We here at FirstAndMonday.com are huge history buffs as well as semi-functioning alcoholics. We have decided to combine the two to bring you a weekly look at some of the greatest and most accomplished drunks in human history.
This Week’s Great Historical Drunk of the Week: John Lawrence Sullivan
Place of Birth: Roxbury, Massachusetts
Occupation: Champion bare knuckle boxer
Drink of choice: Whiskey, beer. Life was terrible for 19th century Irish immigrants, with all the xenophobia, racism, and persecution of Catholics in the predominantly protestant United States. Young John Sullivan, a first generation son of the Eire, quickly learned that drowning his troubles in the saloons of his native Boston was not only intoxicating, it usually brought with it plenty of drunken altercations that would end in him beating someone within an inch of their life. Later as a champion boxer Sullivan would often turn to his sweet elixir between rounds, as modern boxers do with booze-less disgusting water. Instead of hampering Sullivan’s ability to properly bash another man’s eye sockets, hooch instead helped him control his unbridled rage and combine it with his legendary strength and stamina. Like sour mash PED’s.
Claim to Drunken Fame: During his prime John Sullivan traveled throughout the country as well as Europe fighting all comers, champions or any poor soul that happened to be breathing next to him in a bar. His most famous bout however came against fellow tough guy Jake Kilrain in Hattiesburg Mississippi. The match, for which Sullivan spent several months training by escaping his trainer and getting shitfaced between sessions, is recognized as perhaps the most brutal in sanctioned boxing history. Lasting 75 rounds in a make shift outdoor ring in 100 degree humid weather, both fighters struggled to keep their vital organs from shutting down as well as dying from blunt force trauma. After vomiting in the 44th round in the first recorded use of puke and rally, it was Sullivan who came out on top in the 75th round when Kilrain’s trainer threw in the towel after suspecting that one more round would have killed him.
Drunken legacy: John Sullivan goes down in history as both the first and last great heavyweight bare-knuckle boxer, as well as the man that ushered in the superstar fighter era of Jack Dempsey and Jack Johnson. While the idea of a boorish drunk Irishman that made a living by throttling other men sounds like an overplayed stereotype, it was as true in Sullivan’s case. Yet racist overtones aside, Sullivan was a rare specimen then as well as today: A physically gifted athlete with the ability to consume large quantities of alcohol and still remain at the top of his game. If a bottle of turn-of-the-century bathtub rye whiskey had a mustache, could withstand repeated blows to it’s cranium, vomit then bash your sinus cavity in while wearing yoga pants and a waist sash — it would be John Sullivan.
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Last weeks historical drunk: Wade Boggs