boxing
champion of the world and is still ranked highly in that division. Sullivan was the link between
old style bare knuckle fighting and modern glove fighting under the Queensberry rules. He was
the first great American sports celebrity and in his long and controversial career he met and
sparred for Princes, Presidents and paupers. In late 1887, Sullivan, still the reigning heavyweight
champion of the world, toured Ireland, the country of his parents’ birth. On 15 December 1887
he visited Limerick.
John Lawrence Sullivan was born in mid-October 1858 in the Roxbury district of Boston,
Massachusetts. Sullivan inherited his combativeness (and his fondness for alcohol) from his
father, Mike Sullivan, a builder’s labourer from Laccabeg, Abbeydorney in Co. Kerry, who
arrived in America in 1850. Sullivan’s physique came from his formidable mother, Athlone born
Catherine Kelly, another Irish emigrant of the immediate post-Famine era. By all accounts,
Sullivan’s childhood was as stable as it could be in the heaving mass of uncertainty and poverty
that was the Boston Irish community at that point in the nineteenth century.
Mike Sullivan fulfilled the stereotypical Boston Irishman of the day: he worked with his hands,
for he had little other skill; he was quick in temper and slow in temperance. His son, John L., at
first attempted to learn a trade and for increasingly volatile periods was an apprentice plumber,
tinsmith and stonemason. However, as some journeymen colleagues of Sullivan painfully found
out, John L.’s personal attributes and ego were in fact perfect for prize fighting.
The Boston Strong Boy
For such a celebrated career - one that to this day marks the beginning of the modern
heavyweight division - Sullivan’s first punch up was little more than a barroom brawl. In 1878
Sullivan and a few friends attended a benefit night at Dudley Street Opera House in Boston. At
some stage during the night a local tough by the name of Jack Scannell challenged Sullivan -
who by now had a reputation as the ―Boston Strong Boy‖. Massachusetts state law prohibited
prize fighting but permitted ―exhibitions‖ of physical skill. Duly the organisers of the benefit
night accommodated the combatants. Sullivan took off his coat; laced up a pair of woolly mitts;
received a knock on the head from Scannell; lost his temper and proceeded to belt Scannell into
the on-stage piano. A star was born.
By 1881, and still without any formal coaching - appropriately he apprenticed on the job Sullivan had graduated to performing on the then biggest boxing stage of all: Harry Hill’s Dance
Hall and Boxing Emporium on New York’s East Side. In March 1881, Sullivan announced
himself at Harry Hill’s by offering fifty dollars to any man who could last four rounds with him
under the Queensberry rules. A veteran fighter named Steve Taylor attempted to do so but was
pummelled in two rounds. During this stay in New York, Sullivan met Richard Kyle Fox, the
Belfast born proprietor of the Police Gazette, and then the biggest boxing promoter in the United
States. Fox and Sullivan were never to become friendly but both were cunning enough to ensure
that their enmity remained well publicised to their commercial advantage.
Sullivan as Champion
Sullivan soon maneuvered himself into a bare-knuckle title fight with the Thurles born
titleholder, Paddy Ryan. Ryan was yet another Irish-American champion from the town of Troy,
New York, where the celebrated Templemore born boxer John Morrissey had also grown up.
However, Ryan was a mediocre and reluctant champion. The heavily gambled upon and much
anticipated Sullivan v Ryan fight took place on 7 February 1882 in Mississippi City. The fight
was somewhat disappointing and lasted roughly ten minutes with Sullivan easily defeating Ryan
in nine rounds, as governed by the London Prize Ring Rules. In fact, the most interesting thing
about the fight was the audience, in which the James brothers, Frank and Jesse, were spotted.
For the next decade or so Sullivan, despite chronic alcoholism, easily held on to his title,
defending it nearly thirty times. These fights were predominately arranged around Sullivan’s
great tours of the United States in 1883-4 and 1886-7, whereupon at each stop John L. made his
standard offer of one thousand dollars to any man who could last four rounds. He rarely had to
pay out for he could ―lick any man alive‖. Interestingly, and unlike the original title fight against
Ryan, all of these bouts were fought with gloves and took place under the Queensberry rules.
There is no great mystery as to why Sullivan preferred gloves: they were safer, they prolonged
his career; thus enabling him to make more money. Indeed, Sullivan was a commercial
phenomenon; using one commentator’s figures, it is estimated that Sullivan cleared between
eighty to one hundred thousand dollars during the 1883-4 tour of the United States. Later,
Sullivan’s commercialization of the ring would open unprecedented opportunities for other
boxers, though Sullivan drank most of his own earnings.
The Champion Abroad
On 27 October 1887, Sullivan, at the height of his fame, and with a mistress in tow, sailed from
Boston aboard the steamer Cephalonia. By 6 November, and after a brief stop at Queenstown,
the ship had docked at Liverpool. After a month or so of being feted at the various sporting clubs
of London, notably the Pelican Club, Sullivan was formally invited to a breakfast in the mess
room of the Scots Guards at St. James Barracks. Sullivan’s autobiography suggests that Sullivan
was taken more with the spread of food and meats on offer at the breakfast than the regiment’s
dubious and long history of combat in Ireland. Later in the same day, 9 December 1887, Sullivan
met the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, at the nearby Fencing Club. The meeting
went well and the Prince of Wales - maintaining a long history of royal benevolence towards
what was an illegal sport - presented Sullivan with a matching set of emeralds. Sullivan, who
sparred briefly for the Prince, thanked the future king and reminded him that if he ever came to
Boston, to be sure and look him up and, ―I’ll give you such a show round as you never had in
your life before,‖ he quipped.
The following day Sullivan left for Dublin. Though much can be overplayed in this, the
symbolism of Sullivan’s visit - occurring as it did a mere year after the defeat of the first Home
Rule Bill and in the middle of the ―Plan of Campaign‖ - was important. For Catholic Ireland here
was a physically indestructible symbol of one of their own made good. Here was a world
champion, here was a wealthy man, who in becoming so had literally defeated every Englishman
who had crossed his path. Moreover, in some sectors of English society at least, Sullivan even
commanded, of all things, respect.
Sullivan in Ireland
Sullivan seemed genuinely moved by the reception he received in the land of his forefathers. His
visit had been much anticipated by sports fans in Ireland. On Saturday, 10 December 1887, The
Irish Times carried an advertisement for ―a splendidly executed Lithographic picture of this
World-Renowned Boxer, a genuine work of art, and the best likeness of the redoubtable
Yankee‖. The same advertisement appeared in The Freeman’s Journal of the same day and it also
noted the draw for the amateur contests to be decided on the following Monday and Friday in the
Leinster Hall (now part of the RDS Simmons court complex), which Sullivan would attended.
The following evening, Sunday, 11 December 1887, Sullivan arrived in Ireland. Sullivan and his
party had left London by midnight on the Saturday, and after a brief stop at Crewe, they reached
Holyhead where they embarked on the mail steamer The Connaught. Later that evening, they
docked at the Carlisle Pier in Kingstown. A large crowd had assembled to meet Sullivan and by
the time Sullivan’s party had reached Westland Row station, they were to find themselves ―in a
complete state of siege‖, such was the multitude that had gathered. In response to several calls,
Sullivan gave a brief speech from the drawing room window at the Grosvenor, in which he
thanked most cordially the people of Dublin for their warm and enthusiastic welcome. To much
cheering he reminded the crowd that he was one of their own; that he was delighted to be in the
land of his parents’ birth and even though he would not, during his all too brief stay, show them
anything ―wonderful‖, he would he promised, at least show them what he was capable of doing.
He concluded, as he often did in front of his adoring Boston followers, by reminding the people
of Dublin that he would always remain, through good and bad, their faithful friend. A satisfied
crowd dispersed and Sullivan retired for dinner, and most probably a well-earned drink or two.
The following evening, Sullivan was the guest of honour at a boxing promotion in the Leinster
Hall. Yet again, Fred Gallagher, the editor of Sport, a well-known newspaper of the day,
introduced Sullivan to the thronged masses, in which The Freeman’s Journal noted, all classes
and conditions of people were represented. There were barristers and doctors in dozens, while
the military were represented by no less a personage than the Commander of the Forces in
Ireland, the Prince of Saxe-Weimar, who visited the hero of the night in his dressing room just
before he made his appearance in the ring in all his war paint. Sullivan, to the strains of ―See the
Conquering Hero come‖ and ―Yankee Doodle‖, gave a brief speech thanking the audience for
turning up in such great numbers. Then John L., ever in tune with his true supporters, gained a
very pronounced and prolonged burst of applause when he announced his sympathy with the
Irish struggle. This part of the speech was not mentioned in The Irish Times’ report nor was the
reaction of the Prince of Saxe-Weimar recorded.
The speech making completed, Sullivan refereed a few amateur contests before stripping to the
waist for a four round spar with his usual (and literal) sidekick, Jack Ashton. The Freeman’s
Journal, though noting that Ashton was very much overweight, was still very taken with the
muscular appearance and skill level of the redoubtable Yankee.
The following day, Tuesday, 13 December 1887, Sullivan left for Waterford on the nine o’clock
train from Knightsbridge. According to reports he was greeted warmly at all the intermediate
stops but most particularly at Maryborough and Kilkenny. It is during this part of the trip that
Sullivan visited ―Donnelly’s Hollow‖ a natural amphitheatre at the Athgarvan end of the
Curragh, where in 1815 Ireland’s Dan Donnelly famously fought and defeated England’s George
Cooper. Donnelly’s footprints on leaving the hollow have been preserved by being retrodden by
countless visitors since, and Sullivan was delighted to add his imprint. In Waterford, hundreds
gathered along the quays to catch a glimpse of Sullivan, as he made his way to the Imperial
Hotel (now the Tower Hotel). Later that evening at the Theatre Royal, Sullivan sparred another
exhibition with Ashton, during which The Freeman’s Journal’s correspondent noted, ―whilst the
men were on stage the spectators seemed to be simply spellbound.‖
Sullivan, as ever, had time to make a speech. Playing with the emotions of the crowd, Sullivan
reminded them that the reason he had travelled across the Atlantic was to fight the English
champion, Jem Smith, but that he had been ―blackguarded‖ out of that fight and would soon have
to face Charlie Mitchell instead ; not, as Sullivan roared, that it mattered who he fought, though
he confessed to the crowd that he was worried about the challenge he was to face the following
day in Cork in the form of highly rated local amateur, Mr. Frank Creedon.
The pre-publicity work done, Sullivan and his party left for Cork. If Sullivan read his morning
paper, he would have noted that, while he was entertaining Waterford, Kildare-born Jack ―The
Nonpareil‖ Dempsey was successfully defending his middleweight championship of the world in
New York, by knocking out Johnny Reagan. The Irish Diaspora would continue to dominate the
sport of boxing until the 1920s.
Sullivan arrived in Cork on the afternoon of Wednesday, 14 December 1887, and was met by a
now customary large crowd at the Great Southern & Western terminus. The crowd practically
whisked Sullivan and his party to the Victoria Hotel. Later in the afternoon Sullivan visited
Blarney Castle and kissed the Blarney stone, a superfluous act if ever there was one. He also
visited Mahony’s Mills, now Blarney Woollen Mills, where the firm presented him with a full
suit of Irish tweed. That evening Sullivan appeared in an exhibition at the Cork Opera House.
Sullivan was due to fight a local amateur, Frank Creedon, from Clarence Street in Cork, who one
paper had described as, ―the only man on this side of the ocean anxious and ready to stand up
before the unbeaten one. Creedon, despite advice from the home crowd who felt it better that he
go home (the uncharacteristically modest Cork crowd thought John L. would ―pulverise‖
Creedon), put on his woollen fighting mitts.
Creedon, an amateur boxer, was twenty-three years of age; five foot seven in height and weighed
eleven and a half stone. Sullivan, by now reaching his physical peak, usually fought at not less
than fifteen stone. Sullivan took one look at Creedon and declared, ―He is not in my class‖, and
refused to fight. However, one of Sullivan’s party obliged Creedon and, ―after a protracted spar
dusted Creedon considerably. Later, prior to another exhibition with Ashton, Sullivan presented
Creedon with a gold medal and commended him on his bravery.
