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Boxing legend John L. Sullivan was country's first sports superstar

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Since capturing the heavyweight title in February 1882, Sullivan had already captivated boxing fans with his utter ring domination, and the legendary spirit of the fighting Irish that was made flesh in this son of Emerald Isle immigrants had transformed him into a Celtic icon. The champ's boozing and run-ins with the law had already proven to be godsends to big-city newspapers engaged in heated circulation wars, but it would be Sullivan's transcontinental "knocking out" tour that would make him the country's first sports superstar more than 30 years before Babe Ruth ever donned a baseball uniform.


Christopher Klein is a freelance writer and author of three books. To buy his book, "Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America's First Sports Hero," go to

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