Friday, August 12, 2011

John L. Sullivan

For quite some time a fight had been brewing between Jake Kilrain and John L. Sullivan (the Boston Strong Boy), but due to Sullivan's lack of training and drinking habits, the fight was repeatedly postponed by the Sullivan camp. It was because of this that Kilrain was crowned Champion in 1889.

This brought rage from the people of Boston, and money started pouring in, which in turn switched the fight back into the public eye. This eventually succeeded in arranging a fight date. In 1889, Sullivan finally accepted Kilrain's challenge for the last professional bare-knuckle championship boxing match in America.

For the first time, newspapers carried extensive pre-fight coverage, reporting on the fighters' training and speculating on where the bout would take place. The center of activity was New Orleans, but the governor of Louisiana had forbidden the fight.  As a matter of fact, boxing was illegal in most states, including both Louisiana and Mississippi.

On July 7th, an estimated 3,000 spectators boarded special trains from New Orleans for the secret location, which turned out to be Richburg, Mississippi, a community just south of Hattiesburg. In the woods, near the railroad track, a boxing ring and stands were set up.  On the 8th of July 1889, the final professional bare knuckle fight in the USA took place. The fight began at 10:30 that morning, and it looked as if Sullivan was going to lose, especially after he threw up during the 44th round, but the champion got his second wind after that and came on strong.

Sullivan had been attended in his corner by his trainer Muldoon, who had supplied Sullivan with tea laced with whisky, and when asked how long he could keep up the pace Sullivan told him "until tomorrow if necessary".  Whiskey will do that for a Hibernian.

After two hours and sixteen minutes, Kilrain's manager and corner finally threw in the towel after the 75th round of a scheduled 80 round bout. John Lawrence Sullivan was re-crowned as the World Heavyweight Champion.

Just as the fight ended, the local sheriff conveniently arrived to arrest the promotors and boxers.  All of the major players got away.  That was good timing!

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