On the afternoon of Thursday, 15 December 1887, Sullivan arrived in Limerick by rail, via the
Junction. The Freeman’s Journal recorded that Sullivan and his troupe received ―a most
enthusiastic welcome‖. It is interesting to contrast this reception with that received by the Lord
Lieutenant and Lady Londonderry who earlier in the same week had travelled by rail to Adare
Manor for a few days hunting: ―Their Excellencies left Dublin by the one o’clock train, arriving
in Limerick at half-past six pm, whence they travelled to Adare by special train. At Limerick and
elsewhere along the route the general public took no special notice of the party, but bodies of
police were at all the stations along the line. At Limerick, County Inspector Moriarty and District
Inspector Dunne had a force of thirty riflemen on the platform, but there was no demonstration
of any sort, not even a cheer being raised.
The Freeman’s Journal’s report of Sullivan’s brief stay in Limerick is perfunctory. Indeed, The
Freeman’s Journal’s main reference to Limerick during that month was not to Sullivan but to the
prosecution of Father Matthew ―The General‖ Ryan, C.C. of Hospital who was sentenced to one
month’s imprisonment for an pro-plan of campaign speech at Caherconlish on 20 November
1887 (The prosecutor of the case was Edward Carson). The Limerick Chronicle was also very
much taken with the Fr. Ryan case but devoted time to the Sullivan visit and it is clear that the
enthusiasm for the ―Slogger‖ was as evident in Limerick as elsewhere. Indeed, a week prior to
the visit, The Limerick Chronicle previewed Sullivan and citing directly from a recent issue of
Sport it gave a very impressive and accurate summary of Sullivan’s career to that point. The
report concluded, ―We are sure that the visit will be a most successful and popular one. And it
On that Thursday evening Sullivan and his troupe appeared at the Theatre Royal. The venue was
full a half an hour prior to the performance and was ―crowded to inconvenience in every part‖.
Sullivan’s appearance was preceded by four amateur contests between local boxers. Charles
Hipkiss and Frank Murphy fought to a draw; Jack Hickey defeated Jim Kendrick; followed by a
bout between Nune Wallace and Charles Williams; finally Samuel Blakelock fought a Mr. Hook,
the latter, despite his small size ―played a plucky part‖ and got a warm ovation from the crowd.
John L., with the No. 1 National Band playing ―See the Conquering Hero comes‖, then took the
stage and after a brief speech, he again sparred with Jack Ashton for ―four really well contested
rounds‖. The Limerick Chronicle’s reporter was very impressed with Sullivan’s fighting style
and particularly with the ―swiftness of hands, eyes, and feet‖. Then, to tremendous applause
Sullivan exited the stage.
Later that evening Sullivan returned to Dublin and the following day, Friday, 16 December 1887,
he appeared at Leinster Hall for the finals of Monday’s amateur boxing promotion at the same
venue. Sullivan again acted as a referee. Though the crowd was smaller than the previous
Monday, Sullivan and Ashton again gave them good value for money with their usual four-round
bout. Sullivan and his party then retired for dinner at the Sheridan Club on St Stephen’s Green;
but not before Sullivan’s personal manager, Harry Phillips, presented Fred Gallagher, the editor
of Sport, with a gold locket, surmounted with a diamond horseshoe, as an acknowledgement of
the manner in which Gallagher had organised the Irish tour.
Sullivan & Co. could well afford this gift. The Irish part of the tour was particularly lucrative and
later Sullivan claimed that he had made more money in one week in Ireland than he had in six
weeks in England. Sullivan noted that apart from the money, his Irish followers had given him:
one tweed suit; four jugs of whiskey; seventeen blackthorn sticks and forty-five letters asking
him to underwrite charitable organisations.
The next day, Sullivan travelled to Belfast for yet another exhibition. His chief biographer,
Michael Isenberg seems somewhat surprised that Sullivan, a Boston Catholic, received such an
enthusiastic welcome in Belfast ; however the sport of boxing had long been one of the few
sports that genuinely united ―across the divide‖ in working class Belfast, thus the warmth of the
welcome afforded to Sullivan was not that surprising.
From Northern Ireland Sullivan travelled to Scotland where he learned that his fellow IrishAmerican Jake Kilrain had, on a marshy island in the middle of the Seine, forced the English
champion, Jem Smith, to a draw over 106 rounds in a fight that lasted nearly three hours. Kilrain,
with logic understood only by the boxing world, now claimed the title. Sullivan was annoyed but
was contracted to defend his world title against Englishman Charlie Mitchell. On 10 March 1888
Sullivan faced Mitchell in a bare-knuckle fight, which took place on the estate grounds of Baron
Alphonse Rothschild near Chantilly, just north of Paris, probably without the knowledge of the
Rothschild family. In a bruising encounter, wherein at one stage Sullivan was heard roar: ―Fight
like a gentleman, you son of a bitch, if you can,‖ Mitchell forced Sullivan to a draw after thirtynine frustrating rounds. Sullivan chased by the French police left for the United States
immediately after the fight.
Sullivan’s next title defence occurred at 10.30 am on the morning of 8 July 1889, and it was
against Kilrain. Almost three thousand spectators were present at the fight scene near Richburg,
Mississippi; where they saw an unusually well trained Sullivan enter the ring. Kilrain, the
younger man, was sponsored by Richard Kyle Fox and seemed primed to take Sullivan’s
―undisputed‖ title. Yet, after two and a quarter hours of bare knuckle pounding, Kilrain’s trainer
refused to allow Kilrian to come up to scratch. Sullivan was victorious or as the New York
Times put it - on page one no less - ―The Bigger Brute Won‖.
In the aftermath of the fight, the state of Mississippi attempted to indict both Kilrain and Sullivan
for the offences of prize fighting and assault. At trial, Sullivan was convicted though he
successfully appealed. However, Sullivan’s legal victory was a pyrrhic one because it cost - in
the form of legal fees and travel expenses - more than he cleared from beating Kilrain. Sullivan
vowed never again to fight under the old bare-knuckle rules; he remained true to his word and
with that the days of the old bare-knuckle title fight ended.
Indeed, Sullivan remained out of the ring for the next three years. During these years Sullivan
subtlety avoided all challengers except black fighters, whom he expressly evaded and insulted.
Finally, on 6 September 1892 in New Orleans, Sullivan lost his title to James J. ―Gentleman Jim‖
Corbett. A visibly ageing Sullivan was knocked out in the twenty-first round. Once recovered,
Sullivan gave a gracious speech to the stunned crowd, muttering that he was glad that if he was
to be whipped, that at least he was ―licked‖ by an American. Indeed, Sullivan, like the majority
of his fellow working class Boston Irish, was a simple American patriot all his life.
In 1905, Sullivan, on tour, broke and drinking heavily, fought and defeated Jim McCormick in
Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was to be his final fight. Four days later, on 5 March 1905, Sullivan
gave up drinking. Later, in a life that became confined to what are now known as ―celebrity
appearances‖, Sullivan was reconciled with his wife and they lived peacefully on a small farm
outside Boston. Sullivan, by now a respected friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, returned to
Ireland very briefly in 1910, as part of vaudeville tour of Britain and Ireland. He died on 2
February 1918, probably of heart failure. A massive funeral followed. Fittingly, the frozen earth
had to be blasted to make his grave. In the commotion that followed, the Boston Irish finally
realised that neither they, nor anyone else, would ever again queue ―to shake the hand that shook
Written by Jack Anderson, who lectures in law at the University of Limerick. He is from Doon
in Co. Limerick.
The following excerpt from American Life Histories, 1936-1940 is from a document placed in
the WPA oral history interviews by writer Jerome Power. Power had been a young
newspaperman in 1911 when he had the good fortune to interview former heavyweight boxing
champion John L. Sullivan. What does Power report about Sullivan's attitude toward drinking?
What do you make of Power's reluctance to report on what clearly was very important to
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. . . John L. Sullivan, former heavyweight champion of the world, was 53 years old when I
interviewed him, as a young newspaper reporter, in the summer of 1911 while he was stopping at
the Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana. He shook my hand on that occasion. Without
meaning in the least to hurt me, he gave my carpals such a sardining that they still ache at the
memory, after all these years. He was that strong, even at 53. . . .
I took a good look at him and saw what seemed like an unusually big Irish policeman, off duty in
plain clothes. That was the first impression. Further inspection, however, showed me more - a
great deal more. To tell the truth, he did not look as big as my knowledge of his ring exploits had
led me to expect. He was tall, but his great shoulders and the paunch which he had developed at
53 prevented this from being apparent at first glance. He weighed, I should judge, well over 200
pounds, but having seen him walk across the room, on the balls of his feet, with all the lightness
and grace of cat, I had trouble in convincing myself that even this was true.
He had a well-shaped head - not the "bullet" type of many pugilists - and dark hair which was
turning gray. He carried this head at a proud angle which gave emphasis to his prominent jaw.
His face was somewhat florid, so that even without knowing who he was, on would have said
"Here is a man who has been a hard drinker." He had a fine mustache in the old tradition.
Starting below his nostrils this mustache, a few shades grayer than his hair, extended in leisurely
fashion over his lip and all the way across his face on both sides. The under edges were a trifle
ragged and the curl at the ends was upward. He had a custom of snorting sometimes, as he was
about to say something, after which he would stroke his mustache, first on one side, then on the
other. I got the idea that this stroking business acted as a sedative on him. . . .
He talked with a perceptible, but not pronounced, brogue. When he became excited, however,
this brogue grow thicker. He made small errors in grammar, which stamped him as a man of
little education, but remembering how brief his education really was, one had to admit that he
talked remarkably well. . . .
"Well, there's nothing to fighting, " he opened up, "Just come out fast from your corner, hit the
other fellow as hard as you can and hit him first. That's all there is to fighting."
He laughed, then at once grew serious.
"What I should like to talk about is something else. Whiskey! There's the only fighter that ever
really licked old John L. Jim Corbett, according to the record, knocked me out in New Orleans in
1892, but he only gave the finishing touches to what whiskey had already done to me. If I had
met Jim Corbett before whiskey got me I'd have killed him. I stopped drinking long ago, but of
course, too late. Too late for old John L., but not too late for millions of boys who are starting
out to follow the same road. I desire to use the years of life which remain to me to warn these
boys, to turn them back. John L. Sullivan, champion of the world, could not lick whiskey. What
gives any one of them the notion that he can."
I didn't wish to hear anything about temperance , but the famous scowl was in evidence and the
red sparks about which I was telling you gleamed in the dark eyes. You would think twice about
trying to stop John L. Sullivan, no matter what he was doing. I listened, therefore, while for the
next twenty minutes, without a break, he paced up and down the room talking about whiskey. He
talked with eloquence, too. Billy Sunday could have gotten ideas. He snorted and stroked his
mustache. Once a small chair got in his way. He kicked it absently, without seeming to use
much force, but the chair flew end over end all the way across the large room. When the torrent
of words ended, I put my cards on the table.
The Boston Globe
4 Feb 1918 – 13 March
John L Sullivan’s Life, as it was written by himself
Parts 1 to 23
By John L Sullivan
In beginning this narrative or my life and rather turbulent career, I want it distinctly understood
that I am not and never was ashamed of having been a fighter. To attain anything in this world
every man must fight and to reach the top he must win. Life itself is a fight. Even the art of
writing is a fight. If any of my readers have any doubts on that subject they should see me with a
pencil and paper in my hand trying to knock ideas out of my head, trying to fill these pages.
When I went on a grand tour of the United States and faced all comers, I did not find a single
man as hard to knock out as I do this first chapter.
As I said before, life is a fight from beginning to end. The world is full of fights, and those you
see directing the affairs of the Nation are the winners. They have fought their way to the top, and
that is the only way to get there. Even. the preachers have to fight. They go into the pulpit with
the idea, of knocking out the Devil, and by the way that Devil seems to be about the only fighter
that ever stuck it out regardless of age.
They keep pounding on him, however, and while they have never succeeded in knocking him
out completely, Old Satan has never got any better than a draw. The man who stands out in law,
medicine or any other profession has to fight his way to the top, and the poor boy who starts out
to reach the top was to fight his way to honors as well as to fight off poverty at the same time.
Desire to Excel
It may or may not be morally right for one man to stand up and strike another with his fists, but it
is the same old idea — a desire to excel. If you will remember away back yonder in the time of
Julius Caesar — well, I guess you can't remember that far back, neither can I — anyway, at that
time the historians, tell us of how great multitudes arose and marveled at the muscles of the
man." That was many years before the corning of Christ, and even then people were
congregating to look some fellow over who showed some signs of being a champion. The same
thing has been true ever since. Did you ever notice that throngs are on hand to greet a champion
just after he has won a big fight?. The rivalry between men for physical superiority is what is
left of our ancient animal instincts and will be continued until the end of time.
