John L. Sullivan | Boston Strongboy | (1858 - 1918)

“Let me shake the hand that shook the hand of John L. Sullivan”

The most famous (and last known of record) heavyweight, bare-knuckle boxing champion is Boston's John L. Sullivan (1858 - 1918). 

 While growing up in Boston's South End  neighborhood, Sullivan's Irish immigrant  parents had committed their aspirations to his  ascension into Roman Catholic priesthood.  Instead, Sullivan turned to  baseball after a  short session at Boston College. As a semi-  professional baseball player, Sullivan earned  $40 per week and  claimed to have been  offered a contract with the Cincinnati Red  Stockings, though unsubstantiated. Through    baseball, Sullivan  drifted into pugilism.  At the  time, Boston tendered an illicit culture of  violence and gambling in the underground  boxing scene and was incredibly popular.  Sullivan was arrested several times in areas  where the sport was outlawed and often  traveled paying people to fight him.  With friends like Teddy Roosevelt and fans like Jesse James, Sullivan was one of the most popular figures in American pop culture at the turn of the 20th century.