THE ORIGINAL LEGEND: JOHN L. SULLIVAN
John L. Sullivan briefly attended Boston College in an effort to satisfy his mother's wish that he become a priest, but dropped out to work as a hod carrier (his father's profession), a tinsmith, and an assistant plumber -- a job he lost when he broke his employer's jaw in a dispute over which pipe to use on a job.
A versatile athlete, Sullivan turned down a contract to play big-league baseball for the Cincinnati Red Stockings and instead began fighting as a teenager, walking into Boston barrooms and declaring that he could "lick any man in the place." He also engaged in weightlifting exhibitions, hoisting and sometimes throwing kegs of beer.
As a boxer, he reigned as heavyweight champion from 1882-1892 before his indulgent lifestyle caught up with him during a 21-round title fight with James J. Corbett, which ended in a knockout loss.
A prodigious drinker in his boxing heyday, Sullivan swore off liquor in retirement and became a temperance lecturer.