John L. Sullivan vs. Jack Burke

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John L Sullivan 238 lbs beat Jack Burke 170 lbs by PTS in round 5 of 5

  • Date: 1885-06-13
  • Location: Driving Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  • Referee: Sherman Thurston

Known as the "Irish Lad," Burke, a middleweight, was a popular and experienced fighter who had, to this point, beaten Captain James Dalton and Alf Greenfield and had also fought to draws with Charley Mitchell and Jake Kilrain. Over 12,000, one of Sullivan's largest audiences yet, attended at the Chicago Driving Park.

Sullivan, at an out-of-shape 230 pounds, outweighed his opponent by sixty pounds. He used his size against Burke in the first two rounds, using wrestling, throwing, and rabbit-punching tactics that were technically against modern Marquess of Queensberry rules. Burke attempted to move and counterpunch in order to keep the larger man off of him but was only partly successful until round three, when he landed a good blow to the champion's chin. Sullivan, apparently afraid that police would stop the fight if it got too rough, failed to retaliate. Tiring by the fourth round, Sullivan started punching, landing a terrific body shot that put his opponent down. Burke rose bravely, but was quickly knocked down again. Again Burke made it to his feet, but when Sullivan came at him to fight some more, the Irishman intentionally fell to the mat without being hit. Told to get up, he did so but only to pull the exact same trick when Sullivan came back at him. When the challenger continued to employ this tactic into the fifth round, referee Sherm Thurston stopped the fight and declared Sullivan the winner. "Burke was a mere boy in my hands," mused the champion afterwards.