Some reports say that he was actually born in Liverpool, and not London. He got sent to Botany Bay in Australia as a convict for some reason, again reports have been from political trouble in his native Ireland to common trouble making with his fists.Either way he escaped and arrived in America on a ship called Hamilton in 1839.
Again some reports differ and have him first prize fighting in Tasmania.
He fought Billy Bell August 25th (not the 20th as Cyber boxing has it) 1842 on Hart’s Island, New York, lasted 30mins,(cyber boxing again has it lasting 1hr 26mins) 23rounds, Bells seconds threw in the sponge at the end of the 23rd. He got into a lot of trouble and was a regular at cock and dog fights, in this rough company he was never out of trouble, on numerous occasions he was in the papers for shooting somebody (though never killing them) and also for being set on himself.
Though it was for his prize fighting , after he killed an opponent named Thomas McCoy in Hastings, sometime in 1842 that he got jailed.
Sullivan was sentenced on 2nd November 1842 to 2 years for the manslaughter of Thomas McCoy. He was granted a pardon after serving 10 months `handling stone in the outer yard`. The pardon was on the condition that a sum of $500, which was paid by two respectable citizens, was entered with the threat of forfeit if Sullivan engaged or aided any prize fight for 2years.
He died May 31, 1856 in San Francisco, California.
Sullivan committed suicide while held in the vigilantes committee’s headquarters, he’d been there 6 days awaiting trial for what is not really clear, it was later said they were just deporting him out of the country because they`d found out he was an escaped convict.
Sullivan became so panic-stricken when he heard a Vigilante guard say that he would probably be `hanged on the morrow`, that he opened a vein in his wrist (or elbow-different sources) and bled to death before a physician could reach him.
He’d supposedly told the guard he`d had a dream he’d been hanged and it was so vivid the guard had gone to get him a drink of water, two hours later when the guard got back Sullivan was dead. Understandably it was viewed as suspicious.
The Marion Daily Star, Ohio Tuesday, June 9, 1885
TOUGH TO THE LAST
An Authentic Account of the last hours Of Sullivan
I was pleased to meet last week with Judge McGowan One of the Argonauts who in 1849 discovered the Golden fleece, which has – to coin a term – Royalised California. In the course of the conversation The Judge told me the concrete history of the tragic end of the famous prizefighter Sullivan.
Sullivan, whose real name was Ambrose Murry, was arrested and imprisoned. He feared that the vigilantes would put him to death , although as Judge McGowan tells me his apprehension was unfounded. The purpose of that body was to ship him back to Australia on the first clipper ship that sailed to Melbourne. It having been definitely understood that Sullivan, or Murray, was an escaped convict.
The poor devil, however, was so affrighted That he took no stock in the hope of escape from the harsh business of Judge lynch. He called eagerly from his prison window for a priest, feeling that death was settling close around him. But was answered by jeers from the mob without. Finally, in sheer desperation he opened the veins of his left arm with a case knife and bled himself to death.
Sullivan was one of the finest prize fighters in the records. – Washington Hatchet.
NEBRASKA STATE JOURNAL, 1910.
JOHN MORRISSEY FIGHT WITH "YANKEE" SULLIVAN
'PRIZEFIGHTER, Adventurer Politician, Began in
a Paper Mill and Made a Million, Went to
Congress, Defied Tweed and Kelly and Was
Never Beaten in a Fair Fight on Any Battle Ground.
As the first period in the history of the prize ring ends with "Tom" Johnson, and the second with "Tom" Spring, so the third the brief championship of "Tom" King. from the 60's on the ring became less and less an exclusively British institution, the influence of America, and later Australasia, changing conditions and traditions.
After the retirement of King, his old opponent, "Jem" Mace, who is still living in London, a hale, hearty and well liked old man, resumed the world's title, which had been wrested from him. A retrospect at this point is necessary to trace the course of the American championship before it became merged with the championship of the world.
The first recorded championship fight in this country was between Jacob Hyer and Thomas Beasley, in 1816,won by the former. The next American boxer of note was "Tom" Hyer, who beat John McCuster in 101 rounds in 1841.Hyer retained the national title by defeating "Yankee" Sullivan in 1849.
