Saturday, April 01, 2023  |



Hall of Fame Friday: John L. Sullivan

Fighters Network

THE RING magazine features a thumbnail biography of a ring great who has received the ultimate honor: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.


Birthdate: Oct. 15, 1858
Date of death: Feb. 2, 1918
Birthplace: Roxbury, Mass.
Nickname: The Boston Strong Boy
Weight class: Heavyweight
Record: 38-1-1 (32 knockouts)
Titles held: Heavyweight
Best performances: Cockey Woods (KO 5), Paddy Ryan (KO 9, KO 1, KO 3), Jake Killrain (KO 75), James McCoy (KO 1), Charlie Mitchell (W 3), Dominick McCaffrey (W 6), John Flood (KO 8).
Year of IBHOF induction: 1990
Background: Considered by many the father of modern-day boxing ÔǪ Born to Irish immigrant parents ÔǪ Inherited the husky 5-foot-10 frame of his mother, rather than the 5-3 build of his father ÔǪ Attempted to appease mother’s desire that he become a priest by briefly attending Boston College ÔǪ Worked various jobs from hod carrier to tinsmith to assistant plumber, where he once supposedly broke his employer’s jaw in an argument about a pipe ÔǪ Surprisingly nimble and athletic ÔǪ Declined an offer to play baseball for the Cincinnati Red Stockings ÔǪ Built a reputation that would last his lifetime as a teenager in barroom brawls, with his famous mantra “I could lick any man in the house” ÔǪ Entered the world of pugilism in 1877 at an opera house, where, after taking a cheap shot to the face, he slugged Tom Scannel into the orchestra pit ÔǪ Arrested numerous times for fighting exhibitions in areas of the country where boxing was outlawed .. Began touring in 1878 and made pro debut by knocking out Cockey Woods in Boston ÔǪ Went on exhibition circuit in 1880, boxing “Professor” Mike Donovan and former champion Joe Goss ÔǪ Battled John Flood on May 16, 1881 on a barge anchored in the Hudson River, knocking Flood down eight times before finishing him in the eighth round ÔǪ Met heavyweight champion Paddy Ryan for the title on Feb. 7, 1882 in Mississippi City, Miss., and dominated him in the bare-knuckled bout before putting an end to it in the ninth round to win the heavyweight championship of the world ÔǪ Recovered from first-round knockdown by English champion Charlie Mitchell on May 14, 1883, getting up and dominating Mitchell before police intervened to stop the one-sided affair after three rounds. The two fought again in 1888, a 39-round draw on March 10 in France ÔǪ Arguably scored his greatest victory when Jake Kilrain quit after 75 rounds in what was the last great bare-knuckle fight in boxing history ÔǪ Took three years off touring after the Kilrain victory, taking on “Gentleman” Jim Corbett during the tour dressed in complete evening attire ÔǪ Lost heavyweight title to Corbett (KO by 21) on Sept. 7, 1892, in New Orleans under Marquis of Queensberry Rules ÔǪ Never fought professionally again after suffering Corbett loss. ÔǪ Filled retirement years by acting in bit parts and traveling the country for speaking engagements ÔǪ Became a staunch advocate for boxing after his career, escaping to Massachusetts farm, after he squandered a supposed $1 million in winnings … His popularity helped propel the sport of boxing into the mainstream … Overindulgent lifestyle caught up with him in 1918, when he died at the relatively young age of 59.