The lion ruled the forest because he was the best fighter. Among all the wild fighters the leader
of the herd is always the one who has won his spurs by showing physical superiority. Some time
ago I was standing in back of stage curtain of a moving picture show. At the start a picture of
President Taft was thrown on the screen and it got a fair round of applause. Next came
Roosevelt, and he received an even a little better applause. They then flashed a picture of Jim
Jeffries on the screen, and I thought the crowd would tear up the house.
It was almost an ovation. The next was that of George Washington the Father of His Country,
and he only got a ripple of handclapping. I do not think, however, that the favoritism toward
Jeffries was so much on account of lack of respect or admiration for the others, he was simply
the man of the hour — the man who was getting ready for the champion of the world with his
I merely relate that incident to show what a hold any man of muscle and brawn has on the
American public. Very few men can ever reach the ideal of physical perfection, and those who
do attain that honor are looked upon as heroes who have done something for the physical
uplifting of the race. Now. this is not a lecture, but I could not refrain from giving my readers a
few of my views in regard to the ancient sport, business or whatever you may pleased to call it,
Having passed the half century mark in years, and being able to look back over a career of strife
and excitement, my mind drifts to a little scene in the playground of a primary school in Concord
It Was The Beginning
It was the beginning. A knot of youngsters had gathered in the centre of the playground and from
their gesticulations were evidently intensely excited. One youth held under his arm a little
schoolboy’s hat, and in it was a handful of marbles, some of the best and prettiest marbles in the
school. Another muscular looking youth had the bareheaded boy by the lapel of his coat and was
talking in the strongest language a boy of 12 knows. To his coat tail was hanging a small pale
faced boy, evidently in deep distress.
"Now, look here, Jerry," said the boy who was protecting the weaker youth, "You've got to
give this boy those marbles, you know he won them on the level, because he beat you plain."
"I ain't going to give him nothing." Jerry said, "I couldn't shoot cause my thumb was sore."
"Ain't so." said the little fellow "John, when I beat him he grabbed all the marbles and tried
to run away. Don't let him keep them." "Jerry, go on and give this boy those marbles‖.
The boy spoken to as John was evidently getting angry, His eyes flashed and the muscles in his
small arms began to move up and down beneath the sleeve of his jacket. "I ain't going to give
them," replied Jerry, doggedly, "and I don't, know of anybody that can make me. It's none of
your business, anyhow."
"You ain't, eh?" replied John and his eyes snapped, "Well, let me tell you something. When
Bobby first came to this school his mother told me to look after him and I am going to do it.
You've got to give him those marbles or you've got to lick me, one or the other." At this the
little gathering of boys applauded vigorously. They wanted to see a fight. "Go on and fight, him.
Jerry, or give up the marbles," they yelled in chorus.
Jerry Was Willing
Jerry appeared to be willing, and after handing his cap and marbles to one of the boys the two
youthful fighters squared and got ready for an honest set-to. The other boys gathered in a
circle, which in schoolboy customs means a guarantee of fair play. After a little jumping around
Jerry ran at his antagonist and tried to plant a blow on his face, but it failed. John blocked the
blow, and came back with another that narrowly missed Jerry's ear.
"Hit him, John; hit him!" yelled little Bobbie, "he is a big bluffer." John tried but failed and
Jerry stung him with a glancing blow to the cheek. That appeared to get up the Irish in John and,
like a whirlwind, he waded into a clinch, his elbow rubbed into Jerry's ribs. Jerry reached for the
spot with his right hand and as he did so John's right shot out and struck him squarely on the
jaw". Jerry dropped to the ground defeated.
"Here's your marbles, Bobby," said John. "Ain't hurt much, are you, Jerry?" he asked the fallen
boy. "Let's shake hands." "Guess I was wrong, anyway," said Jerry. "Let's be. friends."
From that date on these two boys — Jerry and John — were
the best of friends. They were both named Sullivan, but were
no kin. The winner of that fight was yours truly, John L.
Sullivan, and it was the first big fight of his career. Moreover,
that fight was on the level and it was fair. I stuck to that
principle the rest of my life.
That little fight in the schoolyard on Concord St taught me that
the place to strike a man and knock him out without injuring
him permanently was on the point of the jaw. Practically every
man that was ever knocked out by me took the count from a
punch on the jaw.
I was not a quarrelsome boy, and as a rule had little trouble,
but it so happened that my prowess as a boxer spread around
the school and many a little lad I had had to defend in the
years that followed. My success as a regular boxer and fighter
for money will be told in the chapters that follow.
I have always believed that I inherited my love for athletic
games and muscular feats from my father, who came from
County Kerry, Ireland. My big frame and general physical
build came from my mother’s side of the family. She was born
in County Roscommon, Ireland, and she came from a race of big men.
My father was a little fellow weighing no more than 130 pounds. What he lacked in size however
was made up in enthusiasm over great athletic stunts. In fact he grew so enthusiastic at times that
he almost forgot facts and figures. That was especially true as to things that were supposed to
have happened in Ireland. He could never ―see‖ anything that occurred in America.
During my fight with Paddy Ryan for the championship my father spent time in a newspaper
office in Boston getting the telegraphic details. When the fight was over and my father learned
that I had won he was taken home in a cab. Several friends were along with him and he was
being showered with congratulations.
―Well Mr. Sullivan‖ said one of the newspaper men, ― I guess you are very proud of your son,
aren’t you‖. ―And what for ? ― asked the old gentleman in a derogatory manner.
―Why, because he has just won the championship‖, replied the young man.
Nothing Said His Father
―That’s nothing, me son‖ said the old gentleman.‖There’s many a man in Ireland who kin
knock the face of him‖
While I knew the old gentleman was proud of his son at heart, he would never allow me to think
so. I shall never forget the manner in which he greeted me on my return.
―So you are the champion eh ?‖ he said after looking me over. ―Well he continued. It’s a good
thing that you don’t fight in Ireland‖
In the room with my father was an old gentleman named Hudson. They began to ply me with
questions as to what I had seen while travelling around the country. The talk was on matters
pertaining to athletics and great muscular feats.
I began to tell them about a great athlete James Maloney who I had seen jump in and out of 10
flour barrels and make a running jump of 22 feet. I think the record then was 21 feet.
―Sure that nothing‖ said the old man. ―you have no jumpers in this country . I mind a fellow
born in Ireland who jumped across the Shannon River and it was 32 feet from bank to bank at
the narrowest place‖
―Well ― I replied a little testily ― I guess you never had a man over there who could do what
George Washington did‖. ―And what was that ? asked the two of them. ―Why he threw a silver
dollar across the Potomac river when he was only 18 years old‖.
That stumped the old men for a minute. ―Well ye know my boy‖ finally said my father, ―Ye know
a dollar went a long way in them days‖.
Learned To Keep Cool
I quickly learned that the advantage was in keeping cool and making every blow count. I was
naturally very strong. In fact I weighed 200 pounds before I had reached the age of 21. I was
quite a good runner, a good baseball player, and a fair Jumper. I liked boxing better and I made
that a specialty.
At that time boxing was quite the rage around the athletic clubs of Boston and I fell right in with
the sport. I always believed in fighting with gloves. At this time I was working as an apprentice
plumber trying to learn the trade. I got along very nicely and did not have as much time as I
would have liked to devote to boxing. I went to the clubs at night and was beginning to make
some reputation as an amateur boxer.
I worked the plumbing trade for 6 months. When the water pipes in the old Williams market
were frozen a journeyman and myself were sent there. We went with all the necessary appliances
which were used for thawing out pipes in the plumbing trade, including lighted torch and hot
water. After a hard day’s work in which I carried all the water the journeyman and myself had
some words. I told him that I thought I had carried enough and that he could have a few hours of
that work himself. This caused some feeling between us and resulted in our having a scrap over
the affair, and right there I won another fight. He made his escape to the shop which was only a
few doors from where we were working.
When Career began
A few nights after that my career as a boxer really began.
I dropped into a variety show at the Dudley Street Opera
House. I knew that there was to be a boxing exhibition,
but I had no idea of taking any part in it. I took a seat
among some friends near the first row. A strong looking
young fellow named Scannell was introduced as a great
boxer, he walked to the footlights and said.
― I would be glad to put the gloves on with any man in
the house. If there is anybody here who thinks I cant
lick him, let him stand up‖
I could feel that everybody in the house was turning his
eyes on me. Having had some local reputation as a boxer
they naturally expected me to accept the challenge.
I walked to the stage and went into the wings. I had no
fighting togs, so I simply took off my collar and rolled up
my sleeves. I walked out on the stage and everybody laughed because I looked so queer in my
street clothes, while the great fighter had on tights. I was very timid at being on stage, and I
stood around for a second, as if waiting for the fighters to be introduced.
As I stood there with my hands down that fellow Scannell walked up behind me and gave me an
awful clout on the back of the head that almost knocked me cold. I was enraged at this, but did
not lose my senses. Turning my head very quickly I saw Scannell smiling at the crowd as if he
had done a very smart trick.
I was determined to get even with that fellow and without turning my head I slowly edged up to
him until I had got within range. I then turned like a flash and let loose my big right fist. The
blow caught him squarely on the point of the jaw and lifted him clearly of his feet. I swung so
hard that I knocked him over the top of the piano and into the orchestra. He crashed into the
works of that piano and made the inside of it look like a load of splinters. He kept falling until he
had broken three of the fiddles and your ought to have heard them howl. They wanted the money
for their broken fiddles, but I told them to collect it from Scannell. Scannell came to about an
I didn’t get any money for that fight, but had the pleasure of taking the fight out of the fellow
who had hit me from behind and broke up a German orchestra as well.
As a youth I was a very industrious young fellow, and, unlike many fighters, I never had much
trouble making money. When I quit the tin smithing business I was getting $21 a week and that
was considered good pay in those days.
I was one of the best amateur ball players around Boston and played with the Tremonts, the
Etnas, Our Boys and several other clubs. I used to get $25 for playing a game and I got that
twice a week. I played first base and right field and was a good hitter. In 1870 I was offered
$1300 to play with the then famous Cincinnati Reds in Its seasons of 1870 and 1880.
I had the boxing fever, however, and did not accept the offer. Between my baseball playing
and my boxing exhibitions around town I was making as much as $1000 a week before I was 21
Having made up my mind to become a fighter I went at it in a systematic way. I never had a
teacher. I never took a boxing lesson in my life, I watched other boxers keenly and appropriated
the best of their styles. I was strong and that made it easy for me to experiment.
The first regular sparring match ,they would call it a fight these days, that I ever had was in 1878,
when I met Johnny Woods, better known as "Cocky" Woods, in Cockerill Hall, Hanover St,
Boston. He was also a Bostonian and was a man of considerable reputation, having been
matched to fight Heenan, the Benecia boy. After a little preliminary sizing' up I planted a clean
wallop on his jaw and he was out.
You must understand that at this time practically all championship fights were fought under the
old London prize ring rules. They differ vastly from the Marquis of Queensberry rules that are
London Prize Ring Rules
Under London prize ring rules the rounds may last one minute or they may last 10. Whenever
either fighter is knocked or wrestled to the ground the gong sounds and the round is over.
Thirty seconds are allowed for rest, but the fighters were more apt to get three minutes. That 30
seconds of time is supposed to start from the moment the fighter is placed in his chair in the
corner of the ring. Consequently the old fighters did a lot of "stalling." for instance, they would
fall to the ground and the trainers would take plenty of time in going to pick them up. These
seconds would make a chair out of their arms and hands and place the fighters on it. They would
take all the time they could to get back to the corner and then after they got there the fighter
would still have 30 seconds.
There are a lot of fighters in America today who would have a hard time getting along under the
old London prize ring rules, especially if they had to fight with their bare fists. During the year
1880 I had many fights and succeeded in beating two such men as Dan Dwyer and Tommy
This was not the "Tom" Chandler of Pacific Coast fame, however. Later In that year I got my
chance to be known as a coming fighter. It was through Prof Mike Donovan, the man who
trained President Roosevelt, that I got a first peep at fame. I agreed to box with Donovan at a
benefit performance given him by some friends at the Howard Athenaeum in Boston.
