by Frank Warren
Last Tuesday marked the 125th anniversary of the almost mythical heavyweight prize-fight between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain.
It was the last bareknuckle tussle – held under London Prize Rules – before gloves were formally embraced.
With prize fighting banning in all 38 states in the US, the pair met at a secret location in Richburg, Mississippi before a select gathering of less than 3,000. Battle commenced at 10 o’clock in the morning with temperatures above 100 degrees!
Despite its illegal status, the fight generated huge media attention. Champion Sullivan – a hard drinking brawler from Boston who routinely stormed bars bragging: ‘I can lick any sonofabitch in the house’ –was America’s first sporting superstar and reputedly grossed over $1million from boxing.
The London Prize Rules allowed for grappling as well as punching and fights were fought to the’ finish’. Rounds only concluded when one of the principals was thrown or knocked to the floor. The first round lasted just 15 seconds, the fourth 15 minutes!
Sullivan, who trained on liquor, infamously vomited during round 44 but ultimately prevailed in the searing heat after two hours, 16 minutes and 25 seconds!
With ringside doctors advising that Kilrain could die if he continued, the challenger’s corner reluctantly raised the white flag – with their ward protesting furiously – in round 75!
When Sullivan’s liver finally succumbed and he passed away aged 59, adversary Kilrain was a pallbearer at his funeral. And that, folks, is why boxing has always been The Noble Art.
Great fights continue to be made. A fortnight after Terence Crawford crushed Yuriorkis Gamboa in a clash between the globe’s two premier lightweights, we can expect Latin fury in Las Vegas tonight when Mexican darling Canelo Alvarez squares up against Cuba’s Erislandy Lara at the MGM Grand to determine light-middle hegemony.
The flame haired Alvarez is a huge commercial draw but he’ll have his work cut out suppressing the Castro defector – a former world amateur champion – who is sprightly and spiteful in equal measure.
The bookies are struggling to split them and it promises to be a belter. BoxNation screen live from 2am tomorrow morning.
The gloves that the great Muhammad Ali wore in his ‘Fight of the Century’ against Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden in 1971 go up for auction in Cleveland, Ohio later this month.
The mitts – part of the personal collection of Ali’s late mentor Angelo Dundee – are expected to fetch even more than the $836,000 bid for those ‘The Greatest’ wore when he first annexed the world heavyweight crown from Sonny Liston in 1964.
George Groves is a decent fighter but, following back to back stoppage losses to Carl Froch – and he was absolutely sparked in the latter – it’s unjust that he’s jumped the queue ahead of more worthy contenders to contest a WBC final eliminator.
This week, ‘The Saint’s’ German promoters announced that he will commence his comeback against reigning European king Christopher Rebrasse of France at Wembley Arena on September 20th.
The winner – Groves will enter a strong favourite – can expect to face whoever prevails in next month’s clash between Aussie champion Sakio Bika and the USA’s Anthony Dirrell, early next year.
This week domestic boxing is dominated by potential stars embarking on the comeback trail.
This evening Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly return to duty in the cruiserweight class after getting bombed out in world title action, down at light-heavyweight last year.
Both have since logged a stoppage win and, provided they get past largely undemanding opposition at The Echo Arena in Liverpool tonight, the bitter rivals should reconvene against each other in the autumn. Sky Sports televise tonight’s action.
A return certainly won’t have the meaning of their fractious initial spat for Cleverly’s WBO light-heavy crown in October 2011. Back then, both were unbeaten.
Despite home court, Bellew was clearly outpointed that night then soundly spanked by WBC champion Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevenson in Quebec last November. In the build up to every fight, the Mersey mouth serially abuses every opponent he faces. He’d profit from keeping his lips zipped until he’s won a few fights of consequence.
On Wednesday night, London super-middle Frank Buglioni attempts to get back on track after an unscripted stoppage loss in April.
The marketable ‘Wise Guy’, an ex fashion model and one time university undergraduate, needs to sparkle against Titchfield’s Sam Couzens for the vacant Southern Area strap. BoxNation televise live.
A shout out to rising starlets Adam Hussain and John Johnstone who both struck gold for England at the European schoolboy championships in Keszthely, Hungary last week.
On a less positive front, the amateur code has been thrown into disarray by the decision of the Medical Defence Unit – who insure 90% of doctors – that medics are no longer covered to officiate at amateur shows.
As things presently stand, it is almost impossible to run an amateur show in the UK because it is impossible to secure the services of a doctor. A remedy is urgently required before the new season commences in September.
Rumours are escalating that a power struggle at the British Boxing Board of Control caused for this week’s monthly Board meeting to be postponed due to not enough Stewards being in attendance to take a vote on whether to replace Charles Giles with John Rees QC as Chairman, with Giles becoming President.
This will be huge disappointment to long term servant John Handelaar who is the current President and if he is a victim of this power struggle, then his loss to boxing would be a great shame.
Rees is the highest paid Legal Aid Barrister in Britain for the past 4 years, earning nearly £700,000 last year and I expect to see changes, but I fear not all for the better, being made by Rees, at the Cardiff HQ.
Sad news this week that former PA boxing correspondent Dave Field passed away.
Dave was the long-time Secretary of the Boxing Writer’s Club and a regular fixture on the boxing scene for many years.
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