John L. Sullivan Visits Tombstone

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On Saturday, March 23, 1884 the undefeated Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World John L. Sullivan, traveling by rail on a coast to coast promotional tour stopped off in Benson and took the stage for Tombstone. A large crowd turned out at Armstrong’s Opera House to see the Great John L. in action. The Boston Strong Boy went through the motions with the patsies in his troupe and then offered $500 to any man who could stay in the ring for four 3-minute rounds. All he had to do to claim the money was still be standing at the end of the match.

A black cowboy from John Slaughter’s ranch known only by his first name Jim had ridden in from the ranch with his friends to see the champ in action. They persuaded him to take the offer. Jim was a giant of a man and as he climbed into the ring Sullivan looked like a runt.

The spectators cheered as Jim opened the fight with a roundhouse blow that caught Sullivan on the head staggering him. The crowd went wild as the stunned champ shook his head trying to clear the stars. It looked like John L. had finally met his match.

But it was not meant to be. Sullivan was an experienced, scientific boxer and Jim wasn’t. He stayed away from the big cowboy’s right hand and went to work. In the end he knocked out his strong, but unskilled opponent. Jim became a local hero and old timers around Tombstone talked about the fight for years afterwards.

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