We wound up the fight in three rounds, and toward the finish I really tried to knock him out. I
didn't quite make it, however, and we left the stage with the crowd cheering. The master of
ceremonies, thinking we were sore at each other, made us shake hands. Donovan was a clever
boxer and I surprised him by my ability to stand him off. !
When we reached our dressing rooms upstairs we had a long talk. "John," he said, "I believe you
really tried to knock me out." . "O, no," said I, as 1 winked to one of my seconds. "I didn't try
very hard to finish you."
"Well, I'm going to be honest with you, John," he said, "and tell you that I tried my best to
knock you out and I was surprised I failed to do it." "Well, I'll be honest," I. replied, "and tell
you that I came within an inch of putting the knockout wallop over. If you hadn't dodged that
last one that was aimed at your jaw you wouldn't have come to yet."
They Didn't Believe It
Prof Donovan returned to New York and told Joe Goss, George Rooke and other knowing ones
around that city that he had found a comer up in Boston that was going to be the boss of the mat.
"O, tell that to the sailors," Goss replied. "I would like to get a peep at him. Can't you show
him to us?" Donovan told them that they would see me before long. Goss, at that time, if you
remember, was one of England's greatest champions, and, incidentally, he was a great fellow to
It was so arranged that I was to meet Goss on April 6, 1880, at a testimonial given to him in
Music Hall, Boston. That gave me the first chance to demonstrate to the wise ones that I was to
become one of the world's greatest exponents of the manly art of fighting.
We boxed three rounds, and I could have knocked him out completely, but my friends advised
me not to do so. In the second round we were standing toe to toe and slugging when suddenly I
let loose a right-handed swing and knocked him flat. He was all in, but his seconds managed to
get him to his corner and save him for the next round. As he came in the third I could have
finished him easily, but Tom Denny and Billy Edwards advised me not to do so, as I might hurt
him worse than I intended.
Therefore I was very careful and sparred through the last round without trying for a knockout
blow. As Goss was taken to his dressing rooms he turned to the referee and said: "That fellow's
blows feel like the kick of a mule."
The next day the papers had a little article about the fight and one of them said: "Sullivan's
terrific hitting on this occasion proved quite a sensation." You know, in those days the papers
didn't have much to say about prize fighting. If a fighter got as much as two inches of reading'
about himself before a fight came off he was lucky.
When, at the age of 21, I spent two months in a strange city, fought a man twice to get a
decision, was arrested by the police end then received a purse of $58 and $20 of which I
contributed myself for my troubles, I began to feel that I was a real prize fighter.
The city I visited was Cincinnati and the man I fought was John Donaldson, who was known far
and wide as the "champion of the West." The fight advanced me to the first round of the
pugilistic ladder and gave me an initial insight into the workings of the prize ring as the sport
was conducted in those days.
My reputation as a boxer and fighter In Boston had spread throughout, the country. John
McCormick, a sporting writer on the Cincinnati Enquirer, who later came to New York and write
under the name of "Macon," conceived the idea of having a fight in Cincinnati between a good
man from the East and the champion of the West.
Having found gentlemen who would give him financial backing: Mr. McCormick packed
his grip and started for Boston. They didn't do things through the papers In those days as much as
they do now.
One afternoon I dropped into a sporting place known as Sheppard's, in Boston, and the proprietor
told me there was a stranger there to see me. The visitor was Mr. McCormick."I want you to
come out to Cincinnati and see if you can best our champion in an exhibition boxing match,"
he said to me. "And I want to know what you will charge. Of course I will pay railroad
expenses both ways."
I thought It over for a minute, and then agreed to go for $250. I thought that was putting the
figure pretty high at that.
"That's a little high," he said, "but I'll tell you what I will do, I will pay your railroad fare and
your hotel bill and give you $150.". "You're on," I replied, and the bargain was sealed.
Imagine a fighter of today going all the way from Boston to Cincinnati to fight the "champion of
the West" for why, they would charge you that much now for incidentals.
Started for the West
A few days thereafter I packed my grip and started out for the strange Western country. That is
the first time I ever went away from home. Arriving at Cincinnati I had a week in which to get
ready. I didn't need it, however, for I was ready all the time.
The boxing match was held in Robinson's Opera
House, and when I stepped on the stage I saw that the
place was jammed to the doors with people. I
determined, then and there to put the Western
champion out if I got a chance. Donaldson was a well
built man and was a fighter of considerable note. He
had licked a lot of good men out in that section of the
country and I knew that if I even made it close the fight
would give me some added reputation and finally lead
me up to a fight for a championship.
Although considerable heavier than Donaldson, I was
much quicker. He quickly realized that and attempted
to keep out of my way. We were to box three rounds. It
was in the second round that I caught him as he jumped
and the blow floored him. I hit him so hard that he
almost turned a somersault, and the spectators set up a
shout of wild glee.
When the third round was over the crowd began yelling
"Go on! Go on! Give us some more of it." Donaldson
walked to the corner and removed his gloves. He refused to continue the fight.
"I am not in condition," he explained to the gang. "And as this man is in training I refuse to
fight him." As a matter of fact, I had not trained as much as Donaldson. I was in perfect
condition, however, and didn't need to train.
The crowd was in a big hubbub and everybody was clamoring for Donaldson to go on and have
it out. I stood there for I knew that I could lick him. Finally Donaldson came to the footlights
and made a speech. "I am not going to fight now because I am not in condition," he said. "But I
here challenge John L. Sullivan to meet me in two months for $500 a side and the fight to be
fought with hard gloves." "That suits me." I replied. "Get your money up."
Waited Two Months
As a matter of fact I did not have $500, but I had several friends in Cincinnati, who offered to put
up the coin. Donaldson never did get up his money, but I was so anxious to get at him that I
decided to fight, anyway. I stayed around Cincinnati for two months at my own expense to get
this fight. Mr. McCormick made good his contract to the letter and paid me $150 and expenses,
but, of course, he had nothing to do with the second fight and I had to take a chance on getting
what I could.
Donaldson and myself finally met on the night, of Dec 24, back of the old Atlantic garden on
Vine St. We had intended fighting at some hall out of town, but the police got on to it and
gave a warning not to start. There was a big crowd waiting to see that mill start. Those on the
inside finally got the tip and we all slipped around to the hall back of Atlantic garden.
There was a crowd of less than 150 on hand when we finally got together, and none of them paid
their way in. We were afraid of the police and had to rely on a collection. This was done by
passing around the hat. I put $20 in the hat myself. I was counting on getting Donaldson’s $500
At the last minute he flickered on the money question, but said he, would get it as soon as his
friends arrived. They never arrived.
We started the fight finally, under the London prize rules. It lasted 10 rounds, and when 1 finally
hooked a hard right swing on Donaldson's jaw he went down and out. He had prolonged the fight
by running around the ring and crawling on the floor when down. It was not a hard tight, for I
had the best of it all the way through. If we had been fighting under Marquis of Queensberry
rules I would have knocked Donaldson out in less than three rounds, but he kept stalling me off
by hitting the floor und staying there.
Just $58 in the Hat
After I had been declared the winner I took the hat that held the money. When counted up it
figured just $58, and I never saw anything of that $500 that was to have been bet by Donaldson,
To add to my troubles as a coming fighter both Donaldson and myself were arrested the next
day. Bobb Linn went bond for both of us. On the following Wednesday we were tried for
"engaging in a prize fight."
The courtroom was packed when we came before the judge, and there were scores of witnesses.
Their testimony kept the courtroom in an uproar of laughter until the Judge stopped it.
Johnny Moran, brother-in-law of Peter Morris, the well-known featherweight champion of
England at one time, was the main witness. "Did you see a prize fight between these two men?"
asked the judge. "No, your honor," replied Moran. "What I saw was a foot race."
"Well, who was ahead'.'" asked the judge. "Donaldson was in the lead by several yards," replied
Moran. "And Sullivan was hot behind him."
"Did he catch him?" asked the judge, who was enjoying the thing himself.
"Only once, judge," replied Moran. "And then he barely touched him."
"Well, what happened then?" asked the Judge.
"Nothing, judge," replied the witness, "except that Donaldson stopped running‖
"You are discharged," said the judge to Donaldson and myself. "I fall to see any harm in a good
It was in Cincinnati that I first saw light ahead that would eventually lead me to the
championship. My victory over John Donaldson had made me quite a favorite in the Ohio city,
and I was advised to go after Paddy Ryan and not stop until I had nailed him. I needed no advice,
however, for it had always been my one ambition to get Paddy Ryan, the champion, in the ring
and let myself loose. Thus it was that the following challenge appeared in the Cincinnati
To the Sporting Editor of the Enquirer:
I am prepared to make a match
To fight any man breathing for any
sum from $1000 to $10,000 at catch weights
This challenge is specially
directed at Paddy Ryan and will remain
open for a mouth, if he should
see fit not to accept it,
JOHN L. SULLIVAN.
I caught Ryan at Springfield, Mass, but he refused to either spar or fight me. "You go get a
reputation before coming to me," said Ryan. I could clearly see he did not consider me worthy
of his standing as a pugilist. Arriving in Boston, I was practically broke. I set about to raise some
money in case Ryan should accept my challenge. I got hold of Joe Goss, the English
champion whom I had licked, and we gave a sparring: exhibition.
There were several bouts at the exhibition and one of the men I was selected to fight was Jack
Stewart, called "The Champion of Canada." I shall never forget that fight, for it was the first
time I had ever seen a man show the white feather in the ring. I cracked Stewart a couple of hard
ones and in the second round he ran out of the ring and fled from the hall. Just as he was beating
it into the wings I gave him a hard kick that helped him on his way.
Before the fight he had been parading around the theatre and telling everybody about what he
was going to do to me. The exhibition netted $1300, which Goss and divided evenly.
Goss opened a sporting resort in Boston with his share of the money. I took the first train to New
York. I had but one thing in view. I must get a reputation and at the same time get together
enough money to make good on a bet with Ryan.
No "Stage Money" Then
You know, in those days, when a fighter said he would bet $500 he had to put it up. In this day
and time they bet $10,000 and $15,000 at a crack, but that is easy. They never put it up. Most of
the bets in prize fighting today are made on paper.
On the way to New York I thought out a scheme for getting money that later proved to be the
greatest novelty ever introduced in prize fighting and one that did more to add to my fame
than anything I ever did. My idea was to meet any man in the world that wanted to fight me and
give $50 to anyone who could last four rounds.
On March 31, 1881, I was tendered a testimonial benefit at Harry Hill's place. The sports of New
York were beginning to take an interest in me, and I received lots of encouragement in my
ambition to finally become the champion. At the close of the entertainment at Harry Hill's the
master of ceremonies walked to the footlights and announced in a loud voice:
"This man , John L. Sullivan, is not afraid to fight any man in the world. He offers $50 to any
man who stands before him for four rounds. He does not expect any one, and if Paddy Ryan
is in the house It goes for him." In one of the boxes was a man known as Steve Taylor, though
his real name was John Mahan. Many of the New Yorkers of today will remember him.
He was a native of Ireland, but came to America when a youth. During his career Mahan was
well known around New York as a politician under the Tweed regime. He was also a coroner
in Jersey City at the time. As a boxer and prize fighter Mahan was for some reason known as
Steve Taylor, and it is that name I will use in telling this narrative.
Taylor had fought many of his fights and around New York he was looked upon as a wonder.
He was a six-footer of very powerful build, and as agile as a cat. He fought a draw in 1878 with
Phil Dwyer, the Brooklyn champion. When Jem Mace came over here from England Taylor was
looked upon as the only man that could give him a fight. Among Taylor's other experiences
were those of training Paddy Ryan for his fight with Joe Goss and sparring over The country
It can be readily understood that all the people at the boxing benefit naturally turned their eyes
towards Taylor when I issued my challenge of $50 for anybody who could stand before me for
four rounds. "I will fight him, finally said Taylor, as he jumped to the stage. Matt Grace, the
collar and elbow wrestler, was selected an referee, and Hollywood stood up for Taylor, while
Billy Madden acted in that capacity for me. We fought under the Marquis of Queensberry rules
and wore ordinary boxing gloves. The minute I saw Taylor put up his hands knew I would beat
Paid, Although He Won
The first round was spent sizing each other up. Just at
the end of the opening round I got in one left that
staggered Taylor, and he looked at me in surprise. He
never felt a blow like that before, he afterwards told
We had barely got started in the second round when I
caught Taylor on the side of the head, with a right hand
swing, and he hit the floor with a thump. He was game
to the core and came up for more. He was making a
desperate attempt to last the four rounds. Again I felled
him with a stinging right, and he was so far gone when
the bell rang that he threw up the sponge and I had
I felt a little sorry for Taylor, because he appeared to
be a good game fellow. I needed the money badly, but
I couldn't stand the idea of seeing him lose a fight like
that and then go broke. I went over and shook his hand
and gave him half of the prize he had failed to win.