A few years later John Morrissey appeared as a claimant and a match was made, but Hyer forfeited. This left Sullivan and Morrissey to decide between them the question of the American championship.
THERE were "gang" fights in Troy during 1840,the kind that used to rage in the streets of American cities as fiercely as any factional row of Middle Age Italy. Few persons were interested save the good citizens of Troy, who thought dolefully upon their shattered windows, but out of the flurry of clubs and brickbats came a man. It was John Morrissey.
John Morrisscy never cared much for cudgels and flying missiles. Nature hail endowed him with a frame of iron, two gigantic fists, the qualities of honesty, shrewdness and the force of the leader. Instead of marshalling his cohorts of the "uptown gang" in the heaving of rocks upon the "downtown gang," he took a cleaner, a more effective and more congenial way of impressing his immediate views upon his opponents.
Within a. year, having then attained the age of eighteen, he called out and conquered in single combat, one after another, nine of the enemy. The thing was done quite casually and with no other reason than because he preferred a Standup fight to his breakfast mid the arbitrament to fists to that of bricks. When it was over the "downtowners" were crushed, if that meant anything, and John 'Morrissey was a great name in what sporting circles the country could boast of.
TIpperary was the county of his birth, and while he was engaged in his vanquishing of the nine he worked first in a paper mill and later in an iron foundry.where one of his fellow employes was John C. Heenan, who afterward made such an ambitious 'bid for pugilistic fame. In 1850 ho found himself stranded in New York with $5 in his jeans, ready to fight anything that stood on two feet. nothing of that class being forthcoming, he joined the gold rush and stowed away on the mail steamer to Panama.
Escaping righteous wrath by slipping ashore at the isthmus, he tried his $5 against a faro bank, ran it up to $700,and then lost, his last cent. A steamer was about to start from the other side for California, ticket quoted at $1,500. With a companion, Cunningham, he evaded the armed sentries and stowed away a second time. Three days out they were discovered and were about to be set ashore at, the end of the earth -Acapulco - when the steerage mutinied. "Who'll stand by me?" asked the captain. "We're here," said Morrissey, leading Cunningham forward .
"Can you fight?" asked the captain. "Why, sir," said Morrissey, "in a manner of speaking, it's my trade." So the two overawed the mutineers and earned their passage to Sail Francisco, Morrissey using the steerage as a training camp.
After an unsuccessful venture to Queen Charlotte's Island in search of gold Morrissey came back to San Francisco, once more penniless, to find that one styling himself George Thompson was announced as the general challenger for the pugilistic title of California and $1,000. This was n windfall, Morrissey hunted up backers and put away Thompson and his $1000 in eleven rounds. Then he returned to the East, challenged "Tom" Hyer, the champion of America, and assumed that title himself when Hyer forfeited.
Taking the management a public house in New York, Morrissey became the centre of local sporting Interest and led a checkered and active lifts for sonic years, finding fights, scratch, pitched or rough and tumble, wherever an opportunity presented. During this time he gained his nickname of "Old Smoke." While engaged in a trifling discussion with a customer hight McCann Morrissey knocked over a stove and fell prostrate upon this glowing coals, where his adversary pinned him. McCann repeatedly asked him if he had had enough, while the champion roasted and smoked in torment. Morrissey's answer was to twist himself free, when he proceeded to settle Mr. McCann in convincing manner.
The Sullivan Challenge.
In 1853 he was challenged by "Yankee" Sullivan, who had suffered defeat at the hands of "Tom" Hyer, for the title and $2,000. Morrissey accepted with alacrity. He was just turned twenty-three, a rugged, compact, clean muscled gladiator, in perfect condition and spoiling for more trouble. Fighting was the breath, of life to him. The prospect of a setto with such a man as Sullivan filled him with delight. Here, at last, was an opponent worthy of his best efforts, calling for every ounce of his fine young, red blooded strength.
