So boasted John L. Sullivan, the first modernheavyweight boxing champion of the world, a man who was the gold standard ofAmerican sports for more than a decade and the first athlete to earn more thana million dollars. He had a big ego, a big mouth, and even bigger appetites. Hiswomanizing, drunken escapades, and chronic police-blotter presence were godsendsto a burgeoning newspaper industry. The larger-than-life boxer embodied theAmerican dream for late nineteenth-century immigrants as he rose from Boston’sIrish working class to become the most recognizable man in the nation. In theprocess, the “Boston Strong Boy” transformed boxing from outlawed bare-knucklefighting into the gloved spectacle we know today.
StrongBoytells the story of America’s first sports superstar, a self-made man whopersonified the power and excesses of the Gilded Age. Everywhere John L.Sullivan went, his fists backed up his bravado. Sullivan’s epic brawls, such ashis seventy-five-round bout against Jake Kilrain, and his cross-country barnstorming tourin which he literally challenged all of America to a fight are recounted invivid detail, as are his battles outside the ring with a troubled marriage,wild weight and fitness fluctuations, and raging alcoholism. Strong Boy gives readers ringside seatsto the colorful tale of one of the country’s first Irish American heroes andthe birth of the American sports media and the country’s celebrity obsessionwith athletes.
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