After that Taylor was a friend of mine and he once
went with me as a sparring partner on a trip around the
The crowd went wild over this novelty in prize fighting. The crowd was anxious for more.
Finally there was a voice up in the gallery. A big rawboned looking fellow stood up for a
minute and then walked to the stage. "I have just come over from England, said the new man and
haven't got a farthing to my name. I would like to fight for a purse If I can get a backer. My
name is Con Morris. I think I can lick this fellow."
The hall was again in an uproar.
I will give a purse of $500 for a fight between those two men','' said a voice from the gallery, and
Bill Borst, the famous sporting man, stood up. I found out later that Jim Wakely was also ready
to help. Everything was going along nicely and I was told to come in Borst's place that night so
we could fix up the details. we had just about fixed everything up when they decided they had
better take Morris uptown and give him a tryout. They told him to put on the gloves with a
fellow named Connors, who was a very ordinary fighter around New York. The new champion
proved a bad one and Connors knocked him out in five rounds.
This stopped my fight with Morris and it was responsible for my battle with John Flood on the
barge in the Hudson River. I will reserve my description of that fight for the next chapter.
I was seated on a campstool in one of the dark corners of the old barge. My only companion for
most of the trip was Joe Goss, the old champion, whom I had licked in Boston. As we moved
slowly up the stream I could hear the choppy waters of the Hudson River sloshing against the
sides of the old boat. I thought of the good old times around Boston, and couldn't help being
reminded of how far I had gone to realize my ambition of being a great fighter.
The only light we had was that from a flickering torch stuck over in a corner. There was a haze
of tobacco smoke all over the barge, and through it I could see men drinking from wine bottles
and wagering money by the handfuls. There was occasionally a burst of laughter, but the
principal noise was the popping of champagne corks.
The chill of the night had begun to make me shiver when Jim Wakely, the famous New York
sport, came over and threw an extra blanket around my .shoulders. I was already dressed for
the fight and Goss had to continually rub me to prevent stiffness of my muscles. The tug that was
towing us up the river made as little noise as possible. The torches were backed up with
reflectors to prevent them being seen from shore. The whole affair seemed weird and mysterious.
We were dodging the police.
Since the days of Sayers and Yankee Sullivan the police have been a constant thorn in the side of
the prize fighters. Even to this day matches have to be so arranged that conditions are introduced
in the agreements covering a possible interference by these officers of the law. They gave us
some lively chases in those days, but by some hook or crook we always managed to ward off
arrest until after the fights had been decided. After all my big fights, or rather the greater part
of them, I had to undergo arrest.
As we proceeded up the river that memorable night — it was April, 1881— I was constantly on
the lookout for any boat that might put out from the shore. In another corner of the barge sat John
Flood, a noted heavyweight, known far and wide as the "Bull's Head Terror." He and his party
were watching the other side of the river.
To a Finish, for $1000
Having failed to get a match with the Englishman, Con Morris, Billy Borst and Jim Wakely had
arranged for Flood and myself to fight to a finish, under London prize ring rules for a purse of
$1000. Of that amount $750 was to go to the winner and $250 to the loser. In addition to that we
made several side bets. We had been warned of interference by the police, and the managers had
conceived the idea of slipping up the Hudson in a barge and holding the fight in the middle of the
stream opposite Yonkers.
Five hundred men were taken on the barge at $10 each, which, as you see, made a sum total of
$5000. Of course the managers had to come in for something, as well as to pay the expenses
of the trip, the referee, timekeepers, etc.
As I sat there keeping an eye on the shore Joe Goss, who had left me for a moment, came back
and tapped me on the shoulder. "John," he whispered ―they have framed it up to beat you out of
this. you want to be on the lookout for they intend to play some trick on you‖. "I don't believe
they would take the chance," I replied.
Goss insisted that he knew what he was talking about, however, and again he left me for a
minute."They are all ready to try It," he whispered, as he came back to my corner. There are
several toughs over in that end of the boat and they have been betting their heads off on Flood. If
he does not win it their plan is to jump in the ring, put out the lights and stop the fight. If they
cannot win any other way they will throw you overboard‖
I stilt refused to believe that men would be capable of such a thing. Despite this belief I later
found that it was true. Jim Wakely, Billy Borst and some others came around with the same
information. By the time the old barge had reached the end of Manhattan Island the rumor had
spread all over the boat, and it looked for awhile as if there was going to be serious trouble.
It was something like 10 o'clock when we reached a point off Yonkers and there we anchored. I
knew now that It was time to fight. Al Smith, one of the most reliable and straightforward men
that the sporting world ever knew, was selected as referee, and Joe Elliott, at one time
sporting editor of the New York Herald, acted as stakeholder.
Ordered Into the Ring
The anchor had hardly struck the mud when 'we were ordered to get in the ring. I did not know it
then, but it developed later that Al Smith had hurried things so as to stall off any trouble
regarding the plot to beat me out of the fight if I won.
As Flood and I took seats opposite each other in the canvas-covered ring Al Smith threw off his
coat and stood up between us. "Gentlemen," said Smith, "I have an important announcement to
make, and I want you to listen. There has been a plot formed here to beat Sullivan out of this
fight if he wins, and I want to tell you right now that you are not going to get away with it. If
any man other than the fighters puts his foot into this ring or attempts to start any trouble I
will award this fight to John L Sullivan, and I have friends enough on hand to see that he gets
―Have you got the money Mr Elliot ?
The stakeholder announced that he had the money on hand and he would turn it over according
to the referee’s directions, no matter what happened.
―You are right‖ yelled the gang from Cherry Hill ― and we’ll stick by you‖
That put a decided crimp into the scheme, and Flood and I got ready to fight. As I was walking
over, to shake hands with my opponent, I caught a glimpse of the smiling face of Paddy Ryan in
the edge of the crowd. "I'll get you next," I said to him, and he laughed good naturedly.
"You'll get a chance yet," he replied, and someone in the crowd added: "But you will have to get
up some dough to fight the champion."
Flood and I pulled on our skin-tight gloves, and with a shout
from the crowd we went at it. Still fearing some trick on the
part of Flood's friends, I made up my mind to end the fight
just as quickly as possible.
Without waiting for any preliminary sparring I rushed at
Flood and let both fists drive at his face and stomach. He
stood them oft for a second, and then I caught him on the ear
with a right-hand swing that sent him flopping to the floor.
The round had lasted less than a minute. You must bear in
mind that we were fighting under London prize ring rules,
and that a round ended when one or the other of the fighters
How It Ended
In the eighth round Flood showed a little new life and came to
me with a rush. That was just what I wanted. He had been
keeping out of reach for several minutes. We had been
fighting 16 minutes when Flood suddenly made a second dash
toward me. A wave then lurched the boat a little, which only served to increase his momentum. I
saw his right fist coming and dodged it. I knew that my chance had arrived. Instead of stepping
to one side I braced myself and, as his fist shot over my head my right landed squarely on his jaw
and he flopped to the floor. It was an awful jawbreaker that I hit him, and without waiting for
him to revive Flood's own backers threw up the sponge and admitted that I had won.
"There is no use in letting a willing man be killed," said one of Flood's backers. "He is
completely outclassed." Although I still had in mind the attempt that had been made to stop the
fight and cheat me out of my honest victory, I felt very sorry for Flood. I knew he had nothing to
do with that scheme. He was too honest and too game.
I went over to the corner and took him by the hand. "We met as friends. old fellow," I said to
Flood, "and I want to part that way." I then grabbed a hat and went all over the boat taking up a
collection for the man I had beaten. After that fight John Flood was one of the best friends
I ever had.
Paddy Ryan came over and congratulated me. The next morning there appeared an interview in
one of the papers, in which Ryan said: "Sullivan is a clever young fellow, and he looks as if he
would turn out to be a good fighter." "Are you willing to give me a fight now?" I asked of
Ryan, when I met him on the street. "Show me another good victory and I'll talk to you,"
replied Ryan. Still determined, I started out looking for another customer.
The prevalent idea that fighters, as a rule,
are vicious and cruel is erroneous. I have
known some pugilists of prominence who
were so gentle in thought as To be actually
"chicken hearted" over the most trivial
matters. Old Joe Goss couldn't stand to see
a chicken killed.
I have also known fighters who would
fight all day in the ring and then be afraid
to go into a dark room. Kid Broad, they
tell me, couldn't sleep in a room without a
light in it.
Fighting becomes a business pure and
simple. The knockout is merely detail of
the job. I never
Experienced a thrill of pleasure in
knocking a man out, and I have often
wished that fights could be settled without
the necessity, of rendering a man
unconscious .The public won't have it any
other way. The fight fans are always more
vicious in temperament, than the fighters.
They are responsible for most of the prize
The reader has probably attended many
fights in which he saw one of the combatants staggering around the ring and the other hesitating
to strike the deciding blow until his opponent was able to put up his hands. "Finish him! Finish
him!" the spectators will yell. "Go on and knock him out!" You have heard and seen that many
times if you attend boxing matches. The fighter is thus forced to deliver a blow on the face of a
helpless man when he really hates to do it.
As I left the barge that memorable night In April, after having whipped John Flood, I was
thinking about these things. He wanted me to fight him again and I hated to do it. I knew that I
could knock him out whenever I got ready, and I really hated to take advantage of him again. As
an illustration of this feeling on the part of fighters, the greatest regret I had while in the prize
ring was in knocking out a gigantic blacksmith while touring the West and offering $50 for any
man that would stand before me for four rounds. Evans was his name, I believe. I had heard that
a giant would be up against me that night, and I was looking over the various persons who came
around the wings of the stage.
Man's Son Was There
Presently I caught sight of a stripling of about 18 years. He acted in a manner to attract my
attention. He was plainly nervous and something appeared to be weighing on his mind. By
Intuition I picked him out as the son of the man who was going to fight me.
―come here young fellow‖ I said to the youth, and he came up trembling. His big blue eyes
wandered around as if he were expecting somebody at any minute. ―Are you the son of the man
who is going to fight me ?‖ I asked.
―Yes sir‖ he replied, ― and I have come here to make him stop, my mother and I don’t want
him to fight. He says though that he can lick anybody in the country, and that he is going to
get that $50‖
―I would rather give you the £50 now‖ I replied. ―If he needs the money that bad. I don’t want
to fight him‖
"O no, sir ―said the boy, "I couldn't do that. You don't know my father. He means to fight."
Just then a man of enormous build came lumbering on the stage. He must have been seven feet
tall and weighed close to 300 pounds. The crowd was beginning to yell for us to go on with the
scrap, and the big blacksmith had many friends on hand to help him along. We finally got in the
ring, and as I shook hands with the giant I looked over and could see those big blue eyes of the
boy as he stood in the wings. In his face. I could see a look of fear and at the same time a hope
that his father might win out after all.
"Well, there is nothing to do but to whip this fellow," I said to myself, "so I had better get at it."
He was much taller than I, and I had to figure on a way to get him. The big blacksmith lunged at
me with a roar and I stepped to one side. He went bellowing to the other side of the ring and
came up against the ropes with a growl. Again I caught a glimpse of the boy’s eyes and they
were sparkling with hope.
He Got Up for More
The next time the blacksmith started I stepped a little to one side and then poked my left hand
into his stomach. That brought him clown within reach and I clipped him a clean right on the
jaw. The blow felled him, but he was of tough caliber and immediately got up far more.
In the second round I knocked him down again but he came right back. Up to this time he had
not struck me a single blow. Again he lunged at me and again I floored him. This time he got up
very groggy. He was staggering about the ring and I could have finished him easily, but the blue
eyes of that boy haunted me. I hated to do it. In the third round the blacksmith was very groggy. I
knocked him down a couple of times and he was all in. He would not give up, however. Finally,
he ran at me and all I had to do was hold up my fists. He ran into them and knocked himself out.
