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Old 07-27-2009, 01:26 PM   #1
cross_trainer
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Default A Challenge to ESB

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This was inspired by the "Greatest Bareknuckler" thread.

Here at ESB, we're accustomed to picking apart the styles of great fighters to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. But what if the fighter has almost no film available?

What about John L. Sullivan?





Don't worry; it's not as crazy as it sounds. Sullivan didn't have much film of him (the only bits available are him goofing around before Jeffries/Johnson), but he also had photographs taken while he was fighting. In the next two posts, I'll be putting up all of the photographs, sketches FROM photographs, and film that I've been able to find. If anybody else wants to post stuff that will help (fight reports, etc.), please do.



YOUR MISSION is to write the definitive stylistic analysis of John L. We'll be able to use it in every subsequent "John L. Sullivan vs. Fighter X" debate thread. The winner will earn the right to put ESB WRITING CHAMPION in their description field.




Go.
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Old 07-27-2009, 01:27 PM   #2
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Default Re: A Challenge to ESB

Sullivan's Film

Sullivan's the second fighter with JUST enough film and photographs that we can get an acceptable idea of his style (Billy Edwards, with his manual and 20 seconds of Edison film, is the first).

The only film available on him is located here:

BORKED

BORKED



Sullivan in Action: Illustrations Taken From Photographs

...But we also have other avenues of exploration. James Boyle O'Reilly's ETHICS OF BOXING AND MANLY SPORTS has illustrations that are (I think) taken from photographs of Sullivan in action. Think of them as freeze-frames for his fights. Careful, though: there are a few illustrations that are also taken from Billy Edwards, but usually O'Reilly is careful to note when a technique is illustrated "as Sullivan throws it".

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Incidentally, O'Reilly's book also has a section on training.


Sullivan in Action: Photographs (Part I)

Finally, there are the photographs from Sullivan vs. Kilrain. In order to facilitate discussion, I'll post the link to the photographs AND the photographs themselves as images on this page. Hopefully the latter doesn't run into technical difficulties.

The Links
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"Seventh round: Kilrain again locks his arm around Sullivan's neck, but goes under as in the fourth round."


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"Fifteenth round: Sullivan plants a terrific left-hander on Kilrain's damaged ribs as he goes down."

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"Twenty-third round: Sullivan hits Kilrain a terrific right-hander in the region of the heart and Kilrain, falling forward, attempts to clinch."

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"Seventy-fifth round: The knock-out blow. Sullivan hits Kilrain a moderate blow on the chest and Kilrain goes down for the last time."

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Geez, Sullivan looks pissed...

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"1st round, Kilrain throws Sullivan"

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"Sullivan throwing Kilrain"

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"Kilrain knocked through the ropes."


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"After a fall - Picking up the men."
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Old 07-27-2009, 01:28 PM   #3
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Default Re: A Challenge to ESB

Sullivan vs. Kilrain Photographs, Part II

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Sullivan Forming the Maltese Cross with Kilrain and Handlers before the Fight No. 3042

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Sullivan v. Kilrain Round One No. 3084

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Sullivan v. Kilrain Round Two. No. 3048

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Sullivan and Kilrain in a Clinch. No. 3050

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Sullivan v. Kilrain. Kilrain Down. No. 3062

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Sullivan v. Kilrain. Round Seven. No. 3063

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Sullivan and Kilrain Being Carried to Their Corners Between Rounds No. 3077

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Sulllivan v. Kilrain. No. 3081

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Sullivan v. Kilrain. Round Fifteen. No. 3082

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Sullivan v. Kilrain Round Six. No. 3085

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Sullivan v. Kilrain. Sullivan Throws Right. No. 3091

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Sullivan lands his right hand
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Old 07-27-2009, 02:16 PM   #4
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Default Re: A Challenge to ESB

Welcome back.

Sullivan was a very powerful, dangerous bruiser, with terrible defense, less than great accuracy, tons of endurance and a good chin, not on the level of Dempsey or Marciano. Perhaps close to Max Baer in overall ability.

This seemed to be the general impression of him in material and old mags I read back in the '70s. We'll see how this compares with our conclusions here.
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Old 07-27-2009, 02:48 PM   #5
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Default Re: A Challenge to ESB

Quote:
Originally Posted by cross_trainer View Post
YOUR MISSION is to write the definitive stylistic analysis of John L. We'll be able to use it in every subsequent "John L. Sullivan vs. Fighter X" debate thread. The winner will earn the right to put ESB WRITING CHAMPION in their description field.
Go.
There are enough descriptions of Sullivan's style to reconstruct him from the ground upward in considereable detail.

