Share This Article

John L. Sullivan: The Boston Strong Boy
Bare-knuckle boxer John Lawrence Sullivan reigned as America’s first sports hero at the end of the 19th century. In July 1889, when challenged by Jake Kilrain of Baltimore, Sullivan was still unbeaten despite his heavy drinking. About 3,000 fans gathered in the blazing sun of Richburg, Mississippi, for what was to be the last championship bare-knuckle fight. The marathon match went 75 rounds and lasted 2 hours and 16 minutes before the battered Kilrain’s handlers threw in the towel. Sullivan remained the champ until September 1892, when he was knocked out for the first time in his career by ‘Gentleman Jim’ Corbett. The mighty Sullivan died in 1918.

Photo: National Archives