Jake Kilrain

Last updated
Jake Kilrain
Jake Kilrain.jpg
Statistics
Real nameJohn Joseph Killion
Weight(s) Heavyweight
Nationality American
Born(1859-02-09)February 9, 1859
Greenpoint, New York
DiedDecember 22, 1937(1937-12-22) (aged 78)
Quincy, Massachusetts
Boxing record
Total fights37
Wins18
Wins by KO3
Losses6
Draws12
No contests1

John Joseph Killion (February 9, 1859 – December 22, 1937), more commonly known as Jake Kilrain, was a famous American bare-knuckle fighter and glove boxer of the 1880s.

Contents

Early life

Kilrain found employment as a teenager in Somerville, Massachusetts. As a country boy from Long Island, he had to learn how to stand up to the workers in the rolling mills. By the age of 20, he had been recognized as the toughest fighter in the mill. Kilrain was also a champion rower having won the National Amateur Junior Sculling Championship in 1883. He was later stripped of that honor when it was discovered that he was a prizefighter and thus could not be considered an amateur.

In 1883, Kilrain took up prizefighting as a profession and quickly established a reputation as a very tough fighter.

Professional career

World Championship fight with Jem Smith

By 1887 Kilrain already has been recognized as the U.S. National Champion, that gave him an opportunity to fight for the Championship of the World and silver belt versus the British Champion Jem Smith, scheduled to take place in December 1887, in France, at a little island on the River Seine, called St. Pierre d'Autils. The bout was attended by about a hundred of the upper class spectators and journalists, mainly from England, being covered by the major international media of the day, such as Reuters , Gaulois , etc. They fought 1-minute rounds with 30 seconds break between the rounds. At the outset the men fought evenly. After the 3rd round Kilrain scored several knockdowns, and wrestling formed the principal mode of operations for the rest of the fight. Before the 106th round had started, after two hours and a half of fighting (roughly three times the full duration of modern-day 12-round championship fights,) when darkness set in, the bout was stopped due to technical reasons, as no artificial lighting of the scene has been arranged the outcome was called a draw due to darkness. [1]

Clearly dominant throughout the fight (even the English newspapers wrote that "the Englishman was no match for the American crack",) upon his return to the United States, Kilrain was pronounced by Richard K. Fox of the National Police Gazette as Heavyweight Champion of the World for his bout with Jem Smith. The awarding of the belt to Kilrain was part of a strategy by Fox to draw Sullivan into a fight. [2] Any remote claim he had to the title of world champion was lost in 1889 after his loss to John L. Sullivan.

Bout with John L. Sullivan

The Kilrain-Sullivan pre-fight poster Kilrain Sullivan 1889 Fight Police Gazette.jpg
The Kilrain-Sullivan pre-fight poster

Kilrain is perhaps best known for challenging champion John L. Sullivan in 1889 in the last world heavyweight championship prizefight decided with bare knuckles under London Prize Ring rules in history. They fought 1-minute rounds with 50 seconds break between the rounds. In a hard-fought contest, Kilrain lost at the start of the 76th round (after 2 hours 16 minutes [2] ) when Mike Donovan, his second, threw in the sponge. Kilrain had not wanted to give up thinking that he could outlast Sullivan, but Donovan defended his actions insisting that Kilrain would have died had the fight gone on. In any case, the Kilrain-Sullivan fight can rightly be listed among the greatest fights of the pre-modern era.

Later career

Kilrain continued on for 10 more years after the Sullivan fight with gloves under Marquis of Queensberry rules with some success. His most significant win was a 44-round knockout of Boston's George Godfrey in 1891. He retired with a record of 18 wins (3 by KO), 6 losses and 12 draws along with 1 non-decision. [2] He lived in his later years as a devoted family man with his wife and children as proprietor of a saloon in Baltimore, Maryland. After his saloon burned down, he moved back to Somerville and was given a job with the parks department. After government cutbacks during the Great Depression he became a night watchman at a Quincy, Massachusetts shipyard.

In his later life, Kilrain became good friends with John L. Sullivan. When Sullivan died in 1918, Kilrain served as a pallbearer at the funeral. He was also godfather to the English boxer Charley Mitchell's son Charles Mitchell.

Death and Honors

Kilrain died on December 22, 1937, in a local hospital from complications of old age and diabetes, aged 78. [3]

Kilrain was elected to the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009 and to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012. [4] [2]

Scottish boxer and welterweight champion Henry Owens would later fight under the name "Jake Kilrain".