I could see tears in the boy's eyes as they carried his father to the corner. "Here, son," I called to
the boy. "Take this $50 and run with it to your mother. Your daddy tried hard to earn it."
It was a month after the famous barge fight that I met Flood for the second and last time. I had
responded to the demand to meet him again. This time things had been fixed up with the
police and we were to fight in Clarendon Hall, New York.
Every sporting man in the country was there, for the tip had gone out that there would be some
excitement over another challenge to Ryan. Just before the fight with Flood began the crowd
started yelling for me, and I walked to the corner of the ring.
"Gentlemen," I said, "I am ready at any time to meet Ryan in a glove fight, and I think it is
time he was giving me a chance." "A glove fight decides nothing," shouted James McGowan of
the Police Gazette. "This is no baby affair."
"He will find out it's no baby affair when I'm through," I replied. ―I have a blank check signed
by Richard K. Fox," yelled McGowan, as he jumped to his feet. "And if you want to make a
match I will fill it out for any amount from $5000 to $10,000."
Thought $1000 Too Little
"I will waive the glove clause," I repled, "and will fight him with bare fists for $1000. I can’t go
any further than that now, until I have seen my backers‖
―One thousand dollars doesn’t amount to anything‖ said McGowan, as the crowd began to jeer
―better men than Ryan or I have fought for $1000‖ I said.‖There’s Jem Mace, Tom Allen and
others who fought for less than that‖.
The crowd was intensely excited over this colloquy and they were jumping up in all parts of the
hall. One of my friends finally climbed on a chair and yelled ― If Ryan will fight for $1000 a
match can be made right here‖
―Ryan won’t fight for $1000‖ remarked McGowan. ―It isn’t worth while‖
I didn't have the money and there was no use in going on with the argument. I saw I would have
to raise $5000 to get a chance at the championship. That is the way they made matches in those
days, right out in the open.
The fighters did not work for the promoters at so much an hour. They had to put up their money,
and what they said went. This thing of betting $10,000 without having a cent did not go in
The incident being over, Flood and I went on with our fight. Harry Hill was master of
ceremonies. Flood was easily defeated, and I never fought him again. That exciting incident
over, the Ryan match had aroused the sporting blood of New York, and it eventually led to
the great fight of my career.
As my scheme of offering $50 for any man that would stand before
me for four rounds had panned out pretty well, I decided to keep it
up. My tour began with an exhibition at Philadelphia and by the time
I had returned to Boston the match with Ryan had been made.
Things were working nicely now, and I would soon be in a position
to have a say as to the arrangements for these big fights myself.
Arriving at Philadelphia I appeared on the stage at Arthur Chambers
hall and offered to fight any number of men four rounds each. The
only man who accepted the challenge was a local boxer by the name
of Crossly, he quit in the first round. Soon after that I began to see a
new angle of the boxing game.
In those days it was customary to give benefit entertainments for
boxers, so that they could have a little spending money, I agreed to put in a week at John Clark's
Olympia for $150. John Clark, the proprietor, came to me and asked me to allow the use of my
name, as a drawing card for the benefit. "Sure," I said. "Go right ahead. You know I want to be
a good fellow,"
Clark went out and advertised that affair as a benefit to me, when in reality it was a benefit to
him, and he made several hundred dollars. For my end I merely got the S160 for a week's
Just before I appeared Mr. Clark addressed the crowd from the footlights. "As there are three
men in the hall," he said, "who, I understand, would like to try Mr. Sullivan, I hope they will
hurry to the front."
This One Took 40 Seconds
In a minute a big, muscular-looking man was seen making his way to the footlights. He proved
to be Dan McCarty, a famous fighter of Baltimore. "Well," said McCarty, "I am here to call
your bluff. So you had better get busy." He took off his coat and shirt and donned the mitts.
" I hate to break your winning streak,' said McCarty, "but I need that $50." His friends heard
this and set up a big roar of applause.
Before we were hardly set McCarty ran at me, but I fooled him by not stepping to one side. I
planted my feet firmly and shot my right list straight into his face. The blow slammed him up
against the dressing-room. As he came back I let him have the other barrel, and that left of mine
knocked him to his knees. I could hear him abusing me as he rested on his knees. Then as he
arose I turned loose my right again and it caught him squarely on the neck just below the ear. We
went sprawling on the floor and was out for the count.
It was some time before they could resuscitate him, and I began to set alarmed. It had taken just
40 seconds to lay McCarthy out. He finally came around all right and I offered him my hand.
From Philadelphia I went to Chicago and gave an exhibition at McCormick's Hall on the North
Side in Clark St. I made my same offer of $50 and the first night I discovered that they had tried
to put, in a ringer on me. Parson Davies, the well-known sporting man, was interested in my
exhibition financially. He received 25 percent of the profits for his end.
Tried to Put in a Ringer
"Well, we have a good one for you tonight," a local sport informed me as I walked to the stage
that night. "He is a tugboat man known as Jack Dalton. He is all right, too." I felt that
something was wrong, so I made inquiries of a close friend concerning Dalton. I found out that
he was a famous fighter in the West, and that he had successfully downed John Dwyer, Ryan,
Donaldson, Chandler and others. I realized that I would have to go at this fellow right from the
jump if I wanted to get him in shape for a licking.
We had hardly been introduced to the crowd when I shot a couple of vicious right-handers
straight in his face and he started to bleed. The way I went after the big tugman got the crowd
going immediately, and in a minute the place was in an uproar. He was a game fellow, however,
and he held me off for three rounds. In the fourth the tugman came up a little groggy, and I
waited for a chance to crack him on the jaw. This came in a few seconds, and I knocked him so
stiff that he was out for 10 or 15 minutes. I gave him $25 anyway.
That fight put me on the road to final success. A Chicago paper of that date said: "Sullivan
created quite a sensation by the way he knocked out Dalton, .and there were any number of
men who offered to back him for any amount, from S1000 to $10,000, to fight anybody in the
John Dwyer, the old fighter, made a statement to the crowd, in which he said .1 was the most
dangerous young follow in America. A few days after that I had a chance to make the easiest
$250 I over made in my life. I had gone over to Mt Clemens, a Summer resort about 20 miles
from Detroit, Mich. I had never seen that part of the country before and I started to take a look
Beating a Bully
On one of the streets there was a raised sidewalk, and on my first night I selected that as my
route for a stroll. As i walked along I suddenly received a severe bump that nearly knocked me
off the sidewalk. I looked around in surprise. A big, tough looking fellow glared at me. Without
saying a word he deliberately tried again to bump me off the sidewalk.
"What do you mean by that?" I asked him. "Are you deliberately trying to knock me off the
"I’ll make you jump oft if I want to," he yelled back. "You don't know me," I replied, a little
angrily. "Have you mistaken me for somebody else, or what is your game?"
"I will show you what my name is," he said, and he made a pass at me. I knew there was no use
to argue with this fellow, and having seen politeness and diplomacy failed, I squared off. The
thug seemed surprised that I would even take a chance with him and he rushed at me with a
The air was blue with vile epithets that for some reason he was heaping, upon me. In a minute I
saw that he knew nothing about fighting, but by this time I was thoroughly angry and I let him
have one on the point of the jaw that would have knocked out a bull. He went down and out for
The citizens evidently heard of the fight, tor the next morning a committee appeared at my hotel.
The spokesman was a druggist named Crane, who said: "Mr Sullivan, I have come to present
you with a purse of $250, which has been contributed by the citizens of Mt Clemens as a
reward for having taught that bully a lesson. For the last six months he been abusing and
browbeating everybody in town,"
I thanked the gentlemen as best I knew how, but I told them that I could not accept the money. I
had about made up my mind to hurry East so as to make the Ryan match when I received a
telegram calling me to Chicago to fight a new terror that had shown up. The man they had dug
up to win that $50 was a big fellow called the "Michigan Giant." He was 6 feet 6 inches tall and
built in proportion.
"Why, I hate to hit this little follow," he roared, and then he looked at me as if to frighten me. As
he did I walloped him in the stomach and he came down to my size. With all the power in me
I swung my right on his jaw and he landed in the second row of the orchestra seats.
That night I heard that the Ryan match was getting under way and I took a fast train to Boston.
Everything was full of sunshine for me, and I was the happiest boy in the land when I left
the train and was in my old home again.
In the beginning of this chapter, which will deal with the final signing of articles of agreement
for a fight with Paddy Ryan for the championship of the world, I cannot refrain from a
comparison between that and the proceedings over the arrangements for a fight between Jim
Jeffries and Jack Johnson.
I had been in Boston less than two hours when I
was notified that arrangements had been made for
me to fight Ryan. It was on the fifth day of
October, 1881. We agreed to fight for a purse of
$5000. Of that amount, each of us was to put up
$2,500. The first $2,500 was put up on my behalf,
as a forfeit in Harry Hill's hands.
On Nov 9, a month later, we each had to put up an
additional $1000, and the last deposit of $1000
was put up on Dec 7, making the total $5000.
Now, mind you, that is the amount we were to
fight for. There was nothing said about gate
receipts, advertising privileges, or anything
of that kind.
Of course there were no moving pictures then, and
that did not figure. It was generally understood
that if we made any money through the box office
the winner was to take It all, but, as I say, that side
of the fight was inconsequential.
This Was Different
Can you imagine Jim Jeffries fighting a championship battle for a purse of $5000, all of which
was wagered money?. That meeting between the backers of Ryan and myself was held in the
open and within a day everybody in the country knew all the particulars. The final meeting
between the managers of Johnson and Jeffries, if you recall ,was held behind closed doors.
There was talk of a side bet, but the public did not see the money deposited.
As a matter of fact the question of the side bet was secondary. It was too small by comparison to
be worthy of consideration. They are to fight for a purse of $101,000! They are to get a
percentage of the moving pictures and get many weeks on the stage at an enormous salary! Can
you beat it?.
right here I want to ask a question or two and I am not trying to knock anybody either Big Tim
Sullivan, an honest man if one ever lived, is the stakeholder. They have to put the money in his
hands before they start. Of course they will have to borrow some of it.
Suppose that Tex Rickard and Jack Gleason fail to take in that $101,000 at the gate. How are
they going to make good ?. I do not mean to intimate that any of these fellows are not honest,
But I think they are putting their figures too high.
Having concluded all arrangements for the great fight with Ryan for the championship I selected
Pete McCoy and others for sparring partners and started on the long trip to New Orleans. It had
been agreed that we would fight in State where there would be no interference by the authorities.
The State chosen was Mississippi and the place was a little town called Mississippi City. New
Orleans was to be the centre of our business activities.
Training In Mississippi
After a series of exhibitions, in one of which Mike Donovan backed out of a challenge that he
had issued and refused to meet me, we finally arrived in New Orleans. I went to Bay St Louis
where I made my training quarters. Everything was moving smoothly and the whole country was
talking about the coming fight.
Ryan and his crowd came down a little later from his home in Troy, N Y and established quarters
at Mississippi City , the place where we were to fight. While in New Orleans the papers were full
of stories and interviews about the coming fight. Everything that either Ryan or myself said was
printed word for word and, of course, we had to be very careful.
One day I was invited to visit one of the newspaper offices and accepted. The reporter who
escorted me was a very nice young fellow, but he smoked those strong cigars that the people
down there are so fond of, and it almost stiffed me. I accepted the chair that he proffered.
"Now, Mr. Sullivan, have one of these cigars," he said politely.
"No siree," I replied with emphasis, and he looked surprised. "I know when I meet anything
stronger than I am and I cave. That cigar is too much for me."
The office force had a good laugh over this incident and the next morning the whole thing
appeared in the paper.
"By the way Mr. Sullivan," said the managing editor as he came over, "I have a job for you if
you care to take it. I fell for this for a minute and then he began to explain. "You see," he said,
"our fighting editor is laid up in the hospital and to do I will read you something " he then
showed me a letter, in which a mail said he was going to use the editor for a floor mop, because
the paper had said that when "this man's daughter was In Frisco her hair was so red she stopped a
Said He'd Take the Job
The next letter he handed me was from a young dude or society man who wanted to fight a duel,
His complaint was that the paper had said, referring to him, ―Leander and his pants were
both so tight that at the Rex ball he could neither stand up nor sit down " The third letter
was from a man who wanted to fight because the following appeared in the paper; ―The
Robinson County whiskey sampler and Councilman from the 15th Ward might as well learn now
as later that he cannot open a coal hole with a night key‖.
