1874-1961 Hessie Donovan (Converse) Knocks out World Champion John L. Sullivan
Hessie Donahue was the first person to knocked out the world heavyweight champion John L Sullivan in 1892. She was an imposing woman of nearly 6 feet and weighed 161 lbs, but only 18 years of age.
How did this event come to happen?
At only eighteen, she married Charles Converse, a man who ran a school for boxers in the state of Massachusetts (USA). Charles and John liked to spar together as did Hessie and her husband. Charles would often ask Hessie to spot the boxers’ mistakes and Hessie would often get in the ring and spar with them. The idea came to Sullivan that Charles and Hessie should accompany with him on his exhibition tour of theatres.
Hessie would spar with Sullivan as an novelty turn of events. Towards the end of his sparring with men, Sullivan would announce that a woman had challenged him. Hessie would step into the ring in her full prize-fighting blouse, skirt, and bloomers with long stockings and boxing gloves. She would trade a few playful blows with Sullivan until the curtain came down. This game, however, got out of hand one night when Sullivan threw a punch to Hessie’s face that was far harder than he intended.
Upset by this departure from the script, the” Bruiser in Bloomers” let rip with a right to Sulllivan’s jaw, and the champion dropped unconscious to the floor where he stayed for a long time. The crowd roared its appreciation. Thereafter,” the punch” was modified with suitable theatrical touches and kept as part of the act.
Hessie died in 1961 at the age of 87. (I have not been able to find a picture of the “Bruiser in Bloomers’).