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John L Sullivan

John L. Sullivan
Heavyweight Boxing Champion

Born on October 12 on East Concord Street in the South End, John L. Sullivan was America’s first sports star, reigning as the heavyweight boxing champion and captivating the world with his dominance.

His father Mike emigrated from Kerry in 1850 and his mother Katherine Kelly came from Galway.  John L. seemed destined to be a laborer like his father, but sports proved to be an outlet.  A gifted baseball player, he was offered a contract by the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional team in baseball.

His feats of strength earned him the nickname Strong Boy.  He became a boxer by chance: in 1878 at the Dudley Street Opera House. Sullivan  knocked out Jack Scannell in one punch, and soon was fighting epic battles against all challenges.

Sullivan lived a flashy, self-destructive life, spending his earnings on 'whiskey and women,' and lost his heavyweight crown to James Corbett in 1892.  But he bounced back and formed his own temperance association, hitting the road to lecture on the evils of alcohol.  Later in his career he wrote sports articles for the New York Times.  He is buried at Old Calvary Cemetery in Roslindale.


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