Feature | Nov 09 2019

Fighting Talk: The history and power of trash talk

Boxers have disparaged one another for years, even though respect remains a cornerstone of the sport. Tris Dixon wonders why many think it’s good to be bad
Muhammad Ali

WHEN John L Sullivan boldly predicted he could “lick any sonofabitch in the house”, not even the heavyweight champion of the late 1800s could have thought he might have been setting in motion the wheels of a verbal train that has careered unevenly along for more than a century.

Of course, he was probably not the first gloved fighter to insult anybody, and maybe all but a few of the aforementioned “sons” of “bitches” would likely have taken offence.

For Sullivan’s boast was real. He could not only “lick” anyone in the house, but between 1882 and 1892 it was thought he could probably “lick” anybody in the world.


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