Name: SULLIVAN, JOHN L. ORIGINAL PLAY BROADSIDE (1892-AS WORLD CHAMPION)
History: John Lawrence Sullivan (October 15, 1858 – February 2, 1918), also known as the Boston Strong Boy, was recognized as the first Heavyweight Champion of gloved boxing from February 7, 1882 to 1892, and is generally recognized as the last heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle boxing under the London Prize Ring Rules. He was the first American sports hero to become a national celebrity and the first American athlete to earn over one million dollars. In Sullivan's era, no formal boxing titles existed. He became a champion after defeating Paddy Ryan in Mississippi City, near Gulfport, Mississippi on February 7, 1882. Modern authorities have retroactively labelled Ryan the "Heavyweight Champion of America", but any claim to Ryan's being a "world champion" would have been dubious; he'd never contended internationally as Sullivan had. Depending on the modern authority, Sullivan was first considered world heavyweight champion either in 1888 when he fought Charley Mitchell in France, or the following year when he knocked out Jake Kilrain in round 75 of a scheduled 80-round bout. Arguably the real first World Heavyweight champion was Jem Mace who defeated Tom Allen in 1870 at Kenner, Louisiana, but strong anti-British sentiment within the mostly Irish American boxing community at that time chose to disregard him. When the modern authorities talk of the heavyweight championship of the world, they are probably referring to the championship belt presented to Sullivan in Boston on August 8, 1887. The belt was inscribed Presented to the Champion of Champions, John L. Sullivan, by the Citizens of the United States. Its centerpiece featured the flags of the US, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Mitchell came from Birmingham, England and fought Sullivan in 1883, knocking him down in the first round. Their second meeting took place in 1888 on the grounds of a chateau at Chantilly, France in driving rain. It went on for more than two hours, at the end of which both men were unrecognisable and had suffered much loss of blood; neither could lift his arms to punch and the contest was considered a draw. The local gendarmerie arrived at this point and managed to arrest Mitchell, who spent the next few days in a cell and was later fined by the local magistrate, boxing being illegal in France at that time. Sullivan managed to evade the law, swathed in bandages, and was taken back across the English Channel to spend the next few weeks convalescing in Liverpool. Mitchell acted as Sullivan's corner man for many years after. The Kilrain fight is considered to be a turning point in boxing history because it was the last world title bout fought under the London Prize Ring Rules and therefore the last bare-knuckle heavyweight title bout. It was one of the first American sporting events to receive national press coverage. 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 in that state. Sullivan had trained for months in Belfast, New York under trainer William Muldoon, whose biggest problem had been keeping Sullivan from liquor. Rochester reporter Arch Merrill commented that occasionally Sullivan would "escape" from his guard, and the cry was heard in the village, "John L. is loose again. Send for Muldoon!" Muldoon would snatch the champ away from the bar and take him back to their training camp. On July 8, 1889, an estimated 3000 spectators boarded special trains for the secret location, which turned out to be Richburg, a town just south of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The fight began at 10:30 the following morning, and it looked as if Sullivan was going to lose, especially after he vomited during the 44th round. But the champion got his second wind after that, and Kilrain's manager finally threw in the towel after the 75th round. Undefeated at that point, Sullivan did not defend his title for the next four years. Sullivan agreed to defend his title in 1892, against challenger "Gentleman Jim" Corbett. The match was on 7 September in New Orleans. It began at 9PM in the electrically illuminated Olympic Club in the upper Ninth Ward neighborhood now known as Bywater section, the venue filled to its 10,000 person capacity despite hefty ticket prices ranging from $5 to $15 (approximately $117 to $353 in 2009 dollars). The heavyweight contest occurred under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, but it was neither the first title fight under those rules nor was it the first title fight using boxing gloves. Corbett was younger, faster and his boxing technique enabled him to dodge Sullivan's crouch and rush style. In the 21st round Corbett landed a smashing left "audible throughout the house" that put Sullivan down for good. Sullivan was counted out and Corbett declared the new champion. When Sullivan was able to get back to his feet, he announced to the crowd, "if I had to get licked I'm glad I was licked by an American". Sullivan is considered the last bare-knuckle champion because no champion after him fought bare-knuckled. However, Sullivan had fought with gloves under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules as early as 1880 and he only fought bare knuckle three times in his entire career (Ryan 1882, Mitchell 1888, and Kilrain 1889). His bare-knuckle image was created because both his infrequent fights from 1888 up to the Corbett fight in 1892 had been bare-knuckle. Sullivan retired to Abington but appeared in several exhibitions over the next 12 years, including a three-rounder against Tom Sharkey and a final two-rounder against Jim McCormick in 1905 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He continued his various careers outside boxing such as stage actor, speaker, celebrity baseball umpire, sports reporter, and bar owner. Overweight and unhealthy from a long life of overindulging in food and drinks as well as from the effects from prizefighting, Sullivan died at age 59 and is buried in the Old Calvary Cemetery in Mattapan, now a neighborhood of Boston. He died with barely 10 dollars in his pocket. In 1890, Sullivan turned to acting. On August 28, 1890, he opened in the role of a blacksmith turned pugilist in a melodrama entitled Honest Hearts and Willing Hands. By this time, he weighed close to three hundred pounds. Author Michael Isenberg recounts, “Sullivan performed like a wooden Indian. He tended to entangle himself in lines and was so intent on his speeches that, when the audience interrupted a sentence with applause, he doggedly retreated to the beginning and started again.” But audiences loved him. Honest Hearts and Willing Hands was soon on national tour. Offered here is an original broadside for Honest Hearts and Willing Hands starring John L. Sullivan for the week of March 13th, 1892 when Sullivan was still world heavyweight champion.
Full description: This is an original 1892, paper broadside. Blank back. Bold color and print. No tack holes. Has several mild creases. No tears. Not soiled. One spot at center left border which does not detract. A fine example. Quite rare. 5 1/2" x 9 1/4."
Size: 5 1/2 x 9 1/4
Categories: Posters & Broadsides & Lobby Cards - Sullivan, John L. -
Condition: very good
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