John L. Sullivan vs. Dominick McCaffrey

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1885-08-29 : John L. Sullivan 208 lbs beat Dominick McCaffrey 167½ lbs by PTS in round 7 of 6

  • Location: Chester Drving Park, near Cinncinati, Ohio, USA

McAffrey, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had earned his shot at Sullivan due to his four round win over outstanding British boxer Charley Mitchell at Madison Square Garden in New York City the previous October. He stood five feet eight and a half inches tall and weighed about 165 pounds. This fight had been in the works since the previous February. Organizers had originally planned on hosting it in the garden, but moved it to Cincinnati's Chester Park race track in hopes of finding more friendly authorities there. Ironically, Sullivan was arrested as soon as he made his first public appearance in Cincinnati. He was only released after promising a judge that the scheduled fight would be a mere sparring session and that neither he nor his opponent intended to hurt one another.

McAffrey trained hard for the fight and, because of his smaller stature and build, planned to use his superior technical abilities against the champion. "I'm ten times the boxer Sullivan is," he bragged to reporters. As for Sullivan his only training involved losing twenty-nine pounds to come into the ring at a pudgy 208 pounds.

In the early rounds, Sullivan dominated the action, taking McAffrey to the ropes on several occasions and dropping him multiple times before the close of the third round. As the fight progressed, however, both fighters showed the effects of fighting under the Summer sun. Though McAffrey continued to take the worst of the fighting, Sullivan resorted more often to wrestling tactics that were technically illegal under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules under which this fight took place. In the sixth round, after the champion tackled the challenger to the floor, referee Billy Tate stopped the fight to save McAffrey from further punishment and declared Sullivan the winner. Both fighters subsequently agreed to fight a seventh, unofficial round without a referee present. After the fight, despite obviously losing the match, McAffrey often bragged rightfully about lasting longer in the ring than any other of the champion's previous opponents. Others had lasted more rounds, but not under the Queensberry Rules which specified timed three minute rounds.


  • Sullivan is named the first Heavyweight Champion under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules after this victory, though in actual fact he could only lay claim to the American title, as McCaffrey, a middleweight, was also a US citizen.