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Legendary prize-fighter, John L. Sullivan, dies
A late 19th century chromolithograph of Sullivan in his prime Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Legendary prize-fighter, John L. Sullivan, dies

Boston, 4 February 1918 - John L. Sullivan, the greatest prizefighter of all time, has died at his home at Abingdon, Massachusetts.

Born in Boston in 1858 and of Irish descent, ‘The Boston Strong Boy’ grew to an impressive 5ft 10ins and was blessed with great strength and timing. He held the title of champion of America from 1882 to 1892 and in 35 contests was credited with 18 knockouts.

He began boxing in 1878 when he mostly fought local bouts, but over the course of the extraordinarily long and successful pugilistic career that followed, there were many standout moments.

In 1882, competing under London Prize Ring Rules with bare knuckles, Sullivan fought Paddy Ryan, then American Champion, at Mississippi. He won easily.

In July 1889, he went to 75 rounds with Jake Kilrain of Australia at Richburg, Mass. The price-tag placed on this marathon slugfest was $10,000 a side, but it was Sullivan who emerged with title of World Bare Knuckle Champion.

Large crowd watching the 7th round of the Sullivan - Kilrain fight in 1889. Sullivan won to become world champion (Image: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA)

His reign ended in September 1892 when he was knocked out for the first time in his career by James J. Corbett in a bout in New Orleans that ran to 21 rounds. It was fought under Marquis of Queensbury Rules.

John L. Sullivan was reputed to have made over £200,000 during his career, but little of his fortune remained when he married 10 years ago.

The former boxing champion had a varied career since retiring from the ring; he tried his hand at being a publican, an actor and, most recently, a temperance campaigner.

Mr Sullivan took ill with heart trouble some weeks ago and it was to this complaint he eventually succumbed.

The 59-year old Sullivan is survived by his wife.

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.