John Sullivan Champion of the World Cabinets Overview
John Sullivan was arguably the first great heavyweight fighter. He captured the first heavyweight boxing championship in 1885 and held the title, remaining undefeated until 1892, losing to Jim Corbett in his final fight — the only loss of his career.
Cabinets are not familiar to all collectors. These are not your typical trading cards. Usually, they were larger photographs mounted onto a cardboard backing that were displayed on cabinets or tables in homes.
Collectors might be surprised at the number of cabinets featuring Sullivan that are in existence. Even the fact that they are more than 125 years old has not made them extremely rare. They are somewhat difficult to find, but eBay usually has a dozen or two of his cabinets for sale at any given time.
While many of his cabinets repeat the same photos and are standalone issues, a couple of what can be considered ‘sets,’ exist.
One of those is the “Champion of the World” set. This collection of cabinet photos has a dark backing with the ‘Champion of the World’ inscription at the bottom along with Sullivan’s name. Each cabinet features a sepia-toned photograph of Sullivan while the backs are blank.
The most desirable of the cabinets is the one with a full body image and a fighting stance. The other two are portrait poses of Sullivan — one of him bare-chested and the other, in a suit. While these images were used in other cabinets, the Champion of the World cabinets have the dark backing with that inscription.
The exact date of these cards is not known. However, they certainly were printed no earlier than 1885 when Sullivan first became heavyweight champion. Most date this series to c1885-90.
In lower-grade condition, these typically start around $150 each.
John Sullivan Champion of the World Cabinets Checklist
These are the poses seen to date thus far. It is possible that others may exist.