Notable bouts

ResultOpponentTypeRd., TimeDateLocationNotes [5]
Win Canadian Red Ensign (1868-1921).svg George Godfrey KO441891-03-13 Flag of the United States.svg California A.C., San Francisco, California
Loss Flag of the United States.svg James J. Corbett PTS61890-02-18 Flag of the United States.svg Southern A.C., New Orleans, Louisiana
Loss Flag of the United States.svg John L. Sullivan KO75 (80)1889-07-09 Flag of the United States.svg Richburg, Mississippi For World Heavyweight Title.
Draw Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Jem Smith NC1061887-12-19 Flag of France.svg Island of St. Pierre, Saint-Pierre-d'Autils For World Heavyweight Title. [6] Bout stopped due to darkness. [7]
Draw Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Jack Burke PTS51884-12-01 Flag of the United States.svg New England Institute, Boston, Massachusetts
Draw Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Charley Mitchell PTS41884-03-26 Flag of the United States.svg Boston, Massachusetts
Win Canadian Red Ensign (1868-1921).svg George Godfrey TKO3 (3)1883-05-16 Flag of the United States.svg Boston, Massachusetts
Draw Canadian Red Ensign (1868-1921).svg George Godfrey PTS31882-01-15 Flag of the United States.svg Boston, Massachusetts


Related Research Articles

Bare-knuckle boxing Boxing without use of boxing gloves

Bare-knuckle boxing is the original form of boxing, closely related to ancient combat sports. It involves two individuals fighting without boxing gloves or other padding on their hands.

John L. Sullivan American boxer

John Lawrence Sullivan, known simply as John L. among his admirers, and dubbed the "Boston Strong Boy" by the press, was an Irish-American boxer recognized as the first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing, de facto reigning from February 7, 1882, to 1892. He is also generally recognized as the last heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle boxing under the London Prize Ring Rules, being the cultural icon of the late 19th century America, arguably the first boxing superstar and one of the world's highest-paid athletes of his era. Newspapers coverage of his career, with latest accounts of his championship fights often appeared in the headlines, and as cover stories, gave birth for the sports journalism in the United States and set the pattern internationally for covering boxing events in media, and photodocumenting the prizefights.

Tom Molineaux American boxer

Thomas "Tom" Molineaux, sometimes spelled Molyneaux, was an African-American bare-knuckle boxer and possibly a former slave. He spent much of his career in Great Britain and Ireland, where he had some notable successes. He arrived in England in 1809 and started his fighting career there in 1810. It was his two fights against Tom Cribb, widely viewed as the Champion of England, that brought fame to Molineaux, although he lost both contests. His prizefighting career ended in 1815. After a tour that took him to Scotland and Ireland, he died in Galway, Ireland in 1818, aged 34.

Jem Mace British boxer

James "Jem" Mace was an English boxing champion, primarily during the bare-knuckle era. He was born at Beeston, Norfolk. Although nicknamed "The Gypsy", he denied Romani ethnicity in his autobiography. Fighting in England, at the height of his career between 1860–66, he won the English Welterweight, Heavyweight, and Middleweight Championships and was considered one of the most scientific boxers of the era. Most impressively, he held the World Heavyweight Championship from 1870-71 while fighting in the United States.

Paddy Ryan American boxer

Patrick "Paddy" Ryan was an Irish American boxer, and became the bare-knuckle American heavyweight champion on May 30, 1880, after he won the title from Joe Goss. He retained the title until losing it to the exceptional John L. Sullivan on February 7, 1882.

Joe Goss American boxer

Joseph "Joe" Goss was an English bare knuckle boxer. After defeating Tom Allen in Boone County, Kentucky, he held the American and what many boxing historians now consider the World Heavyweight boxing championship from 7 September 1876 to 30 May 1880. Although he rarely scaled more than 160 pounds, the clever and aggressive Goss routinely fought men both bigger and heavier than himself.

Yankee Sullivan Irish boxer

Yankee Sullivan, also known as Frank Murray and James Sullivan, was a bare-knuckle fighter and boxer. He claimed the American bare knuckle heavyweight champion from 1851 to October 12, 1853. When Tom Hyer vacated his title, he laid claim to it, though many modern boxing historians dispute his claim. He lost any claim to the title after losing a fight to John Morrissey.

