Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mississippi in boxing history

TBA, no aficionado, hadn't realized that the famous knockdown of John L. Sullivan by "Gentleman Jim" Corbett took place in the Big Easy, nor that Sullivan's previous championship fight had occurred in Mississippi:
Just three years earlier, on July 8, 1889, Sullivan had defended his title against Jake Kilrain under entirely different circumstances. The fight was held on turf, in a ring created for the occasion on the rural Mississippi Coast property of a sawdust proprietor named Charles Rich. Under the London Prize Ring rules, rounds lasted as long as both men stood, which meant they could “steal a few minutes to glare at each other, tacitly agreeing to slow down, return to their corners for a drink, and regain their strength,” Elliott J. Gorn tells us is his classic account, The Manly Art: Bare-Knuckle Prize Fighting in America, which appeared in 1986 and has just been republished in an updated edition by Cornell University Press with a new afterword by the author. Since the Mississippi governor had placed a $1,000 bounty for Sullivan’s arrest, the champion fled Mr. Rich’s land soon after dispatching Kilrain in seventy-five rounds. He was eventually brought back to the state to face charges for violating statutes forbidding prize fighting and assault and battery. Although the indictments would be quashed, Sullivan spent more money on legal fees that he had earned in the Kilrain fight. It is no wonder he was such a fixture in traveling variety shows, which made him a rich man and kept him out of legal trouble.
To be precise, the Kilrain fight was at Richburg, "just south of Hattiesburg" -- the "last bare-knuckle heavyweight title bout."

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