The Real-Life Rocky vs. Apollo, But Bare-Knuckled and Drunker
Imagine a boxing match like the one in Rocky -- 15 rounds of two men beating the shit out of each other until they can barely stand. Now imagine two guys doing that five consecutive times without stopping. Oh, and one of them is drunk the entire time. That was the absolutely insane 1889 bout between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain.
Though formal championships didn't exist outside the world of hoop rolling in those days, John L. Sullivan was nationally recognized as the king of the boxing world. At a time when the sport was so raw they could have called it "murder-hits'' and nobody would have blinked, Sullivan was the best. And leave it to the Gilded Age to somehow translate his fame into a mustache so powerful it actually started over at the eyebrows:
We can't help thinking he means that literally. It's in his eyes.
As insanely masculine as Sullivan was, he was also insanely addicted to alcohol. So when a relatively young and fit family man named Jake Kilrain challenged Sullivan to an illegal match for a $20,000 purse, he did what any man with a mustache like that would do: he continued binge drinking. And this was while battling a host of ailments that, according to him, included typhoid fever, gastric fever, inflammation of the bowels, heart trouble, liver complaint, an "incipient paralysis," a "mysterious itch" and delusions of phantom rats. So, he was not in fighting shape is what we're saying.
Still, this is the guy who broke his arm in a fight and still managed to make it a draw.
The Sullivan/Kilrain match lasted over two hours and 75 excruciating rounds. Oh, and the fight was outdoors, in July, in Mississippi.
They don't make stenches like that anymore.