, Salem, MA


December 6, 2013

Author discusses boxer John L. Sullivan in Beverly

Never mind Tom Brady or Ted Williams. John L. Sullivan may have been the biggest sports hero Boston ever had.

“People like to say that John L. Sullivan was the Babe Ruth of boxing, but they’ve got it backward,” said Christopher Klein, author of “Strong Boy,” a new biography of Sullivan. “Ruth was the Sullivan of baseball. He was that big.”

Klein will discuss his book Monday at 9:30 a.m., at Beverly Public Library at 32 Essex St.

Sullivan was champion from 1882 to 1892 and was originally a bare-knuckle boxer, which was illegal. But he promoted the use of gloves and the Marquis of Queensbury Rules that still govern the sport, Klein said.

“There was no such thing as a professional boxer before Sullivan came along,” he said.

While modernizing boxing, Sullivan also helped create the modern idea of a sports hero, along with the kind of celebrity that now dominates popular culture.

“He found different avenues of fame,” Klein said. “He owned a sports bar in Boston. Professional baseball teams would pay him to pitch in exhibition games, and he’d get half the gate. A vaudeville circus hired him, put him in tights and white powder, and he posed as Greek statues.

“He was constantly touring and made money from box-office receipts. Sullivan traveled so much, he was one of the most-seen people in America.”

He also drank so much that he was given last rites three times, and like any modern celebrity who falls from grace, he swore off his vices and became a temperance speaker.

The last biography of Sullivan was 25 years ago, Klein said, and the Internet has opened up archives from regional newspapers that were previously hard to access.

“I don’t see it as a boxing book,” he said. “What appealed to me was these cultural and historical aspects of Sullivan’s story.”

Klein is especially drawn to the role Sullivan played in the “Irish coming of age in America.”

“You have this generation that came over in the potato famine,” he said. “They came to Boston and were snubbed by Yankee elites.

“But for the generation born here, Sullivan becomes a symbol of the most powerful man in world, with Irish blood in his veins.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Dear Abby: Dating scene is frustrating for strong young woman Dear Abby: In short, my son is a klutz -- to the point that it affects his self-confidence. He's different from everyone else in the family. Is being a klutz genetic? Is it permanent? He's not doing well academically, either. How can I help him? Par

    July 29, 2014

  • Monday's Best Bets Best Bets for Monday, July 28

    Looking for something to do today? Check out The Salem News' Best Bets.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dear Abby: Son-in-law’s abusive father makes gatherings painful Dear Abby: I adore my son-in-law, "Tom." He's a wonderful husband to our daughter. He's always inviting us to dinner along with his parents and family. We get along with them but can't stand how they treat Tom. We have never seen parents treat their

    July 28, 2014

  • This weekend's Best Bets Best Bets for Saturday, July 26

    Looking for something to do today? Check out The Salem News' Best Bets:

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • North Shore religion news in brief Congregation Shirat Hayam is offering a free, five-week Hebrew Reading Crash Course on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. from Sept. 2 through Oct. 7, at the synagogue, 55 Atlantic Ave., Swampscott. Led by Nancy Miller, the course is open to the community and is

    July 26, 2014

  • North Shore religion calendar Wednesday, July 30 Book Club, 7 p.m., Aviv Centers for Living, 240 Lynnfield St., Peabody. Women of all ages are invited to a free book group with conversations about Jewish identity. Group will discuss "The Harem Midwife" by Roberta Rich. RSVP to Sh

    July 26, 2014

  • Dear Abby: Teen is looking for direction after high school graduation Dear Abby: I am an 18-year-old high school senior who is scared about what's going to happen after graduation. For the past three years I have known exactly where I'll be and what I will be doing in the general sense. Now that I have one more year to

    July 26, 2014

  • macaws Vet Connection: Pet birds need training, social interaction and time out of the cage People are fascinated with the big colorful birds on display at Animal Kingdom and wild bird sanctuaries. It's always fascinating to see someone walking down the street with a big-beaked bird on his or her shoulder as a companion. We are all drawn to

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ask Dog Lady: Her little dog is obsessed with food Dear Dog Lady: I have a 3-year-old, long-coated Chihuahua named Mexipep (after a brand of hot sauce). She has many fine attributes -- she's very sweet, not nervous and barky like the short-coated Chihuahuas can be. On the subject of food, however, th

    July 25, 2014

  • howe Book Notes: Local novelist sees ‘conversion’ syndrome in witch trials The parallels between 1692 and today are so close, they're frightening. That's one conclusion you could draw from reading "Conversion," Marblehead resident Katherine Howe's new novel, which compares the world of the Salem Witch Trials to the life of

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

NDN Video
Comments Tracker