Joe Coburn American boxer

Joe Coburn was an Irish-American boxer. In 1862 he claimed the Heavyweight Championship from John Carmel Heenan when Heenan refused to fight him.

Jem Smith British bare-knuckle boxer

Jem Smith was a bare-knuckle prize fighter and Heavyweight Champion of England in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century. In 2010 he was inducted into the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame.

George Godfrey (boxer born 1853) Canadian boxer

George Godfrey, nicknamed Old Chocolate by the press of the day in the last stage of his long career, was a Black Canadian heavyweight boxer who held the distinction of being World 'Colored' Heavyweight Champion during his career. Godfrey was inducted into the Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

Young Barney Aaron English boxer

Young Barney Aaron was a bare-knuckle boxer.

Kid Lavigne American boxer

George Henry "Kid" Lavigne was boxing's first widely recognized World Lightweight champion, winning the title on June 1, 1896.

Charley Mitchell (boxer) British boxer

Charles Watson "Charley" Mitchell was an English world heavyweight boxing title contender and lightweight champion.

Billy Madden (1852–1918) is best known as a champion American boxer or pugilist, and pugilistic trainer, and manager. He was also a playwright, writer of books and newspaper articles, the producer of sporting events other than pugilistic, such as wrestling matches and women's marathon bicycle races.

John Mahan, also known as Steve Taylor, was a 19th-century Irish-born American bare-knuckle boxer and pugilist. He was a noted heavyweight fighter in the Northeastern United States during the 1870s and billed as having "an unbeaten record" until his prizefight with future heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan in 1881. Sullivan rose to national prominence as a result of his victory while Mahan went into semi-retirement, taking part in numerous exhibition bouts during the 1880s. Mahan later toured the U.S. with Sullivan and became one of his chief sparring partners.

Tom Allen (boxer) English boxer

Tom Allen was a bare-knuckle boxer who claimed the Heavyweight Championship from 1873, when he defeated Mike McCoole, until 1876, when he lost to Joe Goss. For much of his earlier career he fought just above the middleweight range, around 165-75, making him smaller than most of the heavyweights he met.

Paddington Tom Jones British boxer

Paddington Jones was a British bare-knuckle boxer from 1785 to 1805. He is best remembered for fighting and seconding the most number of fights for any boxer of his era. His bout with Jem Belcher was considered by a few historians to be for a Championship of England, though the boxers differed significantly in weight. There was no formal sanctioning body to confer global or even national championship status on the fight during the period, and no real formal recognition of weight classes at the time.

James Belcher English bare-knuckle fighter

James Belcher, also known as Jem Belcher, was an English bare-knuckle prize-fighter and Champion of All England 1800–1805.

Larry Foley Australian boxer

Laurence 'Larry' Foley was a nearly undefeated Australian middleweight championship boxer. An exceptional boxing instructor, his students included American champions Peter Jackson, and Tommy Burns, the incomparable English-born triple weight class champion Bob Fitzsimmons and Australian champion Mike Dooley. Due to his success as a boxing champion and internationally acclaimed instructor, and for introducing his country to the modern Queensberry Rules, he is often referred to as the "Father of Australian Boxing".

Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame Hall of Fame in Belfast, New York

The Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame is a museum and hall of fame in Belfast, New York, dedicated to the sport of bare-knuckle boxing. It is housed in barns that were once owned by the Greco-Roman wrestling champion and physical culture pioneer William Muldoon. The heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan, who fought in both bare-knuckled and gloved boxing contests, trained in these barns under Muldoon's guidance for his championship bout against Jake Kilrain in 1889. The barns were originally across Main Street from their current location, on the grounds of the Belfast Catholic Church. They were bought, moved, and restored by Scott Burt when the church became no longer interested in maintaining them. Burt opened the Hall of Fame in 2009, when it had its first induction class.

References

  1. "The Championship prize fight - The Aberdare Times". Josiah Thomas Jones. 1887-12-24. hdl:10107/3027302.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Jake Kilrain". IBHOF.com. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  3. http://www.rarenewspapers.com/view/657602
  4. "BKBHOF Inductees". Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  5. Jake Kilrain's Professional Boxing Record. BoxRec.com. Retrieved on 2014-05-18.
  6. The Championship prize fight
  7. A Brutal Fight
Titles in pretence
Inaugural Champion World Heavyweight Champion
December 19, 1887– July 8, 1889
Lost bid for Undisputed Title
Vacant
Title next held by
Peter Maher