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Levi's Prizefighting Past from To Win Her Heart
Levi Grant had always been big for his age, and he learned early on how to use that size to his advantage. When kids in the schoolyard poked fun at him because of his speech impediment, he struck back with his fists, not intimidated by opponents several years older than he.
As he grew, his father tried to curb his fighting tendencies and taught him the blacksmithing trade. But being young and impatient, Levi was easily convinced by the fast-talking fight organizers that he could earn more money and respect by joining their ranks and taking up bare-knuckle brawling.
Moving from saloon to saloon, fighting any who would toe the line with him, Levi became known as The Anvil and soon found the success and respect he'd always craved. Until the day he learned it was all an illusion.
Like all prodigals, Levi found himself in the pigsty. Only, for him, it took the form of Huntsville State Prison and a labor camp where he broke granite on a chain gang and suffered the abuse of the heavy-handed guards. This was one fight he couldn't win with his fists. That's when the Lord found him and used a prison chaplain to help reclaim his faith. The Anvil died in that prison, but Levi Grant, devoted man of God was born.
Prizefighting in the United States was a seedy business tied to gambling and saloons. Matches usually took place close to state lines so those involved could escape across the border if the law showed up. Yet passion for the sport grew significantly over the latter half of the 19th century.
John L. Sullivan, the Boston Strong Boy, catapulted the sport to stardom in America when he became both the last man to be named champion for bare-knuckle boxing and the first heavy-weight champion of gloved boxing during the 1880s. Sullivan won over 450 fights in his career and was the first American athlete to earn one million dollars. James "Gentleman Jim" Corbett dethroned him in 1892.
Interestingly enough, Sullivan had a bit of a prodigal turn, himself. A heavy drinker, he squandered most of his earnings and as a result, ended up becoming an advocate for prohibition. He used his fame to aid the cause by lecturing on the subject after his ring career was over.