They met at Boston Four Corners,103 miles from New York, on October 12. The place was well chosen, for by some strange oversight it was temporarily outside the jurisdiction of all authority. Massachusetts had ceded it to New York and New York had failed to accept. To Boston Four Corners, accordingly, swarmed some five thousand fight followers, sure of good sport and freedom from interference.
was the first to drop his cap within the ropes and to climb through with his attendants. He stripped at about 170 pounds. "Yankee" Sullivan and his assistants appeared shortly before two o'clock, and final preparations were hurried through with. Sullivan stood Up at about 150 pounds. He was a stocky man, much shorter than Morrissey, but hard bitten and solid as a stone pillar. Veteran of many battles, he was forty years old, but fresh and active, depending not only upon his superior knowledge of the game but upon a strength and endurance as yet unsapped by age. Whatever advantage In science lay between the men rested decidedly with Sullivan, though the fight was not likely to bring forth any startling display of technique on either side. These were days when scientific boxing was little known and less appreciated on this side of the Atlantic, when a ring meeting was a downright test of manhood within certain simple limits.
When the colored "kerchiefs bad been tied to the stakes, stars and stripes for Morrissey, black for Sullivan, time was called and the men advanced to the centre, eyeing each other watchfully. The attitude of neither could be called graceful. They stood upright, with hands high and knees bent, ready for hard knocks rather than shifty play. At the last moment Morrissey's second, eager io show himself awake to his principal's interests, sprang forward and .protested against the length of the spikes, In Sullivan's
shoes. The quibble was contemptuously put aside by Morrissey,who look the occasion to make Sullivan a final offer of $8OO to $1.000 side bet. Sullivan shook his head and hostilities were joined.
Sullivan feinted deftly and waded into heavy work Without more ado with a right hand smash that jammed Morrissey's 'guard and got home to his nose. John came right back with right and left drives,but was out of distance and gave Sullivan a chance that he improved with a neat clip to the left eye. There was no instant wasted in sparring between fighters of this kind. -Hit and take, ding-dong, was the style, with the victory waiting for the one who could land the hardest, and stand the most. Sullivan's smash whipped Morrissey into quick action, and, breaking his set defence,he charged, milling fiercely, swinging and uppercutting as "Yankee" backed away. Sullivan was master of few of the fine points of the game, but one thing his long experience had taught him and that, was the trick of dropping in the face of danger, so skilfully, if doubtfully, practised by Bendigo and Caunt. When the berserker youngster came rushing at him Sullivan footed it away with great agility and fell through the ropes before Morrissey could reach him.
The Second Round.
John showed the effects of the rough treatment when he came to the scratch for the second round, the crimson having been drawn plentifully. He bad evidently determined that his fault lay in awaiting attack, and as Sullivan approached Morrissey sprang for him, sweeping a tremendous left at the head. Sullivan blocked the blow prettily, lashed out a stinging right to the nose and got away nimbly. John, exasperated, followed hard after him, and "Yankee" fought uppn his retreat, parrying Morrissey's hard but too deliberate swings with ease. Having backed his man into a corner, Morrissey drove for the body with right and left. Sullivan dodged aside and swept In with a smacking drive to the sore eye. John fought back at him' eagerly, but Sullivan was too quick, slammed through two more to the face and went down to save himself.
Morrissey was now more than willing to go upon the offensive, having had a monopoly of the punishment thus far.Morrissey was now more than willing to go upon the offensive, having had a monopoly of the punishment thus far.He opened the third round instantly with a left drive that might of felled an but Sullivan. was not there. The older' man let the blow slide past and drove a short, hard jolt to the ribs as John came on. Morrissey was now at close quarters, where, he felt more at home, and he bored in, landing right and left to the body and stopping a vicious swing, Then as Sullivan sought to back away from his position, Morrissey pressed after him and slashed out a terrific right hander that caught Sullivan fairly upon the left cheek, covering him with crimson and whirling him across the ring. The spectators caught sharp -breaths for a moment, but "Yankee" was not. knocked down. He staggered back, sent a light tap to the ribs and then fell. The situation was now clear. Sullivan was far the more skilful, more wary, quicker and craftier. But Morrissey had the punch. If, he could land many of those flailing right handers before blinded or -weakened by his adversary's tactics Sullivan must yield. Briefly. Sullivan was something of a boxer and something of a fighter: Morrissey was no boxer at all, but a most formidable and dangerous fighter.
