Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Sullivan and Kilrain in the Ring -- July 8, 2014

125 years ago, on 08-July-1889, John L Sullivan, the Boston Strong Boy met Jake Kilrain in Richburg, Mississippi in the last bare-knuckle heavyweight title fight under London Prize Ring rules.  Sullivan won when Kilrain's trainer threw in the sponge at the start of the 76th round.  Rounds ended when one or both fighters went down.  They then had 30 seconds to come up to scratch, a mark in the middle of the ring.  Wrestling was allowed.  "Sullivan ... once sat down on Kilrain's breast, and another time jumped on him with both knees."

From the 09-July-1889 Pittsburg Dispatch.  Pittsburgh was trying to drop the "h" at the time. 


John L. Shows Kilrain Where He Was Wrong, in a Little Over Two Hours,
And by Falling Down Frequently Ayoids Considerable Punishment.
The Boston Boy Prances Around After the Baltimore Brniser, Trying to Slug Him and
Kilrain's Offer to Call it a Draw, and Later to Quit, Declined By Sullivan, Who

John L. Sullivan is yet champion of the pugilistic world. He met Jake Kilrain yesterday near Richburg, Miss., and in a 24-foot ring, according to London prize ring rules, fought 75 rounds for the championship, $20,000, the championship belt and a division of the gate money, Sullivan being declared the winner in two hours and five minutes. The champion is only a little the worse for wear, while Kilrain bled profusely and was badly worsted, despite the fact that he didn't stand up to take much punishment.

New Orleans, July 8. The great battle for the championship of the world, $20,000, and the championship belt, between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain, was fought to-day near  Richburg, Marion county, Miss., and was won by Sullivan in 75 rounds, occupying two hours and five minutes, the sponge being thrown up for Kilrain at the end of that time.

The battle was the hardest ever fought between big men in this country, but from start to finish Sullivan had decidedly the best of it. Kilrain did not prove to be the wonderful wrestler represented, for Sullivan threw him as often as he was thrown, and with far greater severity.

The day was intensely hot, and this added to the punishment of the men.

The Referee Honest but Not Posted.

John Fitzpatrick, of New Orleans, was the referee. He is an honest man, but he is not fully posted on the rules of the London prize ring, and he exercised great leniency toward Kilrain, who went down repeatedly without a blow in the most deliberate manner. He equalized matters somewhat, however, by twice overlooking fouls of Sullivan, who once sat down on Kilrain's breast, and another time jumped on him with both knees.

The train conveying the $15 ticket bearers arrived at Richburg at 8 o'clock, and the drivers of the engine had hardly ceased revolving when a thousand men, each bearing a camp stool under his arm, were tearing pell mell through the pine trees in the direction of the ring, which was spread some half a mile back from the railroad track on the top of a little knoll.

Not Enough Room for the People.

It was a beautiful bit of ground, but the three-sided amphitheater, with seats ranging tier above tier, was piled to overflowing in a moment, and the question was at once asked: "What will become of the thousands on the second and third trains?" There was hardly sufficient accommodation for those in the first train, and after rustling about for some few minutes and indulging in some lively language, they all settled down and awaited the coming of their less fortunate brethren.

The ring was of the regulation size, 24 feet square, and the eight pine posts, driven many feet into the ground, were encircled by a double row of the finest inch-and-an-eighth manilla rope. The ground in the inclosure was hard and level, covered here and there with a sparse crop of grass.

A Regulation Southern Summer Day.

The sun, which had not shown his face during the early hours or the morning, burst forth with great fury at 8:15, and umbrellas were at a premium, hats were removed in a jiffy, and handkerchiefs were
bound about necks.

Two cameras were planted on stands on the western side of the ring, and two expert photographers manipulated the machines to catch the men in their different positions as the fight progressed. Sullivan was seconded by Muldoon and Mike Cleary. Tom Costello was his time keeper and Phil Lynch his umpire. He had a half dozen bottle holders and admirers in his corner, chief of whom was Joe Coburn. Kilrain was seconded by Charley Mitchell and Mike Donovan. Burt Masterman was his time keeper and Denny Butler was his umpire.  Mitchell did not want to fight in Mississippi for fear of arrest, but he finally concluded to act as Jake's second.

Sullivan Chooses the Referee.

Very little trouble was experienced in getting a referee. The Kilrain party won the choice of corners, and after some dispute, they agreed to Sullivan's choice for referee.

The first round was short and sweet. Sullivan led with his left fist, but missed. Kilain rushed in under his arm, caught him around the neck, twisted him over his hip, and flung him to the ground.

In the second round there was some sharp hitting. Early in the round the men clinched and struggled for the fall. Sullivan was able to push Jake off. After a sharp exchange of hits, Sullivan grappled Jake and threw him right hard, and rolled him over and over after he touched the ground.

In the third round Kilrain three times struck Sullivan below the belt, in a hand-to-hand rally, hut no claim of foul was made. By and by Kilrain began
Going Down Without Blows

and then Sullivan claimed the fouls time and again, but the claims were ignored, as were the two he committed. Kilrain spiked Sullivan's feet in an awful manner, and trotted away and around him in a very provoking way. The only real decent thing he did was to refrain from striking Sullivan during one of the rounds in which the big fellow was sick at the stomach.

Jake was awfully punished around the body. In fact, he took enough of punishment to satisfy a dozen men. Kilrain was terribly beaten toward the latter end of the seventy-fifth round, when Charley Mitchell went over to Sullivan's corner and asked him what he would give Jake if he would give in. "Not a cent," was Sullivan's answer. "Let the ____ sucker get up and fight"

Mitchell went back, and then Donovan threw up the sponge in token of defeat.  The instant he did Sullivan was surrounded by hundreds of cheering friends. He broke away from them, and wanted to fight Charley Mitchell then and there, but was prevented from striking Mitchell by Charley Johnson and Mike Cleary. Sullivan almost struck Cleary in his efforts to free himself from his grasp.

The whole party returned to New Orleans by special trains.

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