Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Townspeople

December 5, 2013

In the ring with Boston's bare-knuckle boxer

Local author pens story of America's first sports star

The local author of a punchy new book about a popular, hot-headed, Irish-American boxer from Boston of yesteryear surprisingly is not a big boxing fan nor a fighter type of guy who’d punch your lights out if you told him that you didn’t like his new book.

Rather, he’s quiet, calm and a frequent contributor to History.com for crying out loud. Christopher Klein of Andover simply likes to do the research for his stories, then share the good stories with others.

“Strong Boy” is his new book about the life and times of John L. Sullivan, America’s first sports hero. Sullivan, who immigrated to Boston from Ireland, was the first modern heavyweight boxing champion of the world, from 1882 to 1892, and was the first athlete to earn more than a $1 million.

He was also a womanizing drunk, had a big ego, a big mouth and was a frequent presence on the police blotter in several communities. He went from Boston’s Irish working class to become the most recognizable man in the nation and “Strong Boy” is his story.

“It’s a story of making it, despite having everything against you. ... I like that sort of story,” said Klein, who is happily living with his wife and two children in west Andover in the house he grew up in.

Sullivan’s Irish roots also attracted Klein as the author has some of his own.

“I liked doing the research for this book and reading so much about him. I really enjoyed the reading ... there was a lot in the newspapers,” said Klein, who spent some two years researching Sullivan’s story.

Sullivan’s epic brawls, such as his 75-round bout against Jake Kilrain, are legendary and Klein’s storytelling about those historical fights is getting knockout reviews.

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