Sullivan, John L., in Lincoln

Former world heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan (1858-1918) visited Lincoln in 1893, a year after losing the championship to James J. “Gentleman Jim” Corbett. A reporter for the Nebraska State Journal learned that Sullivan was in Lincoln in connection with his new occupation in “show business” and managed to secure a short interview, published in the Journal on October 21, 1893.

“Owing to the fact that he had only a few minutes previously finished an all night ride from St. Louis, Mr. Sullivan was not receiving in full dress, in fact his costume was rather negligee, consisting chiefly of undershirt and trousers; . . . . He was engaged in the rather commendable practice of applying soap and water to the exposed portions of his anatomy, a process which he leisurely completed during the visit.

“‘What do you think of the proposed Mitchell-Corbett fight,’ was asked, hitting the nail square upon the cranium in an effort to make the best of the two minutes. [The reporter had been promised only a two-minute interview.]

“‘Well, it’s hard to say. I think it will be a long fought battle; they are both good boys and I would not be surprised to see them fight to a draw.’ ‘Don’t you think Corbett the best man?’ ‘They are both good men; Corbett has the advantage in height and length of reach, but Mitchell has some qualities which balance these.’ . . . [Corbett defeated Charles Mitchell.]

“‘Going to stay in the show business?’ ‘Yes, for a couple of years yet, though I’m getting awfully tired of this traveling.’ ‘How do you like the play you’ve got?’ ‘Very well; this is the second season now. But next year I’m going to have a new one that’s out of sight.’

“And as the 120th second was ticked out of existence John was bade adieu. Sullivan is looking better than he has for years back, his face is clearer and while a few gray hairs are left as relics of his former dissipation, they are by no means evidence of old age or premature decay. The man now realizes what an ass liquor made of him and is putting in his best licks now to regain some of his lost ground.”

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