SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Lifestyle

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.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Lifestyle
  • 'Captain America' tops box office for third week LOS ANGELES -- Captain America continues to vanquish box office foes, triumphing in ticket sales for the third consecutive week and dominating over megastar Johnny Depp's new movie. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" added another $26 million to i

    April 21, 2014

  • Monday's Best Bets Best Bets for Monday, April 21

    Looking for something to do today? Here are The Salem News' Best Bets:

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • North Shore religion calendar Saturday, April 19 Easter Bunny Breakfast & Egg Hunt, 10 a.m. to noon, Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church, 323 Locust St., Danvers. The youth groups of Northshore and Beverly Unitarian Universalist churches will hold an Easter breakfast and egg

    April 19, 2014

  • North Shore religion news in brief The Rev. Marya DeCarlen has been named the new, full-time priest in charge at All Saints Episcopal Church of the North Shore in Danvers. DeCarlen's ministry with the parish begins Sunday, April 27. Her appointment comes after the church's yearlong in

    April 19, 2014

  • Dear Abby: Teenage girl’s boyish figure is often deceiving to others Dear Abby: I'm a 14-year-old girl with a problem. Because of my buzzed short hair, slim hips and flat chest, I frequently get mistaken for a boy. It really bothers me because, despite my haircut and body shape, I have a feminine face and I wear women

    April 19, 2014

  • This weekend's Best Bets Best Bets for Saturday and Sunday, April 19 and 20

    Looking for something to do this weekend? Here are The Salem News' Best Bets:

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Vet Connection: Is it OK to give a dog a bone? We have all seen the cartoons and commercials depicting dogs burying bones and stashing them away for later. Unfortunately, most pet owners are completely unaware of the significant risks and problems that are associated with feeding dogs these treat

    April 18, 2014

  • Ask Dog Lady: Why is my dog fascinated with burying things? Dear Dog Lady, My dog came across a dead cat at the park and proceeded to bury the cat with surrounding leaves by using her nose and pushing the leaves over the dead cat. Two days later, we went back to the park, and she found the dead cat again and

    April 18, 2014

  • ed Ipswich author to share drawing techniques Most of Ed Emberley's 80 children's books, 20 of which are still in print, have one goal in mind. "Showing the kids you can draw; everybody can draw something," he said. "They get encouragement from working with the simplest thing." Emberley will giv

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • holtenhouse Quick pick 'Voices From the Back Stairs' Jennifer Pustz of Historic New England presents "Voices From the Back Stairs" tomorrow at 2, at the Judge Samuel Holten House, 171 Holten St., Danvers. In her presentation, Pustz explores domestic service in 19th- and 20

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

NDN Video
Comments Tracker