John L. Sullivan

From Academic Kids

John Lawrence Sullivan in his prime.
John Lawrence Sullivan in his prime.

John Lawrence Sullivan (October 15, 1858February 2, 1918) is widely recognized as boxing's first modern world heavyweight champion.

Born at Roxbury, Boston, Sullivan was nicknamed The Boston Strongboy. As a youth he was arrested several times for participating in bouts where the sport was outlawed, and he went on exhibition tours offering people money to fight him. In 1879, Sullivan challenged anyone in America to fight him for $500. In 1883-1884 he toured with a circus, offering $500 to anyone who could last one round with him. It has been claimed he knocked out about 30 men during the tour.

Depending on which authorities are consulted, Sullivan became world heavyweight champion in 1888 when he defeated Charley Mitchell in France, or the following year when he knocked out Jake Kilrain in round 75 of a scheduled 80 round bout. That fight is considered to be a turning point in boxing history because it was the last world title bout fought under the London Rules and also, the last bare-knuckle heavyweight title bout .

Undefeated at that point, Sullivan did not defend his title for the next four years, becoming an alcoholic and unfit. He finally agreed to defend his title in 1892, losing to "Gentleman Jim" Corbett in 21 rounds. That was the first heavyweight contest under the new Marques of Queensberry rules, and the first title fight using boxing gloves. Sullivan therefore was the last bare-knuckle champion, and the first one to use gloves.

Sullivan retired, but appeared in several exhibitions over the next 12 years, including a three rounder against Tom Sharkey. He became a stage actor, speaker and bar owner. He is known by autograph experts to have been a good autograph signer, and there are many documents, pieces of paper and photos in existence known to have been signed by him. Sullivan's autograph is now valued at hundreds of dollars. Through the decades, a photo of him with a facsimile autograph has surfaced on books, magazines and in novelty stores, and has been widely circulated

In his later years Sullivan became a teetotaler and often supported the temperance movement. He died of health problems caused by his earlier alcoholism, and is buried in the Old Calvary Cemetery, in Boston.

He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in 1990, as a member of the hall's original class. He had a record of 50 wins, 1 loss and 4 draws, with 35 wins by knockout.

External link

John L. Sullivan Boxing Record (

Preceded by:
Heavyweight boxing champion
Succeeded by:
James J. Corbett

Template:End boxde:John L. Sullivan


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