In the interval after this round Morrissey's left eye which had swollen greatly, was lanced. His face had been slashed beyond recognition. but he was untainted in wind or strength. His one complaint to his attendants was that Sullivan would not stand to him. It was a just grievance and the grumbling grew general as the light progressed. Sullivan,taking advantage of one of the rules, went to grass throughout the battle when hard pressed.-- It is a fact quite In keeping with the character of John Morrissey that not ounce did he seek to end a round, escape from a corner or avoid punishment , by dropping. A fight was what he wanted, whether he was winning or losing, and ''Old Smoke" was. never the one. to signal that he had had enough.
Sullivan, recovered from the effects of the tremendous facer he had received, took the lead again in the fourth round, opening right and left and advancing. John parried, but could, not force through Sullivan's guard, and "Yankee," stopping in. shot over a punishing lunge to the nose. _ The blow drew claret freely, and Morrissey. already, half blind, was quite abroad. Sullivan shifted ground quickly and rushed, jabbing right and left to the face. But he counted a trifle too confidently on John's plight As ho drew off
for another opening Morrissey, launched a wild right swing which more by chance than by direction, caught "Yankee" a rocking smash to the left side of the head. Sullivan went spinning, but John could not ,or would not, follow up and "Yankee" returned, planting three swift taps .to the face before he went down. .
Morrissey Badly Battered.
Morrissey was a fearsome sight when he came forward Briskly for the fifth 'round, -'Sullivan's scheme Of decoration having been elaborately' carried out upon his frontispiece. The damage received by "Yankee" was less apparent, but the left side of his head and face was much swollen and he seemed inclined to favor it, holding cautiously on guard. Morrissey was nothing loath and whipped in play with a driving right, which Sullivan stopped, and a hook to the body that drove his man clear away from him. "Yankee" abandoned his waiting and came back strong, swinging right and left Morrissey met him and they clashed in the first lengthy exchange of the battle, hammering back and forth with mighty drives and swings. John found this well to his liking, and after taking some pepper to the face got the upper band, landing to the body and head and pursuing Sullivan as he danced away. When he caught up with 'his man "Yankee" foiled him once more by Dropping just in time to miss a pile driver.
It was Sullivan to the fore in the sixth round, opening with a sharp smack to the mouth. Morrissey found himself 'well within distance and lunged across with a sweeping left, catching "Yankee" on the side of the neck and wilting him. Sullivan made a few feeble feints and went down. He had no heart to stand more than one of John Morrissey's thunderbolts in a single round.
Morrissey's'left eye was now closed beyond hope of aid from the lance but he was as fresh as in the first minute. In his, tactics, aside from his careless guard, his lack of snap and speed was the weakest point. He came on slowly, delivered ponderously and seemed not to,know that there were such manoeuvres as dodging, shifting and retreating. His single purpose was to hit solidly.
Sullivan fought through the seventh round without Landing a hit, landing twice to the face and Once to the body before he fell. Morrissey,irritated by the other's slippery method, hammered into the next session witha full head of steam, forced Sullivan literally to take to his heels and drove him all aroufld the ring, seeking in vain to land a blow. "Yankee."' who would have been slow and sluggish for a fast, scientific boxer,was still as elusive as a moth at dusk for the willing, straight forward John. The chase lasted until Sullivan went down.
The ninth round was more spectacular. Sullivan had discarded some of his caution and went after John viciously. Morrissey's aim seemed to be defective in the hot rally that followed and bis blows generally fell short. "Yankee" meanwhile snapped in with a straight slam to' the face, getting away, came back, got away and back again, accurately and well. In the mixup'John smashed one to the cheek that wiped the left eye, where he had inflicted damage before. Sullivan dropped as usual, and in the interval it became evident that- he no longer had the advantage as to sight, for John's attentions to the eye had done their work. The tenth round was fast, Sullivan getting in all over Morrissey's face without great injury and taking another clip to his bad eye. After severe counter hitting Sullivan was down.
