Where it all began…

Born in Boston, MA in October of 1858, John L. Sullivan was raised by his first-generation Irish Immigrant parents. Of poor means, John’s parents shaped who he would eventually become as a man. His mother carried a solid physique, at 5’10” and 190 pounds, while his father imparted his aggressive scrappiness to John.

As a child, John L. Sullivan was not scared to use his fists. In fact, he went out of his way to engage in fisticuffs with other children and even men his senior. As a teenager, legend states he would enter Boston’s tough barrooms and proclaim that he “could lick any man in the house.” And when he was taken up on this offer, his fists backed it up. It was this unofficial training that paved the way for his illustrious career as a professional boxer.

John L. Sullivan played semi-professional baseball in the Boston area before being drafted by the Cincinnatti Red Stockings offered in a full pro contract. What did he do? Declined, of course. Fighting was his true calling, and so began the legend of the Boston Strong Boy.

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Sullivan was the last Bare-Knuckle Boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World AND the first Gloved Boxing Heavyweight Champion of the World. The moral of the story that no matter how you tried to fight him, he was probably going to kick your ass.

Sullivan VS. Kilrain


On July 8, 1889, John L. Sullivan fought his last bare knuckle match against Jake Kilrain in a makeshift ring on a farm in Richburg, Mississippi. The famed fight is said to have gone a whopping 76 rounds, with Sullivan coming out on top in the end. On this day, Sullivan became the last-ever Heavyweight Bare Knuckle Boxing Champion of the World.

What People Said About John L. Sullivan

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