―now you understand the nature of the job‖ said the editor. ―and if you will take it I will give
you $100 a week and expenses. Is it a go?" "Put it there," I replied, offering hand. "If you will
hold that job open until I get through with this Ryan fight I will take up the work " I was on
the level with that too. I mention that just to show that newspapers were run differently in those
days to what they are now, and that even an editor had to be a fighter.
At Bay St Louis I took up my training work with a vim. I wanted to fight At 175 pounds, and
that made it necessary for me to take off about eight We trained somewhat like they do today
except that we did not do any of those wild stunts like climbing mountains , hunting bears
wrestling with cows and all that hot air stuff.
I would take a run of eight or 10 miles and then come back and have a rub down. After that I
would box a while with my sparring partner and, then take it easy for the rest of the day.
I did not drink a drop of anything but water during that training period. Running or walking is
the best thing in the world for increasing the wind or endurance powers, and nobody has even
been able to find a substitute for that kind of exercise.
While I was working away down there on the Gulf Coast the Boston papers were printing
columns about me, and for the first time correspondents were sent South by all the big papers of
Talent Was There
To give you an idea of how the country was worked up, I received a Boston paper down there
with the following story, in which it appears that a reporter had been making the rounds of
sporting men in Boston to see what interest was being taken in the fight.
―Has much talent left Boston to witness the fight‖ the reporter man queried. ―You can bet there
has‖ said the tough ―cove‖. Why, all of our best is there, and the only reason we didn’t go
was because we bet all our "sugar" on Johnny.' "What good men are still in the city?"
" Well,' answered the young man. 'I think there is Tim McCarty, Jerry Murphy, "Fish"
Kennedy, Sammy Blake, Uncle Bill Busby, Marcellus Baker, Prof Bailey, Ned Kelly and a few
men left in this deserted village; but the pride of the town Is down there, mebbe at this very
minute on the battleground.‖
"What will be the result should there be no fight — that is if the backers and trainers of one of
the men should object at the last moment.'"
" Well, then, there'll be blood on the moon if such a thing should happen there'd be the
bloodiest fight over heard of at a "mill" in this country.' "Upon what do you base these
" Why, when the Sullivan men left here they went with the idea that this fight must take place.
They won't back down, you bet; and If the Ryan men try any "shenanigans" there'll be pistols
out and blood will flow. You see, all the men are away down South a long ways from their
homes, and in a country where shoottin' irons are common instruments. They have a freer
feelin', you see than they would have North or even West.' "
On the morning of Jan 15, 1882 following appeared in the New Orleans Times-Democrat In a
column called "Letters from the People":
To the Editor of the Times-Democrat:
"I see that a man signing himself 'Conge' suggests that Ryan and Sullivan
meet in the Fair Grounds. His ideas, are correct, and if his plans are
carried out you can immortalize your yourself by sending an invitation
to the Mississippi Legislature, and on their arrival they should be
presented with a pocket bible with the story of David and Goliath marked.
As insignificant as that might appear it raised one of the biggest disturbances among the
lawmakers that Mississippi and Louisiana had seen for years. To show how the Mississippi
Legislature came near availing themselves of this suggestion, a bill was introduced on Jan 17,
two day’s later, making it unlawful to hold a prize fight in Mississippi and fixing the penalty at a
fine of $1000 and five years in the penitentiary.
I had been training regularly for several weeks and knew nothing of this sudden turn of affairs
until a committee suddenly appeared at my quarters in Bat St Louis one morning with the doleful
Ready for Special Train
"Mr Sullivan," began the man, whom I knew as a square sport in New Orleans, "we are here to
take you away and you must get ready as soon as possible. We have engaged a special train
and it is at the disposal of yourself and Mr. Ryan. We thought it advisable to slip you out of the
State of Mississippi before this bill became law. We want to do the square thing. We have
promised you an even break and an honest fight and you are going to get it‖.
―There is nothing to it John‖ said Billy Madden, who stood at my elbow. ― I guess we will have
to light out‖. It appeared that the news had reached New Orleans that morning by way of a
private telegram, and the sporting element of that grand old city was completely upset. Feeling
that their reputation for good fellowship was at stake they immediately held a council of war.
―It’s a sharp game on the part of some new legislator‖ said a man from Chicago ,‖ and I’ll give
$200 toward getting both men out of the State of Mississippi by means of a special train right
now‖ . ―I’ll give another $100‖ cried another, ― and I another‖ chimed in a third. In a few
minutes the money was raised and in a few hours the committee had reached training camps.
To give the reader an insight into the character of Paddy Ryan – he was a noble fellow – I will
give a verbatim account of what happened when the committee of sportsmen reached his quarters
with the alarming news.
―that’s rough ain’t it‖ said Ryan after listening to the spokesman, and then turning to his trainer
said ― can I fight him tomorrow John‖ .‖ we can find a place right away and settle it before the
law goes into effect‖. ― You certainly cannot‖ was the reply. ―The day has been named and
when it comes I will have you there if we all have to go to the penitentiary. We will fight here
in Mississippi City‖.
Later in the day a committee of citizens called on Ryan and told him there was no danger for a
while and they would give him ample warning. Nevertheless he decided to play it safe and took
the special train to New Orleans where he established quarters in the St James hotel.
Ryan Ready to Fight Then
When called upon by the reporters and fight managers Ryan said: "Just find a place where we
can fight, that is all I ask — a fair field and no favors, and don't you ignore the other side in
the matter. They must be satisfied, too."
"You have the naming of the place, Paddy." remarked Roche. "And I don't think they would
consult you in the matter.".
"O, well, Roche," observed the good natured Troy man. ―Let’s be decent about it and have a
place that suits them as well as me.‖
A short time afterward he said with a smile; ―Sullivan says he will go to Cuba or Texas to fight.
Now don’t be so – well I’ll go anywhere in the world; it’s my last fight and I am anxious to get
out of the business, so the sooner the better.‖
That shows the nature of the men I was to fight. How many fighters of today would show that
consideration to a man who was after his title? A week later somebody in the Legislature
succeeded in shelving the obnoxious law, and we were told that the fight would be held in
Mississippi City without interference.
1 shall never forget the day of Feb 7, 1882. We had arrived in Mississippi City ready for the
great fight. The grounds in front of the Barnes Hotel were thronged with thousands who had
come by special trains from New Orleans and other cities to witness the deciding of the
championship. The gathering, although animated, was of an ordily character, and one spectator
remarked; ―A conference of clergymen could not have been more staid.‖
The sets on the plaza of the hotel sold for high prices and many of them were occupied by ladies
in the old fashioned dress of that day.
Hawkers Sold The Colors
On every side there were hawkers selling the colors of the two men. The sale was lively and
everybody wore the colors of one or the other. It was the fashion those days when there was to be
an important meeting between prominent pugilists for them to issue colors. These colors were
highly prized by sporting men and in many homes of New York today there can be seen the
colors of Sayers, Harrington, Tom King and even your humble servant.
My colors on that occasion consisted of a
white silk handkerchief with a green
border. In the opposite corners were
embroidered Irish and American flags. In
the center was an American eagle. As an
instance of the interest in such things I
may remark that a facsimile of the colors
worn by me was taken to China, where the
Chinese workers in silk reproduced them
in elegant style. They were subsequently
brought to this country and presented to
There was considerable wait over the ring
arrangements, and during that time I stood
on the hotel plaza looking out at the sea.
The water was as smooth as a mill pond.
Far out a white sail gleamed in the bright
sun and I could see the fishermen going
out to their grounds. They appeared to be
the only persons in the world not interested
in the fight, and I half wished that I was
with them and rid of all the worry.
Suddenly I felt a touch on my elbow and looked around half startled.
―what are you thinking of Mr. Sullivan‖ It was a newspaperman who had asked..
―I was thinking that I had never seen so beautiful a sea‖ I replied. ―But I guess it’s time to quit
dreaming and think about fighting. Are they ready.‖
In describing that incident the newspaperman told the rest of it like this. ―Your ring is ready‖
called Joe Goss just then, and the soft look faded away from the eye of the Boston boy and
against Sullivan the gladiator stood where one second before had stood Sullivan the
I turned and started down the steps – the steps that would lead me to the championship.
The ring in which I was to win the championship of the world was pitched on the green turf not
far from the main hotel in the little town of Mississippi City. That kind of a ring would appear
strange to the fighters of today who wear soft leather shoes and jump around on a canvas covered
floor. We wore shoes with sharp spikes in them very much like the running shoes used
by sprinters today.
After a short conference on the steps of the hotel it was decided that John Roche of New York
and Tom Kelley of St Louis were to be Ryan's seconds. Billy Madden and Joe Goss were to act
in a similar capacity for me. James Shannon of New York was umpire for Ryan and John Moran
of Cincinnati was selected as umpire for me.
There was some trouble in selecting a referee, the choice being between Mr .Alex Brewster and
Mr Hardy. Neither side would give in and, at the suggestion of Joe Goss, we compromised by
allowing both men to serve. As we walked to the ringside, there was considerable excitement
over a report that Gov Lowery of Mississippi had issued a proclamation calling upon the
citizens to prevent the fight. We were momentarily expecting a posse, but none appeared.
Ryan Got the Applause
I entered the ring at 11:40 o'clock and quietly sat down in the corner. There was considerable
applause, but it was like a soap bubble as compared with the outburst when Ryan appeared a half
hour later. As I sat there I was a very lonesome person. I could feel at heart that nine men out of
every ten at the ringside were hoping to see me licked. Ryan was unquestionably the favorite.
While we waited impatiently for the arrival of the champion there were several bets made, one of
$1000 to $800 in my favor. At 10 minutes after 12 Ryan could be seen making his way through
the crowd. Ten feet away from the ring he stopped and threw an old hat into the enclosed
square of turf. In the old days it was always customary for the fighters to throw something in the
ring before they entered.
In another minute Ryan had jumped over the ropes and stood in his corner while the crowd
roared with applause. He was clad in a suit of white drawers and undershirt, flesh colored
stockings and fighting shoes. Ryan appeared very pale and some of his friends throw an overcoat
over his shoulders. His good-natured smile seemed to have deserted him.
We lost little time in getting down to business. I always admired Ryan and I walked to the center
of the ring and offered him my hand. He took it cordially, and I knew that I was to fight a man
who was square and honest. We did a little preliminary sparring just to get warmed up. I had
been told That Ryan expected to outwrestle me and for that reason I kept away from him until I
could get in get in a timely wallop.
Knockdown in 30 Seconds
Ryan finally led out with a right that barely grazed my chest. I countered with my left and dealt
him a stinger on the face. He looked at me in surprise because he bad been led to believe
that I could not box.
While eyeing Ryan closely I suddenly made up my mind that the time to win the fight was right
at the start. Waiting for a good opportunity I suddenly lunged at the champion with all my
force. There was a rapid exchange of short arm jolts. When I saw the opportunity I let go my
right with all the force I had within me and it caught Ryan squarely on the jaw. The blow
almost lifted him from his feet and he hit the turf like a shot, face downward. That ended the
round, and I had scored the first knockdown in just 30 seconds.
After the fight Ryan said to Billy Madden:
"When that Sullivan boy struck me
the first time I thought that a telegraph
pole had been shoved against me endways,"
That first knockdown came pretty near ending the tight, for Ryan was all broke up and during the
rest of the fight be failed to show any speed. At the end of the first round I could have finished
Ryan, but my seconds warned me not to do so. I walked up and pushed the champion over. Joe
Goss warned me against hitting him hard, as there was a danger of killing him. For that reason .1
did not strike him in the stomach, although I had opportunity after opportunity to do so.
At the end of the ninth round Ryan was all in. He could not move, and it required the best care of
physicians to bring him around.
Was Declared the Champion
I was declared the champion of the world!. I was so jubilant over this great victory that I jumped
out of the ring and ran 100 yards to my dressing room. In an hour I was on the streets in my
regular dress and receiving the congratulations of friends.
More than $200,000 changed hands as a result of that fight. In addition to losing the money that
he had bet Ryan's pocket was picked of $300 while the doctors were trying to bring him around.
As an indication of how complete the public regarded my victory over Ryan I reprint the
following from a New Orleans paper of the date succeeding the fight.
