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New John L. Sullivan book

1665 Views 9 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  apollack

To understand where boxing is today, we must understand from where it came. John L. Sullivan was the first gloved heavyweight champion, the fighter that made gloved boxing popular. He helped legitimize Queensberry rules boxing, which is the foundation of boxing as we know it today. He took what was then a fringe sport and made it an immensely popular mainstream sport that generated big revenues. In order to do this, he had to be a phenomenon, the likes of which the world had never seen.

Sullivan was such a huge star that he transcended cultural barriers. He was the first American sports hero. He is certainly an Irish legend because he was the first Irish American to gain worldwide recognition, respect, and the riches that being the world’s best brought. For over a decade, he was the world’s most feared and respected pugilist, the man then-considered to be the greatest fighting machine the world had ever known.


Ever since I was young, I have never been satisfied with boxing biographies, for I felt they lacked details regarding the boxing, always left me with a number of unanswered questions, and seemed more focused on the boxers' personal lives rather than the fine details of the champion's career. Boxing fans want to be armed with knowledge that they can use in their debates and discussions. I give them that knowledge, providing facts and analysis that no other book has offered.

This book most definitely focuses on the BOXING, not all the other stuff like family, wives, etc. I talk about the opponents and their careers, what the local papers said about the fights, what they said about Sullivan and his skills and ability. Not speculation, not something based on hearsay or legend written 20 years later, but what the newspapers at the time said, which is why my book is more accurate. Also, I give multiple perspectives on a number of fights, because even local papers often gave different views on fights, just like they do today. Who’s right? I’ll let you decide.

This book fills a much needed void and will have timeless appeal. For anyone wanting to answer a question about one of Sullivan's fights, they need look no further than this book. It presents the most detailed and thoroughly researched accounting of his career ever written. I present multiple viewpoints of his fights based on local next day newspaper reports. I discuss his opponents and their careers so you can understand who they were, their experience and relative merits, so that the significance of the bouts can be put into perspective. The book follows Sullivan’s skill development over the course of his career and shows how the critics changed their perceptions of him. Social, legal, and historical analysis also enables the reader to better understand the limitations and impediments Sullivan encountered, as well as some of his career decisions. The book reveals new facts, provides fresh insight, corrects others’ mistakes, and details Sullivan’s many bouts and exhibitions.


I devote an entire chapter to the McCaffrey fight, and will reveal more than you ever thought possible, using multiple local newspapers (Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, Cincinnati Evening Post), as well as non local sources. I discuss why there has been so much confusion all these years about that fight. In an earlier chapter, I discuss a sparring exhibition that Sullivan had with McCaffrey the year before they fought.

My discussion of Sullivan’s bouts with Duncan McDonald is unprecedented, because no one has really bothered to discuss them. Most secondary sources say they fought once to a draw and provide no details. They are WRONG! They actually boxed multiple times and it wasn't what some think….but I won’t spoil it.

I extensively discuss the color line. Sullivan’s drawing of the color line is thoroughly analyzed using the newspapers of the time. I even discuss Peter Jackson’s career more extensively than anyone ever has in any Sullivan book, providing the details of Peter’s fights, what they said about his skills and abilities, and the discussions about the impediments to his securing a title shot. You will learn a lot about Jackson’s career. Because Jackson learned to box in Australia, I even provide the Australian perspective on the color line, using and citing Australian primary sources such as the Sydney Referee and the Australian Sportsman.

Basically, I guarantee you all will learn more about Sullivan’s career than you ever knew before. That applies even to seasoned historians.


You may purchase it through any of the multiple online dealers. It is probably easiest to purchase through the publisher directly.

The direct link is

McFarland - Publisher of Reference and Scholarly Books

The preface is also available for viewing:

McFarland - Publisher of Reference and Scholarly Books

Advance orders are available.
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The book Rocky Marciano the Rock of his times was very informative. So was Agaist the Odds, Larry Holmes. That one is an autobiography.

Yes, I have to admit I really enjoyed Russell Sullivan's Marciano bio. Well researched, well written, and well footnoted, something rare with boxing books. Still, his book has a bit more of the sociology flavor than what I as a boxing fan would like. I'd much prefer more on the boxing itself. But I'd still recommend the book. I also enjoyed Holmes' autobio, but of course you have to realize that it is written from his perspective, as all autobios are.
But, autobiographys aren't that bad. I like them.

Abosolutely. Autobios can be great fun and they give you the unique perspective and insight of the author.

However, if you want a more thorough, complete, neutral position, then bios are often better.

For example, Corbett's autobio is a fun read, but it isn't accurate or complete by any means.
You like the old timers don't you? I like them too, but I prefer the guys in the 50's-70's. I know more about them. I can still talk about the old timers too though.
old v. new

I do like the old timers, but no more so than any other era. I like old and new. Basically I just appreciate good fighters, regardless of era. But I am intrigued by the heavyweight division because of its prestige.
od v. new

However, I will admit that I like the old time rules and scoring better. I wish they would return to the 15 round championship fight, and if I really had my way, they would bring back fights to the finish, and to stop breaking fighters from the clinches so often.
Thats exactly how I wish it was!:thumbsup:

The book is now available.
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