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John L. Sullivan


Sullivan, a larger-than-life figure and quintessential U.S. sports icon, was the last bare-knuckles heavyweight champion and first globally recognized gloved champ in the weight class -- although he came by the latter distinction only gradually.

Depending on the authority (or standards), Sullivan won or was appointed the heavyweight title after defeating Paddy Ryan in 1882, by toppling Dominick McCaffrey in 1885 (after which Sullivan was named the first heavyweight champ under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules) or following a 75th-round knockout of Jake Kilrain in an 1889 bare-knuckles epic. Sullivan, believed to be the first millionaire U.S. athlete, lost his title to Jim Corbett on Sept. 7, 1892 -- his only official defeat.