"Yankee's" attendants warned him repeatedly at this stage not to force the pace, but to hang back and wait for his man, whom he could out manoeuvre at his leisure. 'Sullivan, however, was now warm for battle and led off the next session with smashes to the face. He paid the penalty of over eagerness by getting in the way of another of John's battering ram drives, which caught him in the ribs 'and lifted him clear across the ring to measure his length. The next three rounds were short but bard, Morrissey getting twice to the bad eye and accepting more face treatment with equanimity.
On to the Fifteenth.
Sullivan had now banded out enough punishment to have laid any ordinary fighter in a dreamless sleep, but Morrissey, though terribly carved, seemed to like it better with every round. He flinched not at all from "Yankee's"' battering receptions, apparently invited the worst the other could do. and felt amply repaid -If he could return one for six. This state of affairs was* decidedly discouraging to Sullivan and the older man, disregarding the advice of his second, continued to make desperate efforts to impress his strangely persistent adversary. John meanwhile was quite contented to fight on in his own dogged, deadly way.
The fifteenth round began with a steady torrent of blows from both sides, Sullivan smashing to the face and Morrissey cheerfully jamming a weighty drive to the side of the head. Then, with sledgehammer strokes, John forced his man to the ropes and after a hot rally threw-, him over them. In the next session, with his backers crying caution at his heels, "Yankee" tried again, got three quick Cuts to the face and went down. He continued in the seventeenth, landing repeatedly but falling to stop Morrissey, who in his own good time rammed wallops to the left cheek and body. The following two rounds were short, Sullivan dropping in each.
"Yankee" was now plainly weary and winded, John by contrast seeming fresher than ever. Morrissey was wise enough to increase his pace as his opponent fell off, and In the twentieth he rushed impetuously, driving, Sullivan and slugging him repeatedly about the head and body. For a time the" situation was sharply reversed, John landing twice to the other's once and "Yankee' saving himself only by fast footwork, clever guarding and finally by dropping. The next two rounds were short. In the twenty-third
Morrissey rushed again, taking two rapid drives. to the face as of no more account than puffs of -wind, and sent a terrific left swing to the' side of;the head that cut Sullivan down like a reed.
Sullivan had benefited by his slacking from the pace and now took the initiative once more. if he was ever to regain the early superiority he had shown he must do it now. He was again too swift for Morrissey in the twenty-fourth and planted heavy right and left handers to the face, shoving through a rib searcher as John plodded steadily on after him .They joined for a hot exchange in the middle of the ring, "Yankee" delivering slash after-slash to the head and Morrissey countering to the body with an: occasional slam that drove Sullivan away wincing.
It was a gallant rally on the part of he older, man, but brought him nothing. John was always there,ready, impervious to "Yankee's best blows, waiting his chance to land a sapping driver never evading any clash. As Sullivan said afterward, Morrissey' fought as if he were wound up for a year's going. After further mutual compliments; Sullivan ended the round by dropping, Morrissey frowning and shaking his head at him, highly indignant that any man should wish to end such a pleasant argument so abruptly.
In the twenty-fifth round Sullivan swept into his stride quickly and opened with a flush hit to the face. It was the only blow that seemed to promise any thing. He could make no impression upon Morrissey's body and his natural hope lay in blinding. John's sound eye. Again he swept through his left, and again. Morrissey returned heavily to the side of the head and "Yankee," jerked off his feet by a futile right swing, took to the grass.
It was still Sullivan and his left handers in the twenty-sixth. As long as he could foot it fast enough John had small chance of reaching him and "Yankee"' tried, hard. to work the hit and getaway at the necessary speed. He lashed two wicked ones to Morrissey's raw face and dropped when John took after him with heavy drives.
Taunts and Blows.Sullivan now sought to intersperse his tactics with some gentle badinage on the chance that he might Incite the bigfellow to a display of temper. He wiped John's face with a stinging left swing and hopped out laughing.
"Now, who's champion?" he taunted. But if Morrissey was expected to read in this that be could never overcome such a skilful and active opponent the attempt was a failure.
