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Strong Boy: The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America's First Sports Hero Hardcover – November 5, 2013
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"In this muscular, relentlessly detailed book, Christopher Klein not only tells Sullivan's story but also documents the evolution of boxing from illicit bare-knuckle savagery akin to today's steel-cage extravaganzas to the 'sweet science' of legally sanctioned bouts between skillful gloved opponents."--Wall Street Journal
"In Strong Boy, The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, the book that should go straight to the top of your holiday gift list, Irish American author Christopher Klein has written an immensely entertaining and insightful biography that's worthy of his formidable subject."--Irish Voice
"Strong Boy--The Life and Times of John L. Sullivan, America's First Sports Hero by Christopher Klein is a raw, powerful and disturbing biography--a head-spinning take on Sullivan's turbulent life. Unlike other sports memoirists, Klein doesn't pull punches; he offers slashing comments on a mythic sports hero."--America Magazine
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But that can't be said of Christopher Klein's biography, which is first rate--well written, well researched, and extremely well done. Klein brings Sullivan to life in all his brazen blustering ("I can lick any son of a bitch in the world"). The reader gets a ringside seat to all of his fights, and I must confess that I found myself rooting for old John L. despite his many shortcomings.
Sullivan's life does have a happy ending, as later in life, he gives up drink, marries, settles down, and becomes a friendly, caring, lovable man.
In short, this is an excellent biography of a fascinating man. And you need not be a boxing fan to enjoy the comet that was John L. Sullivan.
He was an extraordinary sportsman with a sickness that would not allow him to control his urge to drink. For more than a decade, he dominated the heavyweight scene as undisputed Champion even while heavily under the influence of demon rum. In reading this book you have to draw the unmistakeable conclusion that he behaved very badly throughout most of his life, yet was adored by most people as the first true sports superstar. It is well documented on this sad but intriguing story. This book was a true biography that brought the Strongboys life and times vividly alive with an entertaining style that flows naturally on its course. This is not simply a regurgitation of old newspaper accounts and redundant training regimens as other biographies tend to portray. Here we have a complex and complete picture of this unique Irishman nearly 100 years after his passing. I highly recommend this book and believe the reader will enjoy many of the same things that I did and discover a few of their own. I'm personally glad that John found a wee bit of peace on his farm with his loving wife and friends around him for a few years toward the end of his days. It's an Irish tale even to this very day. It's an American tale as well.
Many many years ago I met a pretty fair fighter from the 1910's and 20's by the name of Ever Hammer. He was spry and gregarious when we met in 1969. The first thing he said while extending his hand to greet me was, "Shake the hand of the man who grasped the hand of John L Sullivan." I didn't really understand the significance of it then. All these years later I do.