''Mr Sullivan has probably put an end to heavyweight prize-lighting. It is altogether
improbable that for many years a man will be found who would dare face him in a prize
ring. He cared nothing for .Ryan's blows and his hitting is so tremendous that it seems to
be beyond the power of man to recover from the shock of one of his hands let out from the
To prevent any possibility of arrest we hustled out of the State or Mississippi as fast as the train
could carry us. I reached my old quarters in the St James Hotel in New Orleans and found a
crowd of friends ready to give me a blowout.
Ryan was patched up by the doctors, and arrived at the hotel a short time after I did. We sent for
him to come into my room and join in the festivities. He was a good fellow and came right over.
"Well. I'm through," Ryan said to the crowd, "and I am glad of it. There are two others who
will be happier than I am when they find that I have quit the prize ring forever. They are my
wife and mother."
Knew "They Never Come Back"
Ryan knew that it was impossible for a fighter to "come back" and he quit, I did the same thing
after I fought Corbett. It is a pity that others did not follow the same tactics. What a glorious old
fighter Bob Fitzsimmons would have been to history if he had quit the ring after his first defeat
for the championship.
That night in the St .James Hotel the wine flowed freely. It was then that I saw the things of life
that money can buy. I realized what it was to be famous. I tackled John Barleycorn in a limited
go. Later he bested me, but that is another story.
While enjoying this little celebration after the victory I was told for the first time of a plot that
had been hatched against me before I went into the ring. A party of low-lived fellows had gone
to Billy Madden and had offered him $4000 — and they put the money in his hand — to give me
some kind of knockout drops that would put me out of condition. They also went to New
Orleans and offered a man $2,500 to put me out of the way.
Ryan did not know of this. No friend of his would do a thing like that. For fear of making me
nervous Madden did not tell me of the incident until after the fight. We did not remain long in
New Orleans, for I already saw the road to wealth and was anxious to be on my way.
On the evening of Feb 9 I started for Chicago with Billy Madden, Joe Goss, Pete McCoy and
Bob Farrell. I was already billed to appear in that city under the management of Parson Davies
at McCormick's Hall Feb 1. The journey from New Orleans to Chicago was an ovation all the
way. At every stop immense crowds surrounded our cars and clamored for my appearance.
I did not appear, however in our party was a well known sporting man whom we called "Big
Steve" He posed all the way as John L, Sullivan and would make a flowery speech at every stop.
In that way I gained the unwarranted reputation of being a great orator as well as a great fighter.
There has been so much talk and diversity of opinion as to whether I was ever the real champion
of the world that I feel it incumbent upon me to produce facts and figures to show that I really
earned that title. Frequently I see this question asked in the newspapers, and in many cases I see
that the sporting editors answer that I never was champion. To start with with, Dr Dudley A.
Sargent, in his "Life and Reminiscences of a Nineteenth Century Gladiator‖' calls me the
champion of the world. England is part of the world, ergo according to Dr Sargent, who is an
authority, I was champion of England.
Let us begin at the start. Tom Figg was considered the first champion in England. He bloomed in
1719. The next champion of note was Tom Cribb, who received a championship belt that was not
transferable in 1819. The next champion was Tom Spring, who was cock of the walk in 1820.
Then comes Jim Ward who appeared five years later. In 1841 Caunt defeated Nick Ward for a
belt that was subscribed for. Four years later Bendigo beat Caunt and got the belt. In 1850 Perry,
the Tipton Slasher, after his draw with Paddock claimed the championship, but never defeated
the then champion Bendigo. In 1853 Perry again claimed office because Harry Broome forfeited
a match with him. Four years later Tom Sayers beat Perry for a new belt and a $200 side bet.
Four years later Tom Bayers beat Perry for a new belt and $200 a side.
Good Luck Heel
When Heenan and Sayers were in the ring an American put the heel of an old shoe in Heenan's
hand, saying' "This is the heel of Yankee Sullivan's shoe, Jack; he swore he never lost a fight
while it was in the ring. Leave it there and go in and lick England.
Although the heel did not prove strong enough to get for Heenan the English championship belt,
it must have discouraged Sayers, for he left the belt open for competition. This was the
time when Jem Mace won it conquering the giant, Sam Hurst, known as the ―Staleybridge
Tom Sayers and Heenan fought their memorable battle in I860. Chambers Encyclopedia, under
the head of boxing or pugilism, has this to say of the Heenan-Sayers fight: "The year 1860
however, witnessed a strange revival of the pugilistic sport on occasion of a fight between Tom
Sayers, the champion prizefighter of England, and John Heenan, the Benicea Boy, an American,
for a £200 a side, and the belt, a badge of honour won by the champion. The battle was elevated
to the dignity of a great international contest by sporting papers took place at Farnsboro, April
17, 1860. It lasted for more than two hours, in which time the American was beaten almost blind,
and the Englishman dreadfully bruised. The continuance of the battle was prevented by the
breaking in of the ring, caused by the interference of the police."
How He Figured It
In 1861 Jem Mace beat Hurst, in 1863 Tom King beat Mace and claimed the belt, which he
subsequently gave up, declining again to meet the gypsy. Mace again claimed the belt. In 1860
Jem Mace and Joe Goss fought a draw for $1000 a side and the belt. In 1869 McCoole beat Tom
Allen In this country for the championship of the world. In 1872 Jem Mace drew with Joe
Coburn here for the championship of the world. In 1870 Jem Mace and Tom Allen fought for the
title and $5000 at Keanville, New Orleans. Mace won.
Tom Allen beat McCoole on Sept 23, 1873, at Chateau Island, near St Louis, and on Nov 18,
same year. Ben Hogan fought Tommy Allen for $2000 and the championship of the Pacific
coast. Allen was winning when a wrangle broke up the fight. On Sept 7, 1876 Joe Goss fought
Allen for $2000 and the championship of the world in Kentucky, Goss was declared the winner.
The later was brought over from England by Jem mace. On may 30,1880 Joe Goss fought Paddy
Ryan for $1000 and the championship at Collier Station W Va., and after one hour and twenty
seven minutes of hard fighting Ryan won.
In commenting on the fight the Kansas City Times said ―Sullivan knocked Joe Goss out in four
and one half minutes on Feb 7,1880, while it took Ryan one hour and twenty seven minutes to
do the same thing to the foreign champion‖
My victory over Slade of Australia ( the Maori) brought here by Jem Mace is a matter of history,
as is the slaughter of Charley Mitchell in Madison Square Gardens, when I begged Capt. Thorn
to let me get one more crack at him. This was when Charley’s seconds had propped him up
against the ropes after the police interfered during the third round. Turning to Mitchell Capt.
Thorn said ― Go to your dressing room. I stepped in to save Sullivan from killing you.‖
Alf Greenfield was brought from England in 1884 to defeat me. He was sent over as Albion’s
champion. On Nov 17 that year in Madison Square Garden, I had Alf in a semi conscious state
on the ropes and all hands ( principals and seconds ) were arrested. Charley Johnson awarded the
decision to me.
Challenged The World
Greenfield again met me. This time In New England Institute, Boston, M. Keyes of San
Francisco refereed. This was on Jan 12, 1885. When Greenfield came back to life after the fourth
round and he was asked if I could hit hard, he turned to Jack Burke and said, "Sullivan could beat
you, Mitchell and myself in the same ring.‖
I guess that came pretty near making me the champion of the world. As a further proof I would
like to reproduce the challenge that I issued after I had arrived in Boston, immediately
following my defeating Paddy Ryan for the championship:
"There has been so much newspaper talk from parties who claim that they are desirous of
meeting me in the ring that I am disgusted. Nevertheless, I am willing to fight any man in
this country in four weeks from signing articles for $5000 a side, or any man in the old
country for the same amount at two months from signing articles, I to use gloves, and he, if
he pleases to fight with bare knuckles, as I do not wish to put myself in a position
amenable to the law. My money is always ready, so I want these fellows to put up or shut
John L Sullivan
Boston, March 23 1882
On the celebrated tour of the country which began with my trip from New Orleans It has been
estimated by my companions that I spent more than $10,000. I probably did. In later years I
spent 10 times that much. I want my readers to know, right here, however, that all of that money
did not go for wines and liquors. I gave as much for schools and churches, in comparison to what
I earned, as almost any man in the country!
Having been frequent contributor to so called “good causes‖ I was very much interested
Some time ago at reading the position a certain prominent preacher took in reference to John D.
Rockefeller's princely gift to the church.
He said that the money was tainted and advised against its acceptance. This talk about "tainted
money is all rot. In all my years, of reckless spending I never heard of anybody refusing to take
the money of John L,Sullivan. Of all the money I gave for churches, schools and general
charities I cannot remember a single cent being returned because if was-earned by biffing some
luckless fellow on the jaw.
There is no such thing as "tainted money” and I have handled about every kind there is.
I do not think that Rockefeller's money should be refused . It will buy just as many meal tickets
for the poor missionaries as if it had been handed out by someone who never even smelled
kerosene. Why, it's a chance for the church to reform the coin, as it were, just like picking a
fellow out of the gutter and making a man out of him. Any money that is given for a good
purpose is good money, no matter where it comes from.
I shall never forget one time I stopped off at Atlanta to make a Railway connection. While
standing in the station I was introduced to a preacher. I shook hands with him cordially and he
seemed to be pleased at my deference for his profession.
"Why. Mr Sullivan." he said, "I expected to find you a man with a harsh voice, a vicious
looking face, and I could almost imagine that you wore horns. Why you appear to be as
gentle as a schoolteacher.". "Thank you." I replied. "But you know you remind me of an
incident told about the first meeting of Finley Peter Dunne, the author of "Mr Dooley,‖
and Richard Harding Davis.
"Why Mr Dunne,' observed , Mr Davis, ―I expected to find you a red faced Irishman with a
rim of red whiskers around your chin and a plug hat set on the back of your head.‖ "Yes,‖
replied Mr Dunne, with a smile. ―And when I met you I expected to find a man with a cute
little society face and wearing a pink silk shirt waist. "Davis declared, that the drinks were on
him and they went to the nearest place to have the score, settled.
The Georgia preacher laughed heartily at this and said that, he hoped to have the opportunity of
talking to me at length at some future time. Later I sent him $25 for the church, and he did not
tell me the money was tainted either. That preacher was of the broad minded kind that do world
good as they go through it.
Advice to Preachers
In my opinion the preachers could do a lot toward making men better if they would overlook,
the little faults of other men and get right down to the man's real heart. Talk to him about the
things that he is interested in and you can soon find out his real way of thinking. If the preachers
would do that they would get next to a lot of fellows who really would like to be good if they
were directed in the proper channels.
The theory that the man who is good is awfully lonesome is rot, I tell you. A man have just as
much "fun‖ as they call it if he is sober and decent. Don't tell me that because a man wants to do
right and be clean and manly, people are going to shun him off to lonesomeness all by himself. I
won't stand for that. I have been around with some mighty bad gangs in my time, and often too
when I wasn't drinking a drop. Yet I have always found that they respected me just as much, just
as they would respect any other man who didn't see things exactly as they did. Be good and
you will be respected; that's sure, which is some recompense for the mythical lonesomeness that
many people seem to dread when they start a personal reform.
During my series of picnics following the defeat
of champion Ryan I knocked out more than 100
fighters, and sporting men throughout the
country were scouring the world for somebody to
stop me, None of them ever succeeded. At this
time the country was wild over prize fighting,
and it was no trouble to pack the houses
wherever I appeared. .
While on this tour of the United States Richard
K. Fox, editor of the Police Gazette, proved to be
the best friend I ever had, although he did not
know it. He had agents all over the World
looking for somebody to lick me. He always
backed my opponents in big fights. By his
untiring efforts to get me whipped he kept me in
the limelight and furnished the opportunity in the
shape of easy fights for me to make a lot of
The only man who succeeded in staying the four
rounds was Joe Collins, better known as "Tug
Wilson," an English fighter, for whom to this
day I have a supreme disgust, He had been
imported from England to "pulverize" me. They
found him in Leicester.
The match took place in Madison Square Garden, New York on the evening of July 17, 1882.
"Tug's" ability to stay the four rounds was due largely to a bad decision of the referee and the
fact that he managed to crawl on the floor and hug until the round would end. It was evident to
the 12,000 people who witnessed the mill (which could hardly be called a fight) that Wilson was
whipped, but he was on his feet when the time was called at the end of the fourth round, and he
went back to England with $4000 in his jeans.
Wilson was badly pummeled, but, as Dick Malloy, the well known New York politician said,
"you know, a lot of court plaster can be bought for $1000."