Friday, February 2, 2018

Great Referee Hands Final Count to John L Sullivan -- February 2, 2018

Washington Times, 03-February-1918
John L Sullivan, the Boston Strong Boy, the last bare knuckle boxing champ under the London Prize Ring Rules and the first gloved champion under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, died 100 years ago today, on 02-February-1918.  General Nelson A Miles had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  

Sullivan's 08-July-1889 fight against Jake Kilrain was the last bare knuckle heavyweight championship fight:

Great Referee Hands Final Count to John L. Sullivan

America's grandest and greatest knight of the roped arena was counted out yesterday for the last time by the Great Referee. John L. Sullivan, formerly the heavy-weight boxer, died at his home at Abingdon, Mass., shortly after the noon hour. He was taken ill with heart trouble three weeks ago and it was this disease that finally put over the K. O. punch on the veteran champion.

John Lawrence Sullivan, who was 59 years old, was the most widely known Bostonian of the last 35 years. "Boston Strong Boy," champion of the world, actor, author, gentleman farmer and temperance lecturer he lived through a career full of the adoration of the crowd and the popularity that came with spectacular success.

He made his first ring appearances in Boston in 1878 and 1879 when, the record books state, he boxed in strictly local bouts.

He learned the plumber's trade and boxing was a side issue. So great was his success in the ring, however, that he soon gave up the soldering iron and became an out-and-out pugilist.

His career was a series of knock-outs from that time until, by defeating Paddy Ryan at Mississippi City on February 7, 1882. he became heavy-weight champion of the United States. This was a bare-fist fight for $5,000 a side. It went nine rounds and Sullivan emerged destined to the most spectacular boxing career anyone has ever known.

Sullivan began at once a triumphal tour or the world that included victories over all comers and which lasted for nearly ten years. His most important fights during that time were the Charley Mitchell draw in Chantilly, France and the famous Jake Killrain battle at Richburg, Miss., July 8. 1889.

The Kilrain bout at bare knuckles lasted seventy-five rounds, Sullivan winning the fight and the side bet of $10,000 which made the battle a sensation of the era from a financial standpoint.

In the arena of the Olympic Club, New Orleans. La., September 7, 1892, John L. Sullivan met his Waterloo, being knocked out by Corbett in the twenty-first round. The fight was for the largest sum ever known, a purse of $25,000, and a side bet of $10,000. Seven thousand people witnessed this great fistic battle, and the excitement and enthusiasm reached fever heat. It was a triumph of youth, agility and skill over advancing years, over-confidence and strength. It was a victory of mind over matter.

Sullivan was seconded by Charles Johnson and Jack McAuliffe, with Frank Moran as timekeeper. The men who stood behind Corbett were: Prof. John Donaldson and Billy Delaney. Bat Masterson was his timekeeper and Philip Dwyer, the turfman, was final stakeholder. Promptly at 9 o'clock the two principals shook bands, and, after a moment's parleying regarding the rules, prepared for hostilities. The battle began at 9:05 o'clock.

For the first round Corbett adopted dodging tactics, and the crowd yelled at him. After this round, and in the rounds which followed, he took the initiative and forced the fighting. As the battle proceeded it was seen that Sullivan was being beaten and a great feeling, of sympathy went up for the man who had held the championship so long.

He struggled manfully to rush down his young opponent, but Corbett's telling blows dazed and bewildered him, and when time was called for the twenty-first round, the Californian rushed in and planted blow after blow on Sullivan's face and neck. The latter backed away, trying to save himself, but Corbett was close upon him, and when bleeding and exhausted, with glassy eyes and trembling limbs, he lowered his guard from sheer exhaustion, the young Californian shot his right across the champion's jaw and he fell like an ox.

When finally he arose bruised and bleeding and staggering to the ropes, moved his battered and swollen lips, there issued these words in a tone hoarse with chagrin and weakness:

"It's the old, old story. I am like the pitcher that went to the well once too often." His voice broke, and gulping down a sob he continued: "I can only say that I am glad that I have been beaten by an American."

He continued, however, in the limelight up until the time of his death as a stage figure and after his victory over the Barleycorn champion, as a temperance advocate of imposing presence and convincing style of argument.

Sullivan's gruffness, his brusque manner and his towering figure made him the center of attraction wherever he went. His philosophy was straight and to the point and his manner of speaking as devoid of camouflage as his fighting style had been.

Sullivan's battle with John Barleycorn was by far the most spectacular of his eventful career in which venture, however, he was not a great success, his good fellowship and his wide circle of "friends" keeping him on the ropes continually.

His advent on the temperance lecture stage brought about a famous incident in which Gen. Nelson A. Miles refused to appear with him as a speaker at the same meeting. Sullivan met the rebuff with good natural bantering and the remark that the only difference between he and Miles as a fighter was that he started as a plumber and the General began life as a ribbon clerk and that he, Sullivan, was far more familiar with the Declaration of Independence.

A few years ago after a long time spent partly upon the stage, in writing various editions of his memoirs and as sporting editor of various big newspapers, he retired to North Abington and began farming on a "scientific basis" -- that he became a gentleman farmer, gathered a few friends about him and could be found in the summer sitting on a wide veranda recounting stories of his long, eventful life and dispensing sermons to all who might feel in need of a spiritual "reviving."

Sullivan Most Honest Man of Ring -- Corbett

New York. Feb. 2. -- "What!" exclaimed James J. Corbett when the news of Sullivan's death was carried to him. After a pause of a few moments he pulled himself together.

"I suppose you want some expression from me. Well, tell them that I was too badly shocked to say anything.

"This seems almost too much for me," said Corbett, mopping his face as though making an effort to start the next round. "It is only a few months ago that you came to me with the same news of Bob Fitzsimmons. Let's see, what did I tell you then?

"Well, John L Sullivan was the greatest of all fighters in his day. The world will bear me out in that statement He not only was a great fighter, but he was the fairest man who ever crawled through the ropes. He played the game because he loved it. He told me that and he loved to be honest.

"I can honestly say he was the best man and the more admired of the heavy-weight fighters. In his day he could have bested any man. Even though I won the championship from Sullivan I could never have won nor no man could have won had I faced him in his prime.

"His fairness in the ring and his true sportsmanship made him the most loved of all in the ring, not only by the fans, but by the men he fought as well. While every man that faced him was afraid of his mighty right, and I include myself, we loved to fight a square man."

Ten Years Since John L Appeared in This City

It was with deep regret that John L. Sullivan's many friends here heard the announcement of his death at his home in Abington yesterday. Sullivan's last appearance here was in the week of September 16, 1907. when he gave his athletic act in conjunction with Billy Arlington's Golden Crooks Company at the Gayety Theater. "Diamond" Frank Hall was at that time managing Sullivan's affairs. The act was featured with a four-round bout between Sullivan and Jake Kilrain, the one-time hated rival of the grand old man of the game.

Washington Times, 15-September-1907

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