Paddy Ryan

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This article is about the boxer. For the Irish hurler, see Paddy Ryan (hurler). For the Canadian wrestler who is sometimes called Paddy Ryan, see Earl Patrick Freeman.
Paddy Ryan
Paddy Ryan cph.3a44411.jpg
Paddy Ryan, 1887
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Nationality Irish American
Born (1851-03-15)15 March 1851
Thurles, Tipperary, Ireland
Died 14 December 1900(1900-12-14) (aged 49)
Green Island, New York

Paddy Ryan (15 March 1851 – 14 December 1900) was an Irish American boxer, and became his sport's world's heavyweight champion from May 30, 1880 when he won the title from Joe Goss until losing his title to John L. Sullivan on February 7, 1882.

Paddy Ryan was born in Thurles, Tipperary, Ireland on March 14, 1851. After moving to America, he lived in the Troy, New York area and was consequently nicknamed the Trojan Giant. After opening a saloon in 1874, he caught the attention of the athletic director of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Jim Killoran. Killoran supposedly saw him dealing with troublemakers and drunks at the saloon whereupon he decided to train Ryan as a prizefighter.

Ryan's first match was in 1877. He was as much an all-around fighter, grappler or wrestler as he was a boxer. Under the London Prize Ring rules of that era, his style of fighting was perfectly acceptable. On May 30, 1880 in Coillier's Station, West Virginia, Ryan faced Joe Goss, who was recognized as champion. After 87 rounds and ninety minutes, Paddy Ryan emerged the winner and claimed the championship.

In 1882, Ryan agreed to face rising boxer John L. Sullivan for the championship. The fight was to be bare-knuckle under the London Prize Ring Rules in a 24-foot ring. Each side put up $2,500 winner-take-all. The fighters arrived in New Orleans on February 6, 1882. Governor Lowry of Mississippi issued a proclamation ordering all local sheriffs to do whatever was necessary to stop the fight, which was illegal. The next day, the fight crowd moved to Mississippi City, Mississippi where a ring was set up in front of the Barnes Hotel in a grove of live oaks.

Paddy Ryan's seconds for the fight were John Roche (New York) and Tom Kelly (St. Louis). His umpire was James Shannon of New York. Sullivan's seconds were Billy Madden and Joe Goss. His umpire was James Shannon. There was a dispute over the selection of a referee which was finally settled by the appointment of two referees: Alexander Brewster of New Orleans and Jack Hardy of Vicksburg.

Following old tradition, John L. Sullivan threw his hat in the ring at 11:45 am. Ryan entered the ring at 11:57 with the crowd estimated at 5,000. The men then approached the scratch line in the center of the ring and shook hands.

After nine rounds, Sullivan knocked Paddy Ryan out with a right-handed punch which landed under Ryan's left ear. Historically, the fight was the last time the championship would be won (as opposed to defended) in a bare knuckle fight. Ryan fought Sullivan on many occasions afterward, but never won.

Ryan was one of a party of gentlemen entertained by Robert Emmet Odlum, brother of women's rights activist Charlotte Odlum Smith, on the morning of May 19, 1885, the day he jumped from the Brooklyn Bridge and was killed. Ryan assisted in unsuccessful resuscitation efforts.[1]

In Ryan's era, boxing titles were informal. Some sources often refer to him as the "Heavyweight Champion of America"; others call him a world champion. But in practice, he was recognized as the premier champion of boxing while he held the title.

Ryan died on December 14, 1900 in Green Island, New York and is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery. He was elected to The Ring magazine's Hall of Fame in 1973.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Odlum, Catherine (1885). The Life and Adventures of Prof. Robert Emmet Odlum, Containing an Account of his Splendid Natatorium at the National Capital. Gray and Clarkson. 

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Joe Goss
Heavyweight boxing champion
Succeeded by
John L. Sullivan