"That's to be seen," he answered calmly and jammed in a right drive that sent "Yankee" to the ground in a hurry, for the next two sessions Sullivan hit and went down without ceremony.
In the thirtieth round John led off brushing the other's guard aside and planting a rattling swing to the left cheek. Sullivan whirled back with three rapid rocking smashes to the face and dropped. He peppered Morrissey in the next two rounds and escaped unscathed.
In the thirty-third they stood for a moment and exchanged counter hits to head and body, but “Yankee" was exhausted and could make nothing count. He had done everything possible, tried every trick in his repertoire, apparently beaten his man to a pulp. And still, John was with him, steady as_a rock, wholly unconscious of the fact that by all precedents he ought to consider himself defeated.
It was only a matter of time from this point on.Sullivan's strength declined, though he continued to exert himself to the utmost and he had lost heart He got to the face In the thirty-fourth round and. fell. In the thirty-fifth John reached him again with a wide, stunning swing to the cheek-that sent him to the turf. The next was a wild session, Morrissey meeting Sullivan's desperate charge with battering swings to face and body amd sending his man down.
In the thirty-seventh round even Sullivan's friends could see that the tide had turned strongly against him and they grew restless, swarming close about the ropes, yelling at Morrissey and threatening disturbance, John paid no attention, and when Sullivan led weakly to the face he rushed, bearing "Yankee" back Irresistibly. Hugging his man about the neck, he lifted him clear of the ground, preparing for a heavy fall that hardly could have failed to end the battle. The Sullivan supporters, however, took this instant to swarm over and through the ropes in a howling, clawing mob, and the two fighters disappeared under the invading wave. Great confusion followed the men were separated and swept out of the ring and in the midst of the uproar the referee gave the decision to Morrissey. His specific reason, was "that Sullivan had left the ring first and without awaiting instructions.
Whatever the exact facts which were long disputed, there was no doubt that Morrissey was far in the lead and deserved the victory. The fight had lasted fifty-five minutes.
Morrissey's only subsequent appearance in the prize ring was -with John C. Heenan, the "Benicia Boy." who later drew with "Tom" Sayers, the great
little world's champion. He whipped Heenan out of hand in eleven rounds in 1858 and announced that he would never thereafter step within the ropes. He kept that resolve, though he did not mean that he would never fight again. John Morrissey without some kind of a fight in prospect would have been like a diamond without the sparkle. He fought as occasion arose, and carried the propensity with him through life.
He was successful with his gambling houses in New York and Saratoga and at one time was said to be worth a million dollars. He lost half of it In the
crash of "Black Friday" and much of the rest through unfortunate speculation. Commodore Vanderbilt stood his friend and aided him out of several difficulties. Morrissey always had taken active part in politics, and in 1860 be was elected to Congress by the democrats from the Fifth district. "Boss" Tweed was then in full power and Morrissey owed the nomination to him but the man's innate honesty and pugnacity would not permit him to be time server, for any one and before the end of his first term he began to develop another fight, this with Tammany Hall. Tweed did not want to re nominate him but Morrissey was TOO popular with his constituents and he went back in 1869
From this time on be became the bitter and avowed enemy of Tweed's "ring" and he threw himself into the struggle with the same dogged tenacity and determination that had characterized him as a prize fighter. Ho was one of the leaders of the "young democracy" revolt of 1871 and lent every assistance to Greeley, Tilden and others who were bent upon freeing the city from its tyrants.
When Tammany Hall passed under the control of John Kelly Morrissey was still ready for trouble. Before long he was again at cuts with the powers and Kelly attempted discipline by expelling him from Tammany. Just such a move was necessary to put Morrissey in a fighting frame of mind, and in 1875 he came forward as an independent candidate for the State Senate. His popularity and good public record won him support from, the voters of all parties and he won. He repeated the victory in 1876 and 1877. The campaign of 1877 was hot and in a close race the man who had never known fatigue, or spared his marvellous physique over tried himself. He died In May 1878.
Morrissey's political career, like that of his pug' listic days, was free from stain. While conscious of his limitations and refraining from pushing himself forward, he was always careful to act honestly and to the best of his Judgment. For the rest he was, first and last, a fighter and a man.