A Strange Story In The History Of Boxing
The “Boston Strong Boy”
John L. Sullivan, revered boxer known as the “Boston Strong Boy” held the world heavyweight boxing championship from 1882 to 1892. This famous boxer could break an opponent’s jaw with one blow.He was never knocked out in that 10-year span of time, except once…by the oddest circumstance and opponent you could imagine!
Here’s How It Actually Happened
Hessie Donahue, a rather large woman, is married to Charles Converse who runs a boxing school in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1892 Sullivan invites Converse to join his theater tour with sparring partners. A theater tour and the publicity it brought built up a boxer’s following and everyone enjoyed the show.
Something Different For The Crowd
To make it more theatrical and entertaining for the crowd, Hessie, who was well acquainted with “the sweet science” of boxing, is invited to spar with the great John L. Usually, damage to each opponent during a sparring match is minimal, more like a workout. This little act drew the crowd’s interest.
To increase the drama, John L. and Hessie work out an act together, where Sullivan claims that he can whip any man in the house and offers a reward to anyone beating him. Disposing of all comers, usually with one swift punch, Sullivan then announces that he’s been challenged by a woman. The crowd loudly cheers and applauds. Hessie Converse then enters the ring, attractively dressed and equipped with the requisite boxing gloves. The crowd goes wild with glee at such an incongruous sight. It becomes a regular, greatly anticipated part of the show.
But one evening, during the third round of their “battle,” in front of a huge crowd, Sullivan catches Hessie with a hard blow to her face. Angrily, she lashes out with a right punch to the eye…and the world champion, the great John L. Sullivan, “Boston Strong Boy,” hit the mat and stays there for a full minute. The crowd goes wild! It was John L. Sullivan’s FIRST knockout ever.
The punch created such a sensation, they decide to use it as part of their regular act in the tour. At the end of the third round, Hessie Converse throws her famous right hook, whereupon Sullivan hits the canvas and the referee pronounces Hessie the new champion. Sullivan then bounces up laughing, accompanied by a big roar of laughter and applause from the crowd.
But John L.’s fun came to an end on September 7th 1892, in the boxing ring with “Gentleman” Jim Corbett, after 21 grueling rounds. He was knocked out for the first time ever – by a man. Corbett claimed the world championship and held it until 1897, when he was beaten by a Cornish boxer, named Bob Fitzsimmons, in Carson City, Nevada.
I guess the moral to the story of the strangest knockout in history is this: Never underestimate a woman!