In 1887 John l Sullivan went on a tour of Europe , he defended his title against Charlie Mitchell in France and had over 50 exhibition bouts , but John l lived an extravagant lifestyle while in Europe and when he returned to the USA in April 1888 his weight had ballooned to over 280 lbs , not long after he became very ill with liver and kidney problems and his weight dropped dramatically until he tipped the scales at only 160lbs , his health deteriorated to such a level that in July 1888 a priest was summoned to his bedside to read him the last rites , slowly he began to get better and in January 1889 he accepted a challenge for his world title from Jake Kilrain ( who had been in Europe at the same time as Sullivan to earn his title shot with a fight against joint English champion Jem Smith ) .

Although Sullivan's health had greatly improved he was nowhere near in shape to fight such a quality opponent so his great friend William Muldoon ( legendary wrestler and Strongman ) took over his training , Muldoon banned any alcohol ( all Sullivan drank was tea and water ) monitored Sullivan's diet and used basic methods such as long walks , manual labour and basic physical exercise , Sullivan barely sparred in his training , although most people didn't know how ill Sullivan had actually been , word of him being unwell had got out and come the fight ( July 8th 1889 ) Kilrain was the bookies favourite , but thanks to the hard work by both Sullivan and Muldoon , the Strongboy came into the fight in great condition weighing 215lbs , Sullivan needed to be in great shape because the fight lasted 75 rounds and Kilrain gave him many problems , after the fight Sullivan thanked Muldoon saying it was because of him that he was able to regain his health and fighting fitness

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