I am going to win this!
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Old 07-27-2009, 03:02 PM   #6
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I wish I was alive when everybody wore hats all the time.
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Old 07-27-2009, 03:46 PM   #7
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Welcome back. Where have you been?
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Old 07-27-2009, 04:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prime View Post
Sullivan was a very powerful, dangerous bruiser, with terrible defense, less than great accuracy, tons of endurance and a good chin, not on the level of Dempsey or Marciano. Perhaps close to Max Baer in overall ability.

This seemed to be the general impression of him in material and old mags I read back in the '70s.
I hope to turn that on its head!
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Old 07-27-2009, 06:41 PM   #9
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He has big mits
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Old 07-27-2009, 08:13 PM   #10
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Default Re: A Challenge to ESB

These photos illustrate how Johnson's (and his compatriots) style of one punch, then wrestling for half a minute, originates from bareknuckle boxing. Welcome back, CT.
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Old 07-28-2009, 03:33 AM   #11
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Default Re: A Challenge to ESB

Quote:
Originally Posted by prime View Post
Welcome back.

Sullivan was a very powerful, dangerous bruiser, with terrible defense, less than great accuracy, tons of endurance and a good chin, not on the level of Dempsey or Marciano. Perhaps close to Max Baer in overall ability.

This seemed to be the general impression of him in material and old mags I read back in the '70s. We'll see how this compares with our conclusions here.

I think that i would have to challenge the terrible defence theory. I dont see how anybody could fight as many fights(often 1 day after the other) with those tiny gloves and not get marked up badly, if they had terrible defence. I dont see how it would be possible.

Obviously, he didnt have the stand on his toes stick and run style that many defensive masters have but i think he must have had some pretty good defence. I have to wonder wehter that defence would be a tyson like ability to slip and duck or whether it would be more of a lennox lewis or Vlad Klithsko style of defence which involves using longer range more powerful jabs and straight punches to keep opponents at range and an in close clinch. I think it is a combinationation of both. And the famous John L Switching of the left and right guard throws another aspect on his defence. Tyson used a similar switch hit tactic but i am not sure how it really assisted his defence.

Looking at the pictures, i dont necessarilly think that his stance was as square as people think, as his body seemed to generally be turned at 45 and it is only the front foot that is really left pointing straight. The other thing that i gather in relation to his stance is that he is constantly leaning very far forward. I wonder whether this is because he is consistently ducking, as marciano used to do when he fought.

i also thought it interesting to note that John Ls arms were either on the inside of Kilrains and not tied up so that they could striker or, perhaps more importantly from a defensive position, if they were on the outside, it really looked like he was tired and clinching in which case he always managed to get in close and hook Kilrains arms underneath his shoulders and tie him up. I got the feeling, that the hook would be more succeful against John L than the uppercut or even the straight punching.

Photo no 3085 is also very interesting. It shows that when Sullivan throws his right hand, his left is out in front, maintaing his defensive position. In fact, to me it looks like Sullivans left is actually held higher than a low guard and in a much more modern position, in that it appears to protect his front on chin as well as his body, as a technical modern guard should.

All in all, i think that it is likely that Sullivan's defence was probably much better than he is given credit for, in the same way that say a Rocky Marciano's is. But obviously i dont think he was a defensive fighter
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Old 07-28-2009, 04:48 AM   #12
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Default Re: A Challenge to ESB

The mighty Cross_Trainer returns...and not before time. Classic is in dire need of your quality right about now.
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Old 07-28-2009, 05:07 AM   #13
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This needs to be adressed in more detail and time than I have available at the moment, but suffice to say Sullivan was an aggressive fighter, but not one disregarding some finer points, such as defensive skills.

In the Kilrain fight, he is described as having his lead hand (the left) low, and his right crossed across his chest. It seems reasonably certain that he fought out of a slight crouch, with much of his weight on the front foot.
One aspect which seems to be a recurring theme in fight reports, is continual mention of his "cat-like" quickness. Granted, the style of reporting back then often gave way to exaggeration, but still it has been mentioned many times in different reports by different sources. So suffice to say there is something to it...I'd imagine he had great reflexes and had the ability to explode forward throwing an assortment of hard punches.

Sulllivan and others developed a looping punch, basically a roundhouse, which was aimed at the neck. The neck was an obvious target for people wearing 3 ounce gloves or sometimes no gloves at all, since the cranium and jaw were hard and one could injure or fracture a hand with repeated landing.
I'd imagine a full roundhouse swing landing square on the neck must have been very debilitating, as well as requiring great skill to execute properly.
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Old 07-28-2009, 07:06 AM   #14
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I get the impression that he was an aggressive technician, not particularly fast or fancy, but methodical and effective.

The key question here is, what kind of technique does a technician in the late 1800s have? For his time though, it was probably considered decent.
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Old 07-28-2009, 07:08 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisPontius View Post
These photos illustrate how Johnson's (and his compatriots) style of one punch, then wrestling for half a minute, originates from bareknuckle boxing. Welcome back, CT.
I don